The Council of Bourges, 1225: A Documentary History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Council of Bourges, 1225

A Documentary History, 1st Edition

By Richard Kay


620 pages

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Hardback: 9780754608035
pub: 2002-05-31
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Never before had France had a church council so large: almost 1000 churchmen assembled at Bourges on 29 November 1225 to authorize a tax on their incomes in support of the Second Albigensian Crusade. About one third of the participants were representatives sent by corporate bodies, in accordance with a new provision of canon law that insisted, for the first time ever, that there should be no taxation without representation. Basing himself on the rich surviving records, Professor Kay paints a skilful portrait of this council: the political manoeuvering by the papal legate to ensure the tax went through, and his use of this highly public occasion to humiliate members of the University of Paris; and, on the other hand, his failure to win a permanent endowment to support the papal bureaucracy, the bishops' effective protests against the pope's threat to diminish their jurisdiction over monasteries, and a subsequent 'taxpayers' revolt' that challenged the validity of the tax. The book also draws out the importance and implications of what took place, highlighting the council's place at the fountainhead of European representative democracy, the impact of the decisions made on the course of the Albigensian Crusade, the reform of monasticism, and the funding of the papal government which was left to rely on stop-gap expedients, such as the sale of indulgences. In addition, the author suggests that the corpus of texts, newly edited from the original manuscripts and with English translation, could be seen as a model for the revision of the conciliar corpus, most of which still remains based on 18th-century scholarship.


'… has a maturity of thought and clarity of expression that are rare in these pressured days. It is offered as a model to future editors of individual church councils. While the model could hardly be bettered(…) The conclusions that emerge from the study are important.' English Historical Review 'Kay not only considers […] broad themes but also discusses innumerable details of the council's proceedings and presents a perceptive character sketch of the legate Romanus. His work provides the first adequate account of the council and its background, and the narrative account is enriched with 300 pages of documents, newly edited or re-edited from the manuscript sources. These pages in themselves represent a major scholarly contribution. The work as a whole provides an admirable model for future work on medieval councils.' The Catholic Historical Review 'In sum, this is a very superior work that could serve as a model for other scholars.' Speculum 'This magnificent survey […] supplies a model of how the conciliar decrees of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries can be used to transform our understanding both of ecclesiastical and of wider political history… no one working on canon law, on papal or Anglo-French politics, or on the history of the Albigensian Crusade, can afford to ignore this most important and most brilliantly accomplished of monographs.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; The second Albigensian Crusade before 1225; Cardinal Romanus’ legation to France, 1225; Organization of the council; Granting the Albigensian tenth; Collecting the Albigensian tenth; A proposal for financing papal government; The rejection of fiscal reform; Monastic reform and repentant masters; Afterword; Documents; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Richard Kay is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, University of Kansas. His recent publications include two major works on Dante: Dante's Christian Astrology (1994), and Dante's Monarchia, translated with a commentary (1998); together with a volume of essays, Councils and Clerical Culture in the Medieval West (1997), which collects a set of studies preliminary to the present volume.

About the Series

Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West

Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West

The series Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West reflects the central concerns necessary for any in-depth study of the medieval Church - greater cultural awareness and interdisciplinarity. Including both monographs and edited collections, this series draws on the most innovative work from established and younger scholars alike, offering a balance of interests, vertically through the period from c.400 to c.1500 or horizontally across Latin Christendom. Topics covered range from cultural history, the monastic life, relations between Church and State to law and ritual, palaeography and textual transmission. All authors, from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, share a commitment to innovation, analysis and historical accuracy.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General