James Wayland Joyce.

England's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic online

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Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 18 of 83)
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realm, and that imprisonment might consequently be inflicted
upon Englishmen at the sole will of the sovereign — to a time
when neither innocence, nor age, nor sex*, nor the nearest

^ "Tractantes de necessariis et utilitatibus Ecclesiarum." — Cone. Mag. Brit.

i. 169.

8 " Implusset omnes funeribiis domos,
Nou ille vel sexu, vol ullo
ElTerus abstinuisset tevo."

Naugerius, Poem, de Patavio, 34 — 36.

A.D. 804—

>< Kennett
quotes Bede,

Hist. lib. iii.
tup. 25.

I Coll. Eccl.
Hist. vol. i.
pp. 353-4.

" Kennett's
Eccl. Svn.
Hart's Eccl.
Records, p.

n 25 Hen.
VI II. c. 1.0.

" 31 Hen.
Vlll. c. 8.

T,I 2




A.D. 804—

P Vid. "VVil-
kins, Dis-
sertatio de
Vet. &
Synodi Ang.
tione, p. viii.

1 Cone.
A.D. 747,
can. 25.
Cone. Mag.
Brit. i. 98.
■■ Cone.
A.D. 803.
Johns. Can.
vol. i. p. 297.
" Cone.
A.D. 747,
can. 25.
Cone. Mag.
Brit. i. 98.

and holiest of domestic ties availed to avert that sovereign's
hands from the most sanguinary atrocities which defile the
pages of history, — on looking back to such a time there is no
room left for surprise, however despicable may be the exhibition
of sycophancy on the part of the parliament, or however wild
the acts of tyranny on the part of the king.

National circ - ^^^® national Circ-gemotcs, Haly-gemotes,
gemote. ©r Synoths, do not appear to have been called

together at any specific times. The convention of such as-
semblies, apart from the " mixed councils,""' we must presume
to have depended upon the exigencies of the times and the
determinations of the ecclesiastical authorities. ]3ut when-
ever a NATIONAL "mixed council"" was held, which usually
took place at the three great festivals of the Church, viz.
Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, and when on those
occasions the clergy went apart p for consultation on the law
divine, such an ecclesiastical assembly would certainly partake
of the character of a " national synod.''''

Provincial circ- The provincial Circ-gemote, Haly-gemote, or
gemote. Synotli, was usually summoned by the metro-

politan, and the obligation of holding such an assembly twice
a year was recognized by some of the Anglo-Saxon canons ',
though it is probable that that obligation was not quite so
frequently discharged. The provincial synods were at any
rate held wlienever circumstances, in the opinion of the metro-
politan, rendered such a course expedient. The practice was
to entertain in those assemblies complaints made by each
bishop, in respect of such matters as he was unable to reform
within his own diocese. Such complaints being publicly made,
were heard by the metropolitan and the whole synod, so that
the benefit of common i deliberation and judgment might be
secured. At the conclusion of the synod the members con-
firmed its acts, subscribing their names and dignities, with the
addition of the cross, "the manifest signs^ of the celestial
King." The bishops, on returning each to his own diocese,
were obliged to assemble ^ " his presbyters and abbots, with
the chiefs " of monasteries and churches, to lay before them
the injunctions of the provincial synod, and to give it in
charge that they should be obeyed.

" Cone. Ilerudford, A.D. 673, can. 7. Cone. Chealchuith, a.d. /ft"', can. 3.



J 65

Diocesau circ

The diocesan Circ-geinote, Haly-gemote, or
Synoth, was, if the canonicaP injunctions were
accurately obeyed, held also twice a year, once in summer and
again in autumn. And when the bishop convoked such a
synod ''alP the clergy'''' were obliged to appear. The penalty
was suspension for a year from the celebration of holy com-
munion, if any absented themselves except under a just plea
of necessity. Under this term, ^"^ all the clergy/,'''' were included
at least all who held ecclesiastical benefices in the diocese,
both ^'•the^ regular abbots and monks, and also the archdeacons,
presbyters, vicars, and chaplains.'''' In these assemblies in-
quiries were made, according to stated forms, respecting the
condition of the fabrics '^ of the churches, as well as respecting
the doctrine and mode of life of the clergy who had the cures
of the several parishes. Complaints ^ also respecting acts of
injustice perpetrated within the limits of the diocese were
brought forward, discussed, and arranged. The constitutions,
moreover, which had been published in tlie provincial synods,
under the authority * of the archbishop with the consent of
his suffragans and of the whole clergy, having been confirmed
by public approval, were here proclaimed as binding upon
each individual presbyter and other ecclesiastics, so far as
they were concerned in them. Sometimesy also, when any
special occasion arose, the bishop promulgated new constitu-
tions applicable only to his own diocese. But he lay^ here
under a restriction that none of these might contravene the
provincial canons. If these diocesan constitutions upon being-
read were confirmed by the synod, they were published, and
an order was issued that they should be observed throughout
the whole diocese.

p ^ The preparations made beforehand for the

circ-gemote,haiy- due solemnizatiou of a Circ-gemote may be ga-
thered from certain canons in the Saxon collec-
tion of laws attributed to K. Edgar. It is there appointed^
that for^ every synod such books and vestments as would be

' " Quisquis autem clericorum ad haec (concilia) non venerit, absque necessitatis
causa, anno integro non praesumat missam celebrare." — Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. iv.
App. p. 784.

2 Hody, p. 76, confines these preparations to diocesan synods, but the canon
says, " ad qnamlibet sy no dum.'^ —Cone. Mag. Brit. i. 225.

A. n. 804-

' Cone.
Mag. Brit,
vol. iv. Ap-
pendix, p.

" Wilk.
Epist. Diss,
u. vii.

a Cone.
Mag. Brit.
i. 225, can.




A.D. 804-

^ Conr.
Mag. Biit.
i. 225, can.

necessary for the service of God should be provided, as well
as ink and j^archments for enrolling the constitutions which
should be enacted. Provision also for three days was to be
prepared ; and each priest was ^ to bring his clerk to the
synod, and a faithful servant, one of good reputation and
sober character, so that all might proceed in order and in the
fear of God. After the members of a circ-gemote had arrived
at the appointed place of meeting, the forms' which attended
their assembly and the holy solemnities with which they con-
secrated the occasion are subjects which may well interest us
even at this distance of time. And though the forms here
given evidently relate to a diocesan synod, yet it may fairly be
presumed that somewhat the same order would be observed,
" mutatis mutandis,'*' in holding a provincial one. And this
view is strengthened by the fact that in Spelman the form
commences with these words, " The manner * of holding
synods in England in primreval times," without an}"^ limitation
as to diocesan synods. The solemnities were extended over
three days ; on each of which, at the time appointed by the
bishop or his vicar, the clergy walked in procession chanting
the litany, and preceded by persons bearing crosses in their
hands. When the synod was to be opened, the church, in which
the assembly was to meet, was cleared of all manner of persons
save the necessary attendants, and the doors were then locked.
At one door, however, porters were appointed, and there an
entrance was permitted to those who enjoyed the privilege of
ingress. In the midst of the place of assembly was placed a desk,

' These forms and solemnities are recorded in a manuscript in the Cotton*
library, and may be found printed in the second volume of Spelman's Concilia,
and in the Appendix to Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. iv. p. 'JM. The manuscript is said
by Sir Frederick Madden to b6 of the "latter part of the eleventh century or early
in the twelfth." (Synodalia, part ii. p. 1.) Forms of holding synods have also
been printed by Mr. Barnes from the Exeter, and by Mr. Muskell from the Salis-
bury Pontifical. The latter, in the Cambridge Uuivcrsitj' library, is most valu-
able. There are known to be other manuscripts on this subject in existence, and
it may reasonably and justly be hoped that some of the clergy to who ii Providence
has granted time and opjjortunity will investigate this matter, for their working
brethren have little either of the one or the other.

* " Modus tenendi synodos in Anglia primeevis temporibus." — Cone. Mag. Brit,
vol. iv. App. p. 784.

* MSS. Cotton, Cleop. c. viii. fol. 35.



on which were deposited sacred relics, a " missal ' in which
the Gospels were written, with a sacred vestment." It was
thus that in oecumenical councils the holy Gospels were placed
on a highly ornamented stand, carved in such a manner as to
represent the figure of our blessed Lord Himself; and this is
mentioned •= as having been the case in the sixth and last
oecumenical council held at Constantinople, a.d. 680. The
presbyters having seated themselves in synod according to the
dates of their respective ordinations, the deacons who were
probationers entered after them ®, and then also followed the
laity of good repute, " or, at any rate, those whose presence
was required by common consent ^" When the arrange-
ments were so far completed, the bishop entered if he wished
to preside, or when the nature of the case required his pre-
sence. In his absence his vicar acted for him. All being
now assembled, the deacon said, "Let us pray" — " E,ise
upon your feet." The bishop then turning to the east pro-
nounced these words in a low tone, " The Lord be with you,"
and immediately added this prayer :

" Lord, who visitest the humble and blessest us in the
exercise of brotherly love, grant to this assembly thy grace :
grant that we, behaving ourselves as men with whom Thou
dwellest, may be assured that to us Thou hast accorded thy

After this prayer was ended, a deacon, attended by a sub-
deacon and accompained by two taper-bearers, advanced,
bearing with him a censer * ; and after a blessing had been

^ " Plenarium cum stola. Plenarium : liber missalis in quo Evangelia de-
scripta sunt." — Catalani Ordo ad Syn. vi. Inti'oduc. quoted in Synodalia, No. 2,
p. 92.

" A phrase here follows, " quos ordo poposcerit interesse," which I have not
translated, though it certainly means that these were selected deacons " whose
presence in synod had been desired by the whole body of that order in the minis-
try," or more probably " by the canonical rules."

' " Vel qui electione conjugali interesse meruerint." Does this meanby a joint
election of clergy and laity ? In the fourth canon of the fourth Council of Toledo,
the phrase from which this appears to be borrowed is, " qui electione concilii
interesse meruerint." In all ovu* MSS. has " conjugali " been miswritten for con-
cilii ? But however laity were introduced into a synod, they were there to set
forward and advise, not to define or decide.

* Thuribulum, a spherical box of metal, with holes in the upper part for the
emission of incense.

A.D. 80-

"^ Landon's
Manual, p.




A.D. 804—

d S. Luke X.

pronounced by the bishop, the deacon read a passage from the
Gospel of S. Luke, beginning with the words, " The Lord
appointed other seventy also," and ending, " For the labourer
is worthy of his hire '^.^

The hymn " Veni Creator" was then sung, and at its con-
clusion the following prayer was offered up :

" O God the Holy Ghost, we, though bound with grievous
sins, are yet specially assembled here in thy name. Come
unto us ; deign to take up thy abode in our hearts ; teach us
what we should do ; whither we should direct our course ;
make known to us how we may please Thee in all things ; and
what we may be able to accomplish. Do Thou, w^ho alone
with God the Father and his Son possessest a glorious name,
put right judgments into our hearts, and bring them to good
effect. O Thou who lovest truth and equity, suffer us not to
pervert justice ; grant that we may not be led astray by
ignorance ; grant that no favour may incline us, no hope of
reward, no regard to the favour of man may corrupt us.
Join us unto Thee by the gift alone of thy grace, so that we
may become one with Thee, and may never swerve from
truth. As we are now gathered together in thy name, so may
we in all things adhere to justice, piety, and moderation.
May our minds altogether cleave unto Thee ; and hereafter
according to our good works may we attain unto eternal
rewards through thy gift, who alone with the eternal Father
and his Son livest, rulest, and reignest for ever."

After this prayer was ended, and all had taken their ap-
pointed scats in silence, the bishop, or in his place the chief dea-
con, delivered to the synod an address of the following nature :

" Very reverend priests and brethren, now that our prayers
have been offered up to God, I bid you with an holy exhorta-
tion, and in God's name I desire you to hear reverently, and
consider faithfully all such matters as I shall propose to you
concerning God, the discipline' of the clergy, and the main-
tenance of pure morals. And if perchance any one of you
should dissent from my propositions, let that man, avoiding
all admixture of strife, .submit those subjects, on which he feels
a doubt, to the common judgment of all, so that under God's
guidance he may receive instruction him.sclf, or impart it to

* *' Dc sacris ordiiiibus " is the term wliich I venture thus to translate.




others. In God's name I further adjure you all, that ye
flatter no man in your judgments, neither be ye induced by
favour or by bribery to depart from the truth ; but the
rather treat with such pious intention every subject which
shall be submitted to our synod, that on the one hand dis-
cordant strife may find here no place for the perversion of
equity, and that on the other hand the vigour and zeal
of our order, in the execution of justice, may abide undi-

After this exhortation was concluded any ' one of the clergy
might bring forward such matters of complaint, or, as we now
term them, such "gravamina," as he desired. And this was
in conformity with the canons published in the reign of
K. Edgar, a. d. 960, one ^ of which provided " that any ^ clergy-
man might give information to the synod if any grievance
affected him ; or if any person had inflicted any injury upon
him ; upon such information the members were all bid to
consider the injury as directed against themselves, and to
assist the offended person in obtaining compensation according
to the direction of the bishop." Another s of those canons
directed, "Tf^ any clergyman knows of any man in his
district ^ who is contumacious against God, or has fallen into
mortal sin, and whom he is unable himself to bring to amend-
ment, or dare not on account of the opposition of secular
persons, that information of such circumstances should be
publicly given to the synod."

When the business connected with the presentments of
gravamina had been concluded, an admonition was ' given, that
every one should present himself fasting at the synod ; and
that none should depart before the general breaking up of the
assembly. The business of the day then ended with this
benediction :

" May He who 'gatherethJ together the outcasts of Israel,'
guard you here and every where. Amen. Not only may He
guard you, but make you fit shepherds of his sheep. Amen.
So that with Christ, the chief Shepherd, ye may enjoy in

1 "Quisquis clericorum velit, conferat querelam." — Cone. Mag. Brit. App. vol.
iv. p. 7H5.

« Shrift district. Johnson's Canons, vol. i. p. 413. The Latin word is " paroi-

A.D. 80.

e Can. 5.
fConc. Mag.
Brit. vol. i.
p. 225.

g Can. 6.

*> Cone.
Mag. Br
vol. i.p.;

' Cone.
Mag. Biit.
vol. iv. Aijp.
p. 785.

J Ps. c.xlvii.




A.D. 80


k S. Luke
ix. 1—6.

heaven the pasture of his flock. Amen. The which may
He deign to grant ! "

On the second day of meeting the members entered the
synod, as on the first day, in full procession. When the
bishop, or in his absence his vicar, had taken his place, the
deacon said, " Let us pray" — " Rise upon your feet." The bishop
then turning to the east, pronounced in a low tone these
words: "The Lord be with you." The response — " And with thy
spirit" — having been made, this prayer immediately followed :

" O God, who gi-antest the pledges of thy presence to us
thy servants, send down upon us the spirit of charity, that in
this assembly of our brethren and fellow-servants the manifold
gifts of thy grace may be increased upon us through our

A passage from the Gospels was then read, beginning with
these words, " Then He called his twelve disciples together,"
and ending, " Preaching the Gospel, and healing every
where ^." After the Gospel was finished the laity retired, and
a homily of Gregory was read by the deacon, beginning, " The
harvest truly is plenteous," and ending with the words,
" The fathers by no means acknowledge."

Then in the absence of any presentments on the part of the
clergy, the laity were again introduced, and in their hearing
this passage from the Council of Nice was read : " Let the
judges fast while engaged in the execution of laws and the
decision of causes." If the laity had presentments to make,
they were now brought before the notice of the proper judges,
and the second day's synod was then dissolved with the fol-
lowing benediction :

" May the God of all our thouglits and words, whether
earthly or heavenly, grant you the increase of that grace
which He vouchsafes to his ministering servants. Amen.
Having placed you on his right hand, may He grant you a
portion in his heavenly kingdom. Amen. AVliich may He
deign to grant throughout all ages, who foreknew ' us before
the foundation of the world. Amen."

' The Latin phrase is given, that an opportunity may be afTorded to any well-
disposed reader of amending this translation, if need be. "Qui nos ante consti-
tutioncm mundi predestinates, et ante tinem sseculi justilicatos, prsescivit." — Cone.
Mag. Brit. vol. iv. App. p. 785.




On the third day the members entered the synod, as upon
the first, in full procession. When the bishop, or his vicar,
had risen up in his place, the deacon (as before) said, " Let us
pray " — " Rise upon your feet." The bishop also (as before)
turning to the east, pronounced these words in a low tone :
" The Lord be with you ;" and the response followed as on
the second day, " And with thy spirit." Then this prayer
was offered up :

" Assist, O Lord, we beseech Thee, us thy servants with
help both for the soul and body : nourish us with spiritual
food, and mercifully save us from all our enemies through

This prayer ended, a passage from the Gospel followed,
beginning at the words, " These twelve Jesus sent forth, and
commanded them, saying. Go not into the way of the Gen-
tiles," and ending, " As harmless as doves '." After this Gospel
was finished, questions, if it was so required, were proposed
and presentments made. An exhortation to the clergy and
an address to the people followed on the part of the bishop ;
and at the conclusion of his sermon, he pronounced the

And now a deacon with uplifted voice began* the hymn
of praise, " Te Deum" — the people responding at intervals,
" Kyrie Eleyson :" and after the hymn was finished, the
deacon added the antiphon, " Into the way of peace," with the
psalm^, " Blessed be the Lord God of Israel." This finished,
the deacon again said with a loud voice, " Kneel down for the
benediction ! " which followed in the following form :

" The almighty Son of God, who is the beginning and the
end, grant you the fulness of his love. Amen. May He who
has brought you to the fulfilment of this synod wash you
clean from every stain of sin. Amen. So that being set free
from all condemnation, and absolved by the gift of the Holy

* " Deinde • diaconus alta voce imponat, ' Te Deum laudamus ' — interim
canente populo, 'Kyrie Eleyson.'" The technical meaning of the word "im-
ponere " in this place probably is, " to give the pitch " at which the melody was
to be sung.

* " Cum psalrno, Benedictus." I have translated literally the original. Per-
haps " ciim hymno " would have been more correct.

A. D. 804


1 S. Matt.
X. 5—16.

Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. iv. Appendix, p. 785.




A.D. 804—

n Blackst.
Com. i. 147.
" Wakf's
Pies. State,
p. 128,
Gloss, voc.
P Sharon
Siixons, vol.
iii. p. 156'.
1 Spelm.
Cone. vol. i.
p. 347, note.
& Sharon
Saxons, vol.
iii. p. 186.
f Kennett's
Eccl. Svn.
p. 2I9.&
Hist. Anglo-
Saxons, vol.
iii. p. 187.

Spirit, ye may return with prosperous journeys and unharmed
to the repose of your own homes. Amen. Which may He
deign to grant, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
Hveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end ®."

Such appear to have been the solemnities attending an
Anglo-Saxon synod. The precise forms here recounted were
evidently adapted to a diocesan, not a provincial meeting,
and provide for sessions during three days. Yet they may
be taken as an example of the usual course pursued in eccle-
siastical assemblies among our forefathers in this Church.
And these solemnities might have been, as occasion required,
made available by very inconsiderable alterations for all the
Circ-gemotes, whether national, provincial, or diocesan, whether
of longer or of shorter duration than the time to which the fore-
going forms specially apply. The present forms for our pro-
vincial synods (at least in the Canterbury province) are now
definitely fixed ; but in the event of the general restoration of
diocesan synods in these later ages of our Church, it would be
desirable that the Anglo-Saxon solemnities usual on such
occasions should be investigated with great exactness, in order
that we might, at any rate, have the advantage of such infor-
mation respecting the ancient Circ-gemotes of our country as
might supply suggestions, if not positive examples for imi-

The Wittena-gemotc " ^ Micel-gemote, or
holding a wittcna- Miccl-gotheaht, i.e. the meeting of the wise,
^^"'" ^' the great meeting, or great thought, was the

same among the Anglo-Saxons" as an imperial i)arliament is
with us P at this day. Though usually assembled at the tln-ee
great festivals of the Christian Church — Christmas \ Easter,
and AV^hitsuntide — it was called together not only at those
seasons, nor perhaps always then, but sometimes also at the
pleasure ^ of the prince, as grave * circumstances required, and
for the purpose of enacting laws upon any emergency. From the
preftice to the laws of K. Ina we may learn that the constituent

^ Thus ends the account given in the MS. Cotton, Cleop. c. viii. f. ;{5, as
quoted by Charles Spelman and Wilkins. Vid. sup. p. IfiG, note.

' For an examjjle of the various kinds of subjects dealt witli in a wittena-
gemote, see Council of Ensham, a.d. 1009. Spelm. Cone. i. 525.

* "Ex arduis contingentibus, et legutn condendarum gratia."' — Wake's Present
State, 12H.



members of that wittena-gemote in which they were enacted
were: 1. bishops^; 2, aldermen, governors of counties, some-
times called eorls or earls ; 3. the elder wites, or wise men ;

4. the servants of God, i. e. I presume, the clergy, for in
another translation these are called the ministers* of God;
and it is agreed upon all hands, indeed the subscriptions prove
beyond a doubt, that abbots at least were constituent members ;

5. thanes also, i.e. the landed gentry, partook" of this privi-
lege ; 6. and it is moreover asserted that hiights ^ claimed
seats in such assemblies. Thus they were mixed meetings of
clergy and laity ; and, in the words of Hume "", " It is evident
from the tenor of the ancient laws that the wittena-gemote

Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 18 of 83)