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The Council in Santa Maria Maggiore church; Museo Diocesiano Tridentino, Trento.
Council of Trent
Date 1545-1563
Accepted by Catholic Church
Previous council Fifth Council of the Lateran
Next council First Vatican Council
Convoked by Pope Paul III
Presided by Pope Paul III, Pope Julius III, Pope Pius IV
Attendance about 255 in the last sessions
Topics of discussion Protestantism, Counter Reformation
Documents and statements seventeen dogmatic decrees, covering all aspects of Catholic religion
Chronological list of Ecumenical councils

The Council of Trent (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum) was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important[1] councils. It convened in Trento (then capital of the Prince-Bishopric of Trent, inside the Holy Roman Empire, now in modern Italy) between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods. Council fathers met for the first through eighth sessions in Trent (1545-1547), and for the ninth through eleventh sessions in Bologna (1547) during the pontificate of Pope Paul III.[2] Under Pope Julius III, the council met in Trent (1551-1552) for the twelfth through sixteenth sessions. Under Pope Pius IV the seventeenth through twenty-fifth sessions took place in Trent (1559-1563).

The council issued condemnations on what it defined as Protestant heresies and defined Church teachings in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Original Sin, Justification, Sacraments, the Eucharist in Holy Mass and the veneration of saints. It issued numerous reform decrees.[3] By specifying Catholic doctrine on salvation, the sacraments, and the Biblical canon, the Council was answering Protestant disputes.[1] The Council entrusted to the Pope the implementation of its work; as a result, Pope Pius V issued in 1566 the Roman Catechism, in 1568 a revised Roman Breviary, and in 1570 a revised Roman Missal, thus initiating what since the twentieth century has been called the Tridentine Mass (from the city's Latin name Tridentum), and Pope Clement VIII issued in 1592 a revised edition of the Vulgate.[4]

The Council of Trent, delayed and interrupted several times because of political or religious disagreements, was a major reform council and the most impressive embodiment of the ideals of the Counter-Reformation.[4] It would be over 300 years until the next Ecumenical Council. When announcing Vatican II, Pope John XXIII stated that the precepts of the Council of Trent continue to the modern day, a position that was reaffirmed by Pope Paul VI.[5]


Before the Council


Obstacles and events before the Council

Pope Paul III invoked the Council of Trent

On March 16, 1517, the Fifth Council of the Lateran closed its activities with a number of reform proposals (on the selection of bishops, taxation, censorship and preaching) but not on the major problems that confronted the Church in Germany and other parts of Europe. A few months later, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther issued his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. Luther’s position on ecumenical councils shifted over time.[6]

A general, free Council in Germany

But in 1520 Luther appealed to the German princes to reform the Church, if necessary with a council[7] in Germany, open and free of the papacy. After the Pope condemned in Exsurge Domine forty-two sentences of Luther as heresy, German opinion considered a council the best method to reconcile existing differences. German Catholics, diminished in number, hoped for a council to clarify matters.[8]

It took a generation for the council to materialize, partly because of Papal reluctance—the Lutherans demanded his exclusion from the Council—and partly because of ongoing political rivalries between France and Germany and the Turkish dangers in the Mediterranean.[8] Under Pope Clement VII (1523-1534), troops of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sacked Papal Rome in 1527, “raping, killing burning, stealing, the like had not been seen since the Vandals”. Saint Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were used for horses.[9] This, together with the Pontiff's ambivalence between France and Germany, led to his hesitation. Charles V strongly favoured a council, but needed the support of France, which attacked him militarily. Faced with a Turkish attack, Charles needed the support of the Protestant German rulers, all of whom delayed the opening of the Council of Trent.[10]

Failure in Mantua-Vicenza

The council was ordered by the Emperor and Pope to convene in Mantua on May 23, 1537. It failed to convene, after another war broke out between France and Charles V, resulting in a non-attendance of French prelates. Protestants, just defeated by Charles V, refused to attend as well. Financial difficulties in Mantua led the Pope in the fall of 1537 to move the council to Vicenza, where participation was poor. The Council was postponed indefinitely on May 21, 1539. Pope Paul III then initiated several internal Church reforms while Emperor Charles V convened a meeting with Protestants in Regensburg, seat of the German diet, to reconcile differences. Unity failed between Catholic and Protestant representatives “because of different concepts of Church and justification”.[11]

Occasion, sessions, and attendance

The Council, depicted by Cati da Iesi

In reply to the Papal bull Exsurge Domine of Pope Leo X (1520), Martin Luther burned the document and appealed for a general council. In 1522, German diets joined in the appeal, with Charles V seconding and pressing for a council as a means of reunifying the Church and settling the Reformation controversies. Pope Clement VII (1523–34) was vehemently against the idea of a council, agreeing with Francis I of France. After Pope Pius II in his bull Execrabilis (1460) and his reply to the University of Cologne (1463) set aside the theory of the supremacy of general councils laid down by the Council of Constance, it was the papal policy to avoid councils.

Pope Paul III (1534–49)—seeing that the Protestant Reformation was no longer confined to a few preachers, but had won over various princes, particularly in Germany, to its ideas—desired a council. Yet when he proposed the idea to his cardinals, it was unanimously opposed. Nonetheless, he sent nuncios throughout Europe to propose the idea. Paul III issued a decree for a general council to be held in Mantua, Italy, to begin May 23, 1537. Martin Luther wrote the Smalcald Articles in preparation for the general council. The Smalcald Articles were designed to sharply define where the Lutherans could and could not compromise.

However, the council was delayed until 1545, and convened right before Luther's death. Unable, however, to resist the urging of Charles V, the pope, after proposing Mantua as the place of meeting, convened the council at Trent (at that time a free city of the Holy Roman Empire under a prince-bishop), on December 13, 1545; the Pope's decision to transfer it to Bologna in March, 1547 on the pretext of avoiding a plague[4] failed to take effect and the Council was indefinitely prorogued on 17 September 1549.

Reopened at Trent on 1 May 1551 by convocation of Pope Julius III (1550–1555), it was broken up by the sudden victory of Maurice, Elector of Saxony over the Emperor Charles V and his march into surrounding state of Tirol on 28 April 1552.[12] There was no hope of reassembling the council while the very anti-Protestant Paul IV was Pope.[4] The council was reconvened by Pope Pius IV (1559–65) for the last time, meeting from 18 January 1562, and continued until its final adjournment on 4 December 1563. It closed with a series of ritual acclamations honouring the reigning Pope, the Popes who had convoked the Council, the emperor and the kings who had supported it, the papal legates, the cardinals, the ambassadors present, and the bishops, followed by acclamations of acceptance of the faith of the Council and its decrees, and of anathema for all heretics.[13]

The history of the council is thus divided into three distinct periods: 1545–49, 1551–52 and 1562–63. During the second period, the Protestants present asked for renewed discussion on points already defined and for bishops to be released from their oaths of allegiance to the Pope.[4] When the last period began, all hope of conciliating the Protestants was gone and the Jesuits had become a strong force.[4]

The number of attending members in the three periods varied considerably. The council was small to begin with.[4] It increased toward the close, but never reached the number of the First Council of Nicaea (which had 318 members) nor of the First Vatican Council (which numbered 744). The decrees were signed by 255 members, including four papal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, and 168 bishops, two-thirds of whom were Italians. The Italian and Spanish prelates were vastly preponderant in power and numbers. At the passage of the most important decrees not more than sixty prelates were present.

Objects and general results

The main object of the council was twofold, although there were other issues that were also discussed:

  1. To condemn the principles and doctrines of Protestantism and to define the doctrines of the Catholic Church on all disputed points. It is true that the emperor intended it to be a strictly general or truly ecumenical council, at which the Protestants should have a fair hearing. He secured, during the council's second period, 1551-53, an invitation, twice given, to the Protestants to be present and the council issued a letter of safe conduct (thirteenth session) and offered them the right of discussion, but denied them a vote. Melanchthon and Johannes Brenz, with some other German Lutherans, actually started in 1552 on the journey to Trent. Brenz offered a confession and Melanchthon, who got no farther than Nuremberg, took with him the ironic statement known as the Confessio Saxonica. But the refusal to give to the Protestants the right to vote and the consternation produced by the success of Maurice in his campaign against Charles V in 1552 effectually put an end to Protestant cooperation.
  2. To effect a reformation in discipline or administration. This object had been one of the causes calling forth the reformatory councils and had been lightly touched upon by the Fifth Council of the Lateran under Pope Julius II and Pope Leo X. The perceived corruption in the administration of the Church was one of the numerous causes of the Reformation. Twenty-five public sessions were held, but nearly half of them were spent in solemn formalities. The chief work was done in committees or congregations. The entire management was in the hands of the papal legate. The liberal elements lost out in the debates and voting. The council abolished some of the most notorious abuses and introduced or recommended disciplinary reforms affecting the sale of indulgences, the morals of convents, the education of the clergy, the non-residence of bishops (also bishops having plurality of benefices, which was fairly common), and the careless fulmination of censures and forbade dueling. Although evangelical sentiments were uttered by some of the members in favor of the supreme authority of the Scriptures and justification by faith, no concession whatever was made to Protestantism.
  3. The church's interpretation of the Bible was final. Any Christian who substituted his or her own interpretation was a heretic. Also, the Bible and Church Tradition (not mere customs but the ancient tradition that made up part of the Catholic faith) were equally authoritative.
  4. The relationship of faith and works in salvation was defined, following controversy over Martin Luther's doctrine of "justification by faith alone".
  5. Other Catholic practices that drew the ire of reformers within the Church, such as indulgences, pilgrimages, the veneration of saints and relics, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary were strongly reaffirmed, though abuses of them, such as the sale of indulgences, were forbidden. Decrees concerning sacred music and religious art, though inexplicit, were subsequently amplified by theologians and writers to condemn many types of Renaissance and medieval styles and iconographies, impacting heavily on the development of these art forms.

The doctrinal decisions of the council are divided into decrees (decreta), which contain the positive statement of the conciliar dogmas, and into short canons (canones), which condemn the dissenting Protestant views with the concluding "anathema sit" ("let him be anathema").

Canons and decrees

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The doctrinal acts are as follows: after reaffirming the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (third session), the decree was passed (fourth session) confirming that the deuterocanonical books were on a par with the other books of the canon (against Luther's placement of these books in the Apocrypha of his edition) and coordinating church tradition with the Scriptures as a rule of faith. The Vulgate translation was affirmed to be authoritative for the text of Scripture.

Justification (sixth session) was declared to be offered upon the basis of faith and good works as opposed to the Protestant doctrine of faith alone and faith was treated as a progressive work. The idea of man being utterly passive under the influence of grace was also rejected.

The greatest weight in the Council's decrees is given to the sacraments. The seven sacraments were reaffirmed and the Eucharist pronounced to be a true propitiatory sacrifice as well as a sacrament, in which the bread and wine were consecrated into the Eucharist (thirteenth and twenty-second sessions). The term transubstantiation was used by the Council, but the specific Aristotelian explanation given by Scholasticism was not cited as dogmatic. Instead, the decree states that Christ is "really, truly, substantially present" in the consecrated forms. The sacrifice of the Mass was to be offered for dead and living alike and in giving to the apostles the command "do this in remembrance of me," Christ conferred upon them a sacerdotal power. The practice of withholding the cup from the laity was confirmed (twenty-first session) as one which the Church Fathers had commanded for good and sufficient reasons; yet in certain cases the Pope was made the supreme arbiter as to whether the rule should be strictly maintained.

Ordination (twenty-third session) was defined to imprint an indelible character on the soul. The priesthood of the New Testament takes the place of the Levitical priesthood. To the performance of its functions, the consent of the people is not necessary.

In the decrees on marriage (twenty-fourth session) the excellence of the celibate state was reaffirmed (see also Clerical celibacy (Catholic Church)), concubinage condemned and the validity of marriage made dependent upon its being performed before a priest and two witnesses—although the lack of a requirement for parental consent ended a debate that had proceeded from the twelfth century. In the case of a divorce, the right of the innocent party to marry again was denied so long as the other party is alive, even if the other may have committed adultery.

In the twenty-fifth and last session, the doctrines of purgatory, the invocation of saints and the veneration of relics were reaffirmed, as was also the efficacy of indulgences as dispensed by the Church according to the power given her, but with some cautionary recommendations, and a ban on the sale of indulgences. Short and rather inexplicit passages concerning religious images, were to have great impact on the development of Catholic art.

The council appointed, in 1562 (eighteenth session), a commission to prepare a list of forbidden books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum), but it later left the matter to the Pope. The preparation of a catechism and the revision of the Breviary and Missal were also left to the pope. The catechism embodied the council's far-reaching results, including reforms and definitions of the sacraments, the Scriptures, church dogma, and duties of the clergy.[1]

On adjourning, the Council asked the supreme pontiff to ratify all its decrees and definitions. This petition was complied with by Pope Pius IV, January 26, 1564, in the papal bull, Benedictus Deus, which enjoins strict obedience upon all Catholics and forbids, under pain of excommunication, all unauthorized interpretation, reserving this to the Pope alone and threatens the disobedient with "the indignation of Almighty God and of his blessed apostles, Peter and Paul." Pope Pius appointed a commission of cardinals to assist him in interpreting and enforcing the decrees.

The Index librorum prohibitorum was announced 1564 and the following books were issued with the papal imprimatur: the Profession of the Tridentine Faith and the Tridentine Catechism (1566), the Breviary (1568), the Missal (1570) and the Vulgate (1590 and then 1592).

The decrees of the council were acknowledged in Italy, Portugal, Poland and by the Catholic princes of Germany at the Diet of Augsburg in 1566. Philip II of Spain accepted them for Spain, the Netherlands and Sicily insofar as they did not infringe the royal prerogative. In France they were officially recognized by the king only in their doctrinal parts. The disciplinary sections received official recognition at provincial synods and were enforced by the bishops. No attempt was made to introduce it into England. Pius IV sent the decrees to Mary, Queen of Scots, with a letter dated June 13, 1564, requesting her to publish them in Scotland, but she dared not do it in the face of John Knox and the Reformation.

These decrees were later supplemented by the First Vatican Council of 1870.

Publication of documents

The most comprehensive description is still Hubert Jedin's The History of the Council of Trent (Geschichte des Konzils von Trient with about 2500 pages in four volumes: The History of the Council of Trent, The fight for a Council (Vol I, 1951); The History of the Council of Trent The first Sessions in Trent (1545-1547) (Vol II, 1957); The History of the Council of Trent Sessions in Bologna 1547-1548 and Trent 1551-1552 (Vol III, 1970, 1998); The History of the Council of Trent Third Period and Conclusion (Vol IV, 1976).

The canons and decrees of the council have been published very often and in many languages (for a large list consult British Museum Catalogue, under "Trent, Council of"). The first issue was by P. Manutius (Rome, 1564). The best Latin editions are by J. Le Plat (Antwerp, 1779) and by F. Schulte and A. L. Richter (Leipzig, 1853). Other good editions are in vol. vii. of the Acta et decreta conciliorum recentiorum. Collectio Lacensis (7 vols., Freiburg, 1870-90), reissued as independent volume (1892); Concilium Tridentinum: Diariorum, actorum, epastularum, ... collectio, ed. S. Merkle (4 vols., Freiburg, 1901 sqq.; only vols. i.-iv. have as yet appeared); not to overlook Mansi, Concilia, xxxv. 345 sqq. Note also Mirbt, Quellen, 2d ed, pp. 202-255. The best English edition is by J. Waterworth (London, 1848; With Essays on the External and Internal History of the Council).

The original acts and debates of the council, as prepared by its general secretary, Bishop Angelo Massarelli, in six large folio volumes, are deposited in the Vatican Library and remained there unpublished for more than 300 years and were brought to light, though only in part, by Augustin Theiner, priest of the oratory (d. 1874), in Acta genuina sancti et oecumenici Concilii Tridentini nunc primum integre edita (2 vols., Leipzig, 1874).

Most of the official documents and private reports, however, which bear upon the council, were made known in the sixteenth century and since. The most complete collection of them is that of J. Le Plat, Monumentorum ad historicam Concilii Tridentini collectio (7 vols., Leuven, 1781-87). New materials(Vienna, 1872); by JJI von Döllinger (Ungedruckte Berichte und Tagebücher zur Geschichte des Concilii von Trient) (2 parts, Nördlingen, 1876); and A. von Druffel, Monumenta Tridentina (Munich, 1884-97).

List of decrees

Doctrine Session Date Canons Decrees
The Holy Scriptures 4 April 8, 1546 None 1
Original sin 5 June 7, 1546 5 4
Justification 6 January 13, 1547 33 16
The Sacraments in General 7 March 3, 1547 13 1
Baptism 7 March 3, 1547 14 None
Confirmation 7 March 3, 1547 3 None
Holy Eucharist 13 October 11, 1551 11 8
Penance 14 November 15, 1551 15 15
Extreme Unction 14 November 4, 1551 4 3
Cults: Saints Relics Images 25 December 4, 1563 None 3
Indulgences 25 December 4, 1563 None 1

See also


  1. ^ a b c Wetterau, Bruce. World history. New York: Henry Holt and company. 1994.
  2. ^ Hubert Jedin, Konciliengeschichte, Herder Freiburg, 138
  3. ^ Jedin, 138
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Trent, Council of
  5. ^ What was, still is, quoted in Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church
  6. ^ Hubert Jedin, Konziliengeschichte, Herder, 1959,g 80
  7. ^ An den Adel deutscher Nation, 1520
  8. ^ a b Jedin 81
  9. ^ Hans Kühner Papstgeschichte, Fischer, Frankfurt 1960, 118
  10. ^ Jedin 79-82
  11. ^ Jedin 85
  12. ^ Trenkle, Franz Sales (2003-03-03). "Council of Trent". Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  13. ^ Acclamations of the Fathers at the Close of the Council

External links

This article includes content derived from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1914, which is in the public domain.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COUNCIL OF. TRENT The Council of Trent (1545-1563) has a long antecedent history of great significance for the fortunes of the Catholic Church. During the 15th and the earlier half of the 16th century, the conception of an "ecumenical council" remained an ideal of which the realization was expected to provide a solution for the serious ecclesiastical difficulties which were then prevalent. True, the councils of Constance and Basel had fallen short of the desired goal; but confidence in the unknown quantity persisted and took deeper root as the popes of the Renaissance showed themselves less and less inclined to undertake the reforms considered necessary in wide circles of the Church. The papacy indeed did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ecumenical council, and in 1459 Pius II. had prohibited any appeal to such a tribunal under penalty of excommunication. This, however, had no effect on public opinion, and the council continued to be invoked as the supreme court of Christianity. So in 1518, for instance, the university of Paris demanded the convocation of a general council, to which it referred its solemn protest against the papal encroachments on the privileges of the French Church. Thus, when Luther took this very step in the same year, and repeated it later, his action was not devoid of precedent. Again in 1529 the evangelical estates of Germany made a formal appeal in the Diet of Spires, and, in the preface to the Augsburg Confession of 1530, requested a "general, unfettered council of Christendom." The same demand was formulated by Charles V. The emperor indeed - though, as a statesman, he had found himself in frequent opposition to the papal policy of his day - had never entertained the slightest doubt as to the truth of Catholic doctrine, and had rendered inestimable services to the Church in the perilous years which followed the emergence of Protestantism. Still he could not blind himself to the fact that ecclesiastical life stood in urgent need of reform; and the only method of effecting an alteration in the existing regime was by means of a council. Consequently he declared himself in favour of convening a general assembly of the church - a project which he pursued with the greatest energy. True, the passive resistance of the Curia was so stubborn that the decisive step was postponed time and again. But the goal was finally attained, and this result was essentially the work of Charles. Actually, the meeting came too late: the Evangelical Church had gathered strength in the interim, and the council failed to exercise the decisive influence anticipated on the relations between Catholicism and Protestantism. In 1536 its convocation seemed imminent. Pope Paul III., who in the conclave had already admitted the necessity of a council, convened it on the 2nd of June 1536, for the 23rd of May 1537, at Mantua. He then altered the date to the 1st of November of the same year. Later it was summoned to meet at Vicenza on the 1st of May 1538, only to be postponed till the Easter of 1539. Finally, he adjourned the execution of the project sine die. Charles met this dilatory policy by arranging colloquies between Protestant and Catholic at Worms and Regensburg, the result being that the Curia became afraid that the emperor might take the settlement of the religious question into his own hands. This consideration forced Paul III. to compliance, and fresh writs were issued convoking the council, first for Whitsuntide, 1542, then for the 1st of November of the same year. In consequence, however, of the hostilities between Charles and the French king Francis I., the conference was so scantily attended that it was once more prorogued to the 6th of July 1543, before it had come into active existence. Not till the peace of Crespy, 1544, when the emperor showed some disposition to attempt an accommodation of the ecclesiastical feud in a German Diet, did the pope resolve to translate his numerous promises into deeds. The bull Laetare Hierusalem (November 1 9, 1 544) fixed the meeting of the council for the 15th of March 1 545, in Trent, and assigned it three tasks: (1) the pacification of the religious dispute by doctrinal decisions, (2) the reform of ecclesiastical abuses, (3) the discussion of a crusade against the infidels. The selection of the town of Trent, the capital of the Italian Tirol, and part of the empire had a twofold motive: on the one hand it was a token of concession to the emperor, who wished the synod to be held in his dominions; on the other, there was no occasion to fear that an assembly, meeting on the southern border of Germany, would fall under the imperial influence.

The opening of the council was deferred once again. Towards the end of May 1545, twenty bishops were collected at Trent; but there was no sign of action, and the papal legates - Del Monte, Corvinus and Reginald Pole - delayed the inauguration. The cause of this procrastinating policy was that the emperor and the pope were at cross purposes with regard to the mode of procedure. In the eyes of Paul III. the council was simply the means by which he expected to secure a condemnation of the Protestant heresy, in hopes that he would then be in a position to impose the sentence of the Church upon them by force. For him the question of ecclesiastical reform possessed no interest whatever. In contrast to this, Charles demanded that these very reforms should be given precedence, and the decisions on points of dogma postponed till he should have compelled the Protestants to send representatives to the council. The pope, however, alarmed by the threat of a colloquy in Germany, recognized the inadvisability of his dilatory tactics, and at last ordered the synod to be opened (December 13, 1545).

Since there was no definite method by which the deliberations of ecumenical councils were conducted, special regulations were necessary; and those adopted were of such a nature as to assure the predominance of the Roman chair from the first. As the voting was not to be by nations, as at Constance, but by individuals, the last word remained with the Italians, who were in the majority. In order to enhance this superiority the legates as a rule denied the suffrage to those foreign bishops who desired to be represented by procurators; and a number of Italian prelates were enabled to make their appearance at Trent, thanks to special allowances from the pope. The dispute as to the order of precedence among the subjects for deliberation was settled by a compromise, and the questions of dogma and ecclesiastical abuses were taken simultaneously, the consequence being that in the decisions of the council the doctrinal and reformatory decrees rank side by side. In pursuance of a precedent established by the last Lateran Council, the sessions were divided into two classes: those devoted to discussion (congregationes generales) , and those in which the results of the discussion were put to the vote and formally enacted (sessiones publicae). To ensure a thorough consideration of every proposition, and also to facilitate the exercise of the papal influence on the proceedings, the delegates were split into three groups (congregationes), each group debating the same question at the same time. This arrangement, however, only endured till 1546. Since these sections were only brought into conjunction by the legates, and met under their presidency, the pontifical envoys in effect regulated the whole course of the deliberations. They claimed, moreover, the right of determining the proposals submitted, and were throughout in active and constant communication with Rome - a circumstance which provoked the bon mot of the French deputy (1563), that when the rivers were flooded and the Roman post delayed the Holy Ghost postponed his descent. These precautions nullified any possible disposition on the part of the council to enter on dangerous paths; and in addition the clause "under reservation of the papal authority" was affixed to all enactments dealing with ecclesiastical irregularities - thus leaving the pope a free hand with regard to the practical execution of any measures proposed. Contrary to the emperor's wish, the council began its labours in the region of dogma by defining the doctrines of the Church with reference to the most important controversial points - a procedure which frustrated all his projects for a reconciliation with the Protestants. On the 8th of April 1546 the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and tradition (sessio iv.) was proclaimed; on the 17th of June 1546, the doctrine of original sin (sessio v.); on the 13th of January 1 547, the doctrine of justification (sessio vi.); and on the 3rd of March 1547, the decree concerning the sacraments in general, and baptism and confirmation in particular (sessio vii.). On the 1 1th of March, however, the council was transferred to Bologna on the pretext that an epidemic was raging in Trent (sessio viii.), though, at the imperial command, part of the bishops remained behind. But on the 2nd of June the council of Bologna resolved (sessio x.) to adjourn its labours. The emperor's demands that the council should again be removed to Trent were vain, till on the 24th of April 1547, the battle of Muhlberg decided the struggle with the Schmalkaldic league, formed by the Evangelical princes of Germany, in his favour. His hands were now free, and he utilized his military successes to balance his account with the Church. At the Diet of Augsburg he secured the enactment of a modus vivendi, leavened by the Catholic spirit, between the adherents of either religion; and this provisory settlement - the so-called Interim of Augsburg - was promulgated as a law of the empire (June 3, 1548), and declared binding till the council should reassemble. The Protestants, it is true, received certain concessions - the non-celibacy of the priesthood and the lay chalice - but the Roman hierarchy, the old ceremonial, the feast-days and the fasts, were reinstated. Since the bishops who had remained in Trent abstained, at the emperor's request, from any display of activity qua synod, the outbreak of a schism was avoided. But the confusion of ecclesiastical affairs had grown worse confounded through the refusal of the pope to continue the council, when the death of Paul III. (November io, 1 J49) gave a new turn to events.

Pope Julius III., the former legate Del Monte, could not elude the necessity of convening the council again, and, though personally he took no greater interest in the scheme than his predecessor in office, caused it to resume its labours on the 1st of May 1551 (sessio xi.), under the presidency of the legate, Cardinal Crescentio. The personnel of the synod was, for the most part, different; and the new members included the Jesuits, Laynez and Salmeron. More than this, the general character of the second period of the council was markedly distinct from that of its earlier stages. The French clergy had not a single delegate, while the Spanish bishops maintained an independent attitude under the aegis of the emperor, and Protestant deputies were on this occasion required to appear at Trent. The German Protestants who, in the first phase of the council, had held aloof from its proceedings, since to have sent representatives to this assemblage would have served no good purpose, had now no choice but to obey the imperial will. Charles V. was anxious to assure them not merely of a safe conduct, but also of a certain hearing. But in this he ran counter to the established facts: the Catholic Church had already defined its attitude to the dogmas above mentioned, and the Curia showed no inclination to question these results by reopening the debate. Thus the participation of the Protestants was essentially superfluous, for the object they had at heart - the discussion of these doctrines on the gound of Holy Writ - was from the Catholic standpoint an impossible aspiration. The Wurttemberg deputies had already submitted a creed, composed by the Swabian reformer Johann Brenz, to the council, and Melanchthon was under way with a confessio saxonica, when there came the revolt of the Elector Maurice of Saxony (March 20, 1552), which compelled the emperor to a speedy flight from Innsbruck, and dissolved the conclave. Its dogmatic labours were confined to doctrinal decrees on the Lord's Supper (sessio xiii. October 11, 1551), and on the sacraments of penance and extreme unction (November 25, 1551, sessio xiv.). On the 28th of April 1552, the sittings were suspended on the news of the elector's approach.

Ten years had elapsed before the council reassembled for the third time in Trent; and on this occasion the circumstances were totally changed. During the intervening period, the religious problem in Germany had received such a solution as the times admitted by the peace of Augsburg (1555); and the equality there guaranteed between the Protestant estates and the Catholic estates had left the former nothing to hope from a council. Thus the motive which till then had governed the emperor's policy was now nullified, as there was no necessity for seeking a reconciliation of the two parties by means of a conference. The incitement to continue the council came from another quarter. It was no longer anxiety with regard to Protestantism that exercised the pressure, but a growing conviction of the imperative need of more stringent reforms within the Catholic Church itself. Pope Paul IV. (1551-1559), the protector of the Inquisition, and the opponent of Philip II. of Spain as well as of the emperor Ferdinand, turned a deaf ear to all requests for a revival of the synod. The regime of Pius IV. (1559-1566) was signalized by an absolute reversal of the papal policy: and it was high time. For in France and Spain the very countries where the Protestant heresy had been most vigorously combated - a great mass of discontent had accumulated; and France already showed a strong inclination to attempt an independent settlement of her ecclesiastical difficulties in a national council. Pius IV. saw himself constrained to take these circumstances into account. On the 29th of November 1560 he announced the convocation of the council; and on the 18th of January 1562 it was actually reopened (sessio xvii.). The presidency was entrusted to Cardinal Gonzaga, assisted by Cardinals Hosius, bishop of Ermeland, Seripando, Simonetta, and Marc de Altemps, bishop of Constance. The Protestants indeed were also invited but the Evangelical princes, assembled in Naumburg, withheld their assent - a result which was only to be expected. In order to enhance the synod's freedom of action, France and the emperor Ferdinand required that it should rank as a new council, and were able to adduce in support of their claim the fact that the resolutions of the two former periods had not yet been formally recognized. Pius IV., however, designated it a continuation of the earlier meetings. Ferdinand, in addition to regulations for the amendment of the clergy and the monastic system, demanded above all the legalization of the marriage of the priesthood and the concession of the "lay chalice," as he feared further defections to Protestantism. France and Spain laid stress on the recognition of the divine right of the episcopate, and its independence with regard to the pope. These episcopal tendencies were backed by a request that the bishops should reside in their sees - a position which Pius IV. acknowledged to be de iure divino; though, as it would have implied the annihilation of the Roman Curia, he refused to declare it as such. In consequence of these reformatory aspirations, the position of the pope and the council was for a while full of peril. But the papal diplomacy was quite competent to shatter an opposition which at no time presented an absolutely unbroken front, and by concessions, threats and the utilization of political and politico-ecclesiastical dissensions, to break the force of the attack. In the third period of the council, which, as a result of these feuds, witnessed no session from September 1562 to July 1563, doctrinal resolutions were also passed concerning the Lord's Supper sub utraque specie (sessio xxi., July 16, 1562), the sacrifice of the Mass (sessio xxii., September 27, 1562), the sacrament of ordination (sessio xxiii., July 15, 1563), the sacrament of marriage (sessio xxiv., November 11, 1563), and Purgatory, the worship of saints, relics and images (December 3, 1563). On the 4th of December 1563 the synod closed.

The dogmatic decisions of the Council of Trent make no attempt at embracing the whole doctrinal system of the Roman Catholic Church, but present a selection of the most vital doctrines, partly chosen as a counterblast to Protestantism, and formulated throughout with a view to that creed and its objections. From the discussions of the council it is evident that pronounced differences of opinion existed within it even on most important subjects, and that these differences were not reconciled. Hence came the necessity for reticences, equivocations and temporizing formulae. Since, moreover, the council issued its pronouncements without any reference to the decisions of earlier councils, and omitted to emphasize its relation to these, it in fact suppressed these earlier decisions, and posed not as continuing, but as superseding them.

The reformatory enactments touch on numerous phases of ecclesiastical life - administration, discipline, appointment to spiritual offices, the marriage law (decretum de reformatione matrimonii "Tametsi," sessio xxiv.), the duties of the clergy, and so forth. The resolutions include many that marked an advance; but the opportunity for a comprehensive and thorough reformation of the life of the Church - the necessity of which was recognized in the Catholic Church itself - was not embraced. No alteration of the abuses which obtained in the Curia was effected, and no annulment of the customs, so lucrative to that body and deleterious to others, was attempted. The question of the annates, for instance, was not so much as broached.

The Council of Trent in fact enjoyed only a certain appearance of independence. For the freedom of speech which had been accorded was exercised under the supervision of papal legates, who maintained a decisive influence over the proceedings and could count on a certain majority in consequence of the overwhelming number of Italians. That the synod figured as the responsible author of its own decrees (sancta oecumenica et generalis tridentina synodus spiritu sancta legitime congregata) proves very little, since the following clause reads praesidentibus apostolicae sedis legatis; while the legates and the pope expressly refused to sanction an application of the words of the Council of Constance - universalem ecclesiam repraesentans. The whole course of the council was determined by the presupposition that it had no autonomous standing, and that its labours were simply transacted under the commission and guidance of the pope. This was not merely a claim put forward by the Roman see at the time: it was acknowledged by the attitude' of the synod throughout. The legates confined the right of discussion to the subjects propounded by the pope, and their position was that he was in no way bound by the vote of the majority. In difficult cases the synod itself left the decision to him, as in the question of clandestine marriages and the administration of the Lord's Supper sub utraque specie. Further, at the close of the sessions a resolution was adopted, by the terms of which all the enactments of the council de morum reformatione atque ecclesiastica disciplina were subject to the limitation that the papal authority should not be prejudiced thereby (sessio xxv. cap. 21). Finally, every doubt as to the papal supremacy is removed when we consider that the Tridentine Fathers sought for all their enactments and decisions the ratification (confirmatio) of the pope, which was conferred by Pius IV. in the bull Benedictus Deus (January 26, 1564). Again, in its last meeting (sessio xxv.), the synod transferred to the pope a number of tasks for which their own time had proved inadequate. These comprised the compilation of a catalogue of forbidden books, a catechism, and an edition of the missal and the breviary. Thus the council presented the Holy See with a further opportunity of extending its influence and diffusing its views. The ten rules de libris prohibitis, published by Pius IV. in the bull Dominici gregis custodiae (March 24, 1564), became of great importance for the whole spiritual life of the Roman Catholic Church: for they were an attempt to exclude pernicious influences, and, in practice, led to a censorship which has been more potent for evil than good. These regulations were modified by Leo XIII. in his Constitution Officiorum ac munerum (January 24, 1897). Acting on a suggestion of the council (sessio xxiv. c. 2; sessio xxv. c. 2), Pius IV. published a short conspectus of the articles of faith, as determined at Trent, in the bull Injunctum nobis (November 13, 1564). This socalled Professio fidei tridentinae, however, goes beyond the doctrinal resolutions of the synod, as it contains a number of clauses dealing with the Church and the position of the pope within the Church - subjects which were deliberately ignored in the discussions at Trent. In 1877 this confession - binding on every Roman Catholic priest - was supplemented by a pronouncement on the dogma of papal infallibility.

The great and increasing need of a manual for the instruction of the people gave rise in the first half of the 16th century to numerous catechisms. At the period of the council, that composed by the Jesuit Peter Canisius, father-confessor of the emperor Ferdinand, enjoyed the widest vogue. It failed, however, to receive the sanction of the synod, which preferred to undertake the task itself; and, as that body left its labours unfinished, the pope was entrusted with the compilation of a textbook. Pius V. appointed a commission (Leonardo Marini, Egidio Foscarari, Francisco Fureiro and Murio Calini) under the presidency of three cardinals, among them Charles Borromeo; and this commission discharged its duties with such rapidity that the Catechismus a decreto concilii tridentini ad parochos was published in Rome as early as the year 1568. The book is designed for the use of the cleric, not the layman. The Missale romanum, moreover, underwent revision: also the Breviarium romanum, the daily devotional work of the Roman priest. The necessity of still further improvements in the latter was forcibly urged in the Vatican Council.

The numerical representation of the Council of Trent was marked by considerable fluctuations. In the first session (December 1 3, 1 545) the spiritual dignitaries present - omitting the 3 presiding cardinals - consisted of one other cardinal, 4 archbishops, 21 bishops and 5 generals of orders. On the other hand, the resolutions of the synod were signed at its close by the 4 presidents, then by 2 cardinals, 3 patriarchs, 25 archbishops, 166 bishops, 7 abbots, 7 generals of orders and 19 procurators of archbishops and bishops. In this council - as later in the Vatican - Italy was the dominant nation, sending two-thirds of the delegates; while Spain was responsible for about 30, France for about 20, and Germany for no more than 8 members. In spite of the paucity of its numbers at the opening and the unequal representation of the Church, which continued to the last, the oecumenical character of the council was never seriously questioned. On the motion of the legates, the resolutions were submitted to the ambassadors of the secular powers for signature, the French and Spanish envoys alone withholding their assent. The recognition of the council's enactments was, none the less, beset with difficulties. So far as the doctrinal decisions were concerned no obstacles existed; but the reformatory edicts - adhesion to which was equally required by the synod - stood on a different footing. In their character of resolutions claiming to rank as ecclesiastical law they came into conflict with outside interests, and their acceptance by no means implied that the rights of the sovereign, or the needs and circumstances of the respective countries, were treated with sufficient consideration. The consequence was that there arose an active and, in some cases, a tenacious opposition to an indiscriminate acquiescence in all the Tridentine decrees. Under Charles IX. and Henry IV. the situation was hotly debated in France: but these monarchs showed as little complaisance to the representations and protests of the Curia as did the French parlement itself; and only those regulations were recognized which came into collision neither with the rights of the king nor with the liberties of the Gallican Church. In Spain, Philip II. allowed, indeed, the publication of the Tridentinum, as also in the Netherlands and Naples, but always with the reservation that the privileges of the king, his vassals and his subjects, should not thereby be infringed. The empire, as such, never recognized the Tridentinum. Still it was published at provincial and diocesan synods in the territories of the spiritual princes, and also in the Austrian hereditary states.

In his official confirmation Pius IV. had already strictly prohibited any commentary on the enactments of the council unless undertaken with his approval, and had claimed for himself the sole right of interpretation. In order to supervise the practical working of these enactments, Pius created (1564) a special department of the Curia, the Congregatio cardinalium concilii tridentini interpretum; and to this body Sixtus V. entrusted the further task of determining the sense of the conciliar decisions in all dubious cases. The resolutiones of the congregation - on disputed points - and their declarationes - on legal questions - exercised a powerful influence on the subsequent development of ecclesiastical law.

The Council of Trent attained a quite extraordinary significance for the Roman Catholic Church; and its pre-eminence was unassailed till the Vaticanum subordinated all the labours of the Church in the past - whether in the region of doctrine or in that of law - to an infallible pope. On the theological side it fixed the results of medieval scholasticism and gleaned from it all that could be of service to the Church. Further, by pronouncing on a series of doctrinal points till then undecided it elaborated the Catholic creed; and, finally, the bold front which it offered to Protestantism in its presentation of the orthodox faith gave to its members the practical lead they so much needed in their resistance to the Evangelical assault. The regulations dealing with ecclesiastical life, in the widest sense of the words, came, for the most part, to actual fruition, so that, in this direction also, the council had not laboured in vain. For the whole Roman Catholic Church of the 16th century its consequences are of an importance which can scarcely be exaggerated: it showed that Church as a living institution, capable of work and achievement; it strengthened the confidence both of her members and herself, and it was a powerful factor in heightening her efficiency as a competitor with Protestantism and in restoring and reinforcing her imperilled unity. Indeed, its sphere of influence was still more extensive, for its labours in the field of dogma and ecclesiastical law conditioned the future evolution of the Roman Catholic Church. As regards the position of the papacy, it is of epoch-making significance - not merely in its actual pronouncements on the papal see, but also in its tacit subordination to that see, and the opportunities of increased influence accorded to it.

There were three periods of the council, sepatated by not inconsiderable intervals, each of an individual character, conducted by different popes, but forming a single unity - an indivisible whole, so that it is strictly correct to speak of one Council of Trent, not of three distinct synods. BIBLIOGRAPnv. - Sources for the history of the council: Concilium tridentinum; diariorum, actorum, epistularum, tractatuum nova collectio, ed. Societas Goerresiana. Tom. i. (Diariorum pars i. Herculis Severoli commentarius. Angeli Massarelli diaria 1-4, collegit S. Merkle), Freiburg (1901). Tom. iv. (Actorum pars i.: Monumenta concilium praecedentia; trium priorum sessionum acta: collegit St Ehses), Freiburg (1904). Till the completion of this splendidly planned work, the following deserve especial mention: F. le Plat, Monumentorum ad historiam concilii tridentini spectantium amplissima collectio (Lovanu, 1781-1787); G. F. Planck, Anecdota ad historiam concilii tridentini pertinentia, 26 fasc. (Göttingen, 1791-1818); Acta genuina s. oecumenici concilii tridentini ab A. Massarello conscripta, ed. A. Theiner (Zagrabiae, 1874); F. v. Dollinger, Sammlung von Urkunden zur Geschichte des Konzils von Trient, i. I, 2 (Nordlingen, 1876); Id., Beitrcige zur politischen kirchlichen, and Kulturgeschichte (3 vols., Regensburg, 1862-1882); G. Paleottus, Acta concilii tridentini a 1562 et 1563 usque in finem concilii, ed. F. Mendham (London, 1842); A. v. Druffel, Monumenta tridentina (3 parts, Munich, 1884-1887, parts 4 and 5, continued by K. Brandi, 1897-1899); Zur Geschichte des Konzils von Trient. Aktenstiicke aus den osterreichischen Archiven, ed. T. v. Sickel (3 parts, Vienna, 1870-1872); F. Lainez, Disputationes tridentinae, ed. Grisar (2 vols., Innsbruck, 1886); Die romische Kurie and das Konzil von Trient unter Pius IV. Aktenstiicke zur Geschichte des Konzils von Trient, ed. F. Susta (vols. i. ii., Vienna, 1904-1909); Canones et decreta concilii tridentini (Rome, 1564; critical edition by A. L. Richter, Leipzig, 1853); the most important decisions on dogma and ecclesiastical law reprinted by C. Mirbt, Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsttums (ed. 2, Tubingen, Nr. 289 sqq.; p. 202 sqq.). LITERATURE.-P. Sarpi, Istoria del concilio tridentino (London, 1619); Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini, Istoria del concilio di Trento (Rome, 1656-1657, a counterblast to the preceding); Brischar, Zur Beurteilung der Kontroversen zwischen Sarpi and Pallavicini (1844) Salig, Vollstcindige Historie des tridentinischen Konzils (Halle, 1 74 1 - 1 745); Wessenberg, Die grossen Kirchenversammlungen des 15ten and 16ten Jahrhunderts, vols. iii. and iv. (Constance, 1840); L. v. Ranke, Die romischen Pdpste im 16 and 17 Jahrhundert, vol. i.; ibid. Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation, i. (Stuttgart, 1889); P. Tschackert, s.v. " Trienter Konzil," in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopeidie fiir protestantische Theologie (1908), vol. xx., ed. 3, p. 99 sqq.; G. Kawerau-W. Moeller, Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte, iii. 237 sqq. (Tubingen, 1907); F. Hergenrother, Handbuch der allgemeinen Kirchengeschichte, edition by F. P. Kirsch, Bd. III. p. 188 seq. (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1909). (C. M.)

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The nineteenth ecumenical council opened at Trent on 13 December, 1545, and closed there on 4 December, 1563. Its main object was the definitive determination of the doctrines of the Church in answer to the heresies of the Protestants; a further object was the execution of a thorough reform of the inner life of the Church by removing the numerous abuses that had developed in it.



On 28 November, 1518, Luther had appealed from the pope to a general council because he was convinced that he would be condemned at Rome for his heretical doctrines. The Diet held at Nuremberg in 1523 demanded a "free Christian council" on German soil, and at the Diet held in the same city in 1524 a demand was made for a German national council to regulate temporarily the questions in dispute, and for a general council to settle definitely the accusations against Rome, and the religious disputes. Owing to the feeling prevalent in Germany the demand was very dangerous. Rome positively rejected the German national council, but did not absolutely object to holding a general council. Emperor Charles V forbade the national council, but notified Clement VII through his ambassadors that he considered the calling of a general council expedient and proposed the city of Trent as the place of assembly. In the years directly succeeding this, the unfortunate dispute between emperor and pope prevented any further negotiations concerning a council. Nothing was done until 1529 when the papal ambassador, Pico della Mirandola, declared at the Diet of Speyer that the pope was ready to aid the Germans in the struggle against the Turks, to urge the restoration of peace among Christian rulers, and to convoke a general council to meet the following summer. Charles and Clement VII met at Bologna in 1530, and the pope agreed to call a council, if necessary. The cardinal legate, Lorenzo Campeggio, opposed a council, convinced that the Protestants were not honest in demanding it. Still the Catholic princes of Germany, especially the dukes of Bavaria, favoured a council as the best means of overcoming the evils from which the Church was suffering; Charles never wavered in his determination to have the council held as soon as there was a period of general peace in Christendom.

The matter was also discussed at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, when Campegio again opposed a council, while the emperor declared himself in favour of one provided the Protestants were willing to restore earlier conditions until the decision of the council. Charles's proposition met the approval of the Catholic princes, who, however, wished the assembly to meet in Germany. The emperor's letters to his ambassadors at Rome on the subject led to the discussion of the matter twice in the congregation of cardinals appointed especially for German affairs. Although opinions differed, the pope wrote to the emperor that Charles could promise the convoking of a council with his consent, provided the Protestants returned to the obedience of the Church. He proposed an Italian city, preferably Rome, as the place of assembly. The emperor, however, distrusted the pope, believing that Clement did not really desire a council. Meantime, the Protestant princes did not agree to abandon their doctrines. Clement constantly raised difficulties in regard to a council, although Charles, in accord with most of the cardinals, especially Farnese, del Monte, and Canisio, repeatedly urged upon him the calling of one as the sole means of composing the religious disputes. Meanwhile the Protestant princes refused to withdraw from the position they had taken up. Francis I, of France, sought to frustrate the convoking of the council by making impossible conditions. It was mainly his fault that the council was not held during the reign of Clement VII, for on 28 Nov., 1531, it had been unanimously agreed in a consistory that a council should be called. At Bologna in 1532, the emperor and the pope discussed the question of a council again and decided that it should meet as soon as the approval of all Christian princes had been obtained for the plan. Suitable Briefs addressed to the rulers were drawn up and legates were commissioned to go to Germany, France, and England. The answer of the French king was unsatisfactory. Both he and Henry VIII of England avoided a definitive reply, and the German Protestants rejected the conditions proposed by the pope.

The next pope, Paul III (1534-49), as Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, had always strongly favoured the convening of a council, and had, during the conclave, urged the calling of one. When, after his election, he first met the cardinals, 17 October, 1534, he spoke of the necessity of a general council, and repeated this opinion at the first consistory (13 November). He summoned distinguished prelates to Rome to discuss the matter with them. Representatives of Charles V and Ferdinand I also laboured to hasten the council. The majority of the cardinals, however, opposed the immediate calling of a council, and it was resolved to notify the princes of the papal decision to hold a church assembly. Nuncios were sent for this purpose to France, Spain, and the German king, Ferdinand. Vergerio, nuncio to Ferdinand, was also to apprise the German electors and the most distinguished of the remaining ruling princes personally of the impending proclamation of the council. He executed his commission with zeal, although he frequently met with reserve and distrust. The selection of the place of meeting was a source of much difficulty, as Rome insisted that the council should meet in an Italian city. The Protestant rulers, meeting at Smalkald in December, 1535, rejected the proposed council. In this they were supported by Kings Henry VIII and Francis I. At the same time the latter sent assurances to Rome that he considered the council as very serviceable for the extermination of heresy, carrying on, as regards the holding of a council, the double intrigue he always pursued in reference to German Protestantism. The visit of Charles V to Rome in 1536 led to a complete agreement between him and the pope concerning the council. On 2 June, Paul III published the Bull calling all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and abbots to assemble at Mantua on 23 May, 1537, for a general council. Cardinal legates were sent with an invitation to the council to the emperor, the King of the Romans, the King of France, while a number of other nuncios carried the invitation to the other Christian countries. The Netherlander Peter van der Vorst was sent to Germany to persuade the German ruling princes to take part. The Protestant rulers received the ambassador most ungraciously; at Smalkald they refused the invitation curtly, although in 1530 they had demanded a council. Francis I took advantage of the war that had broken out between himself and Charles in 1536 to declare the journey of the French bishops to the council impossible.

Meanwhile preparations were carried on with zeal at Rome. The commission of reform, appointed in July, 1536, drew up a report as the basis for the correction of the abuses in ecclesiastical life; the pope began preparations for the journey to Mantua. The Duke of Mantua now raised objections against the holding of the assembly in his city and made conditions which it was not possible to accept at Rome. The opening of the council, therefore, was put off to 1 November; later it was decided to open it at Vicenza on 1 May, 1538. The course of affairs, however, was continually obstructed by Francis I. Nevertheless the legates who were to preside at the council went to Vicenza. Only six bishops were present. The French king and the pope met at Nice, and it was decided to prorogue until Easter, 1539. Soon after this the emperor also desired to postpone the council, as he hoped to restore religious unity in Germany by conferences with the Protestants. After further unsuccessful negotiations both with Charles V and Francis I the council was indefinitely prorogued at the consistory of 21 May, 1539, to reassemble at the pope's discretion. When Paul III and Charles V met at Lucca in September, 1541, the former again raised the question of the council. The emperor now consented that it should meet at Vicenza, but Venice would not agree, whereupon the emperor proposed Trent, and later Cardinal Contarini suggested Mantua, but nothing was decided. The emperor and Francis I were invited later to send the cardinals of their countries to Rome, so that the question of the council could be discussed by the college of cardinals. Morone worked in Germany as legate for the council, and the pope agreed to hold it at Trent. After further consultations at Rome, Paul III convoked on 22 May, 1542, an ecumenical council to meet at Trent on 1 Nov. of the same year. The Protestants made violent attacks on the council, and Francis I opposed it energetically, not even permitting the Bull of convocation to be published in his kingdom.

The German Catholic princes and King Sigismund of Poland consented to the convocation. Charles V, enraged at the neutral position of the pope in the war that was threatening between himself and Francis I, as well as with the wording of the Bull, wrote a reproachful letter to Paul III. Nevertheless, preparations were made for the council at Trent, by special papal commissioners, and three cardinals were appointed later as conciliary legates. The conduct, however, of Francis I and of the emperor again prevented the opening of the council. A few Italian and German bishops appeared at Trent. The pope went to Bologna in March 1543, and to a conference with Charles V at Busseto in June, yet matters were not advanced. The strained relations which appeared anew between pope and emperor, and the war between Charles V and Francis I, led to another prorogation (6 July, 1543). After the Peace of Crespy (17 Sept., 1544) a reconciliation was effected between Paul III and Charles V. Francis I had abandoned his opposition and declared himself in favour of Trent as the place of meeting, as did the emperor. On 19 Nov., 1544, the Bull "Laetare Hierusalem" was issued, by which the council was again convoked to meet at Trent on 15 March, 1545. Cardinals Giovanni del Monte, Marcello Cervini, and Reginald Pole were appointed in February, 1545, as the papal legates to preside at the council. As in March only a few bishops had come to Trent, the date of opening had to be deferred again. The emperor, however, desired a speedy opening, consequently 13 December, 1545, was appointed as the date of the first formal session. This was held in the choir of the cathedral of Trent after the first president of the council, Cardinal del Monte, had celebrated the Mass of the Holy Ghost. When the Bull of convocation and the Bull appointing the conciliary legates were read, Cardinal del Monte declared the ecumenical council opened, and appointed 7 January as the date of the second session. Besides the three presiding legates there were present: Cardinal Madruzza, Bishop of Trent, four archbishops, twenty-one bishops, five generals of orders. The council was attended, in addition, by the legates of the King of Germany, Ferdinand, and by forty-two theologians, and nine canonists, who had been summoned as consultors.


In the work of accomplishing its great task the council had to contend with many difficulties. The first weeks were occupied mainly with settling the order of business of the assembly. After long discussion it was agreed that the matters to be taken into consideration by the members of the council were to be proposed by the cardinal legates; after they had been drawn up by a commission of consultors (congregatio theologorum minorum) they were to be discussed thoroughly in preparatory sessions of special congregations of prelates for dogmatic questions, and similar congregations for legal questions (congregatio proelatorum theologorum and congregatio proelatorum canonistarum). Originally the fathers of the council were divided into three congregations for discussion of subjects, but this was soon done away with as too cumbersome. After all the preliminary discussions the matter thus made ready was debated in detail in the general congregation (congregatio generalis) and the final form of the decrees was settled on. These general congregations were composed of all bishops, generals of orders, and abbots who were entitled to a vote, the proxies of absent members entitled to a vote, and the representatives (oratores) of the secular rulers. The decrees resulting from such exhaustive debates were then brought forward in the formal sessions and votes were taken upon them. On 18 December the legates laid seventeen articles before the general congregations as regards the order of procedure in the subjects to be discussed. This led to a number of difficulties. The main one was whether dogmatic questions or the reform of church life should be discussed first. It was finally decided that both subjects should be debated simultaneously. Thus after the promulgation in the sessions of the decrees concerning the dogmas of the Church followed a similar promulgation of those on discipline and Church reform. The question was also raised whether the generals of orders and abbots were members of the council entitled to a vote. Opinions varied greatly on this point. Still, after long discussion the decision was reached that one vote for the entire order belonged to each general of an order, and that the three Benedictine abbots sent by the pope to represent the entire order were entitled to only one vote.

Violent differences of opinion appeared during the preparatory discussion of the decree to be laid before the second session determining the title to be given the council; the question was whether there should be added to the title "Holy Council of Trent" (Sacrosancta tridentina synodus) the words "representing the Church universal" (universalem ecclesiam reproesentans). According to the Bishop of Fiesole, Braccio Martello, a number of the members of the council desired the latter form. However, such a title, although justified in itself, appeared dangerous to the legates and other members of the council on account of its bearing on the Councils of Constance and Basle, as it might be taken to express the superiority of the ecumenical council over the pope. Therefore instead of this formula the additional phrase "oecumenica et generalis" was proposed and accepted by nearly all the bishops. Only three bishops who raised the question unsuccessfully several times later persisted in wanting the formula "universalem ecclesiam reproesentans". A further point was in reference to the proxies of absent bishops, namely, whether these were entitled to a vote or not. Originally the proxies were not allowed a vote; Paul III granted to those German bishops who could not leave their dioceses on account of religious troubles, and to them alone, representation by proxies. In 1562, when the council met again, Pius IV withdrew this permission. Other regulations were also passed, in regard to the right of the members to draw the revenues of their dioceses during the session of the council, and concerning the mode of life of the members. At a later date, during the third period of the council, various modifications were made in these decisions. Thus the theologians of the council, who had grown in the meantime into a large body, were divided into six classes, each of which received a number of drafts of decrees for discussion. Special deputations also were often appointed for special questions. The entire regulation of the debates was a very prudent one, and offered every guarantee for an absolutely objective and exhaustive discussion in all their bearings of the questions brought up for debate. A regular courier service was maintained between Rome and Trent, so that the pope was kept fully informed in regard to the debates of the council.


First Period at Trent

Among the fathers of the council and the theologians who had been summoned to Trent were a number of important men. The legates who presided at the council were equal to their difficult task; Paceco of Jaen, Campeggio of Feltre, and the Bishop of Fiesole already mentioned were especially conspicuous among the bishops who were present at the early sessions. Girolamo Seripando, General of the Augustinian Hermits, was the most prominent of the heads of the orders; of the theologians, the two learned Dominicans, Ambrogio Catarino and Domenico Soto, should be mentioned. After the formal opening session (13 December, 1545), the various questions pertaining to the order of business were debated; neither in the second session (7 January, 1546) nor in the third (4 February, 1546) were any matters touching faith or discipline brought forward. It was only after the third session, when the preliminary questions and the order of business had been essentially settled, that the real work of the council began. The emperor's representative, Francisco de Toledo, did not reach Trent until 15 March, and a further personal representative, Mendoza, arrived on 25 May. The first subject of discussion which was laid before the general congregation by the legates on 8 February was the Scriptures as the source of Divine revelation. After exhaustive preliminary discussions in the various congregations, two decrees were ready for debate at the fourth session (8 April, 1546), and were adopted by the fathers. In treating the canon of Scripture they declare at the same time that in matters of faith and morals the tradition of the Church is, together with the Bible, the standard of supernatural revelation; then taking up the text and the use of the sacred Books they declare the Vulgate to be the authentic text for sermons and disputations, although this did not exclude textual emendations. It was also determined that the Bible should be interpreted according to the unanimous testimony of the Fathers and never misused for superstitious purposes. Nothing was decided in regard to the translation of the Bible in the vernaculars.

In the meantime earnest discussions concerning the question of church reform had been carried on between the pope and the legates, and a number of items had been suggested by the latter. These had special reference to the Roman Curia and its administration, to the bishops, the ecclesiastical benefices and tithes, the orders, and the training of the clergy. Charles V wished the discussion of the dogmatic questions to be postponed, but the council and the pope could not agree to that, and the council debated dogmas simultaneously with decrees concerning discipline. On 24 May the general congregation took up the discussion of original sin, its nature, consequences, and cancellation by baptism. At the same time the question of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin was brought forward, but the majority of the members finally decided not to give any definite dogmatic decision on this point. The reforms debated concerned the establishment of theological professorships, preaching, and episcopal obligation of residence. In reference to the latter the Spanish bishop, Paceco, raised the point whether this obligation was of Divine origin, or whether it was merely an ecclesiastical ordinance of human origin, a question which led later to long and violent discussions. In the fifth session (17 June, 1546) the decree on the dogma of original sin was promulgated with five canons (anathemas) against the corresponding erroneous doctrines; and the first decree on reform (de reformatione) was also promulgated. This treats (in two chapters) of professorships of the Scriptures, and of secular learning (artes liberales), of those who preach the Divine word, and of the collectors of alms.

For the following session, which was originally set for 29 July, the matters proposed for general debate were the dogma of justification as the dogmatic question and the obligation of residence as regards bishops as the disciplinary decree; the treatment of these questions was proposed to the general congregation by the legates on 21 June. The dogma of justification brought up for debate one of the fundamental questions which had to be discussed with reference to the heretics of the sixteenth century, and which in itself presented great difficulties. The imperial party sought to block the discussion of the entire matter, some of the fathers were anxious on account of the approaching war of Charles V against the Protestant princes, and there was fresh dissension between the emperor and the pope. However, the debates on the question were prosecuted with the greatest zeal; animated, at times even stormy, discussions took place; the debate of the next general session had to be postponed. No less than sixty-one general congregations and forty-four other congregations were held for the debate of the important subjects of justification and the obligation of residence, before the matters were ready for the final decision. At the sixth regular session on 13 January, 1547, was promulgated the masterly decree on justification (de justificatione), which consisted of a prooemium or preface and sixteen chapters with thirty-three canons in condemnation of the opposing heresies. The decree on reform of this session was one in five chapters respecting the obligation of residence of bishops and of the occupants of ecclesiastical benefices or offices. These decrees make the sixth session one of the most important and decisive of the entire council.

The legates proposed to the general congregation as the subject-matter for the following session, the doctrine of the Church as to the sacraments, and for the disciplinary question a series of ordinances respecting both the appointment and official activities of bishops, and on ecclesiastical benefices. When the questions had been debated, in the seventh session (3 March, 1547), a dogmatic decree with suitable canons was promulgated on the sacraments in general (thirteen canons), on baptism (fourteen canons), and on confirmation (three canons); a decree on reform (in fifteen chapters) was also enacted in regard to bishops and ecclesiastical benefices, in particular as to pluralities, visitations, and exemptions, concerning the founding of infirmaries, and as to the legal affairs of the clergy. Before this session was held the question of the prorogation of the council or its transfer to another city had been discussed. The relations between pope and emperor had grown even more strained; the Smalkaldic War had begun in Germany; and now an infectious disease broke out in Trent, carrying off the general of the Franciscans and others. The cardinal legates, therefore, in the eighth session (11 March, 1547) proposed the transfer of the council to another city, supporting themselves in this action by a Brief which had been given them by the pope some time before. The majority of the fathers voted to transfer the council to Bologna, and on the following day (12 March) the legates went there. By the ninth session the number of participants had risen to four cardinals, nine archbishops, forty-nine bishops, two proxies, two abbots, three generals of orders, and fifty theologians.

Period at Bologna

The majority of the fathers of the council went with the cardinal legates from Trent to Bologna; but fourteen bishops who belonged to the party of Charles V remained at Trent and would not recognize the transfer. The sudden change of place without any special consultation beforehand with the pope did not please Paul III, who probably foresaw that this would lead to further severe difficulties between himself and the emperor. As a matter of fact Charles V was very indignant at the change, and through his ambassador Vaga protested against it, vigorously urging a return to Trent. The emperor's defeat of the Smalkaldic League increased his power. Influential cardinals sought to mediate between the emperor and the pope, but the negotiations failed. The emperor protested formally against the transfer to Bologna, and, refusing to permit the Spanish bishops who had remained at Trent to leave that city, began negotiations again with the German Protestants on his own responsibility. Consequently at the ninth session of the council held at Bologna on 21 April, 1547, the only decree issued was one proroguing the session. The same action was all that was taken in the tenth session on 2 June, 1547, although there had been exhaustive debates on various subjects in congregations. The tension between the emperor and the pope had increased despite the efforts of Cardinals Sfondrato and Madruzzo. All negotiations were fruitless. The bishops who had remained at Trent had held no sessions, but when the pope called to Rome four of the bishops at Bologna and four of those at Trent, the latter said in excuse that they could not obey the call. Paul III had now to expect extreme opposition from the emperor. Therefore, on 13 September, he proclaimed the suspension of the council and commanded the cardinal legate del Monte to dismiss the members of the council assembled at Bologna; this was done on 17 September. The bishops were called to Rome, where they were to prepare decrees for disciplinary reforms. This closed the first period of the council. On 10 Nov., 1549, the pope died.

Second Period at Trent

The successor of Paul III was Julius III (1550-55), Giovanni del Monte, first cardinal legate of the council. He at once began negotiations with the emperor to reopen the council. On 14 Nov., 1550, he issued the Bull "Quum ad tollenda," in which the reassembling at Trent was arranged. As presidents he appointed Cardinal Marcellus Crescentius, Archbishop Sebastian Pighinus of Siponto, and Bishop Aloysius Lipomanni of Verona. The cardinal legate reached Trent on 29 April, 1551, where, besides the bishop of the city, fourteen bishops from the countries ruled by the emperor were in attendance; several bishops came from Rome, where they had been staying, and on 1 May, 1551, the eleventh session was held. In this the resumption of the council was decreed, and 1 September was appointed as the date of the next session. The Sacrament of the Eucharist and drafts of further disciplinary decrees were discussed in the congregations of the theologians and also in several general congregations. Among the theologians were Lainez and Salmeron, who had been sent by the pope, and Johannes Arza, who represented the emperor. Ambassadors of the emperor, King Ferdinand, and Henry II of France were present. The King of France, however, was unwilling to allow any French bishop to go to the council. In the twelfth session (1 Sept., 1551) the only decision was the prorogation until 11 October. This was due to the expectation of the arrival of other German bishops, besides the Archbishops of Mainz and Trier who were already in attendance. The thirteenth session was held on 11 Oct., 1551; it promulgated a comprehensive decree on the Sacrament of the Eucharist (in eight chapters and eleven canons) and also a decree on reform (in eight chapters) in regard to the supervision to be exercised by bishops, and on episcopal jurisdiction. Another decree deferred until the next session the discussion of four articles concerning the Eucharist, namely, Communion under the two species of bread and wine and the Communion of children; a safe-conduct was also issued for Protestants who desired to come to the council. An ambassador of Joachim II of Brandenburg had already reached Trent.

The presidents laid before the general congregation of 15 October drafts of definitions of the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction for discussion. These subjects occupied the congregations of theologians, among whom Gropper, Nausea, Tapper, and Hessels were especially prominent, and also the general congregations during the months of October and November. At the fourteenth session, held on 25 November, the dogmatic decree promulgated contained nine chapters on the dogma of the Church respecting the Sacrament of Penance and three chapters on extreme unction. To the chapters on penance were added fifteen canons condemning heretical teachings on this point, and four canons condemning heresies to the chapters on unction. The decree on reform treated the discipline of the clergy and various matters respecting ecclesiastical benefices. In the meantime, ambassadors from several Protestant princes and cities reached Trent. They made various demands, as: that the earlier decisions which were contrary to the Augsburg Confession should be recalled; that debates on questions in dispute between Catholics and Protestants should be deferred; that the subordination of the pope to an ecumenical council should be defined; and other propositions which the council could not accept. Since the close of the last session both the theologians and the general congregations had been occupied in numerous assemblies with the dogma of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of the ordination of priests, as well as with plans for new reformatory decrees. At the fifteenth session (25 January, 1552), in order to make some advances to the ambassadors of the Protestants, the decisions in regard to the subjects under consideration were postponed and a new safe-conduct, such as they had desired, was drawn up for them. Besides the three papal legates and Cardinal Madruzzo, there were present at Trent ten archbishops and fifty-four bishops, most of them from the countries ruled by the emperor. On account of the treacherous attack made by Maurice of Saxony on Charles V, the city of Trent and the members of the council were placed in danger; consequently, at the sixteenth session (23 April, 1552) a decree suspending the council for two years was promulgated. However, a considerably longer period of time elapsed before it could resume its sessions.

Third Period at Trent

Julius III did not live to call the council together again. He was followed by Marcellus II (1555), a former cardinal legate at Trent, Marcello Cervino; Marcellus died twenty-two days after his election. His successor, the austere Paul IV (1555-9), energetically carried out internal reforms both in Rome and in the other parts of the Church; but he did not seriously consider reconvening the council. Pius IV (1559-65) announced to the cardinals shortly after his election his intention of reopening the council. Indeed, he had found the right man, his nephew, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo, to complete the important work and to bring its decisions into customary usage in the Church. Great difficulties were raised once more on various sides. The Emperor Ferdinand desired the council, but wished it to be held in some German city, and not at Trent; moreover he desired it to meet not as a continuation of the earlier assembly but as a new council. The King of France also desired the assembling of a new council, but he did not wish it at Trent. The Protestants of Germany worked in every way against the assembling of the Council. After long negotiations Ferdinand, the Kings of Spain and Portugal, Catholic Switzerland, and Venice left the matter to the pope. On 29 Nov., 1560, the Bull "Ad ecclesiae regimen," by which the council was ordered to meet again at Trent at Easter, 1561, was published. Notwithstanding all the efforts of the papal nuncios, Delfino and Commendone, the German Protestants persisted in their opposition. Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga was appointed president of the council; he was to be assisted by the cardinal legates Stanislaus Hosius, Jacobus Puteus (du Puy), Hieronymus Seripando, Luigi Simonetta, and Marcus Siticus of Altemps. As the bishops made their appearance very slowly, the opening of the council was delayed. Finally on 18 Jan., 1562, the seventeenth session was held; it proclaimed the revocation of the suspension of the council and appointed the date for the next session. There were present, besides the four cardinal legates, one cardinal, three patriarchs, eleven archbishops, forty bishops, four abbots, and four generals of orders; in addition thirty-four theologians were in attendance. The ambassadors of the princes were a source of much trouble to the presidents of the council and made demands which were in part impossible. The Protestants continued to calumniate the assembly. Emperor Ferdinand wished to have the discussion of dogmatic questions deferred.

At the eighteenth session (25 Feb., 1562) the only matters decided were the publication of a decree concerning the drawing up of a list of forbidden books and an agreement as to a safe-conduct for Protestants. At the next two sessions, the nineteenth on 14 May, and the twentieth on 4 June, 1562, only decrees proroguing the council were issued. The number of members had, it is true, increased, and various ambassadors of Catholic rulers had arrived at Trent, but some princes continued to raise obstacles both as to the character of the council and the place of meeting. Emperor Ferdinand sent an exhaustive plan of church reform which contained many articles impossible to accept. The legates, however, continued the work of the assembly, and presented the draft of the decree on Holy Communion, which treated especially the question of Communion under both species, as well as drafts of several disciplinary decrees. These questions were subjected to the usual discussions. At the twenty-first session (16 July, 1562) the decree on Communion under both species and on the Communion of children was promulgated in four chapters and four canons. A decree upon reformation in nine chapters was also promulgated; it treated ordination to the priesthood, the revenues of canons, the founding of new parishes, and the collectors of alms. Articles on the Sacrifice of the Mass were now laid before the congregations for discussion; in the following months there were long and animated debates over the dogma. At the twenty-second session, which was not held until 17 Sept., 1562, four decrees were promulgated: the first contained the dogma of the Church on the Sacrifice of the Mass (in nine chapters and nine canons); the second directed the suppression of abuses in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice; a third (in eleven chapters) treated reform, especially in regard to the morals of the clergy, the requirements necessary before ecclesiastical offices could be assumed, wills, the administration of religious foundations; the fourth treated the granting of the cup to the laity at Communion, which was left to the discretion of the pope.

The council had hardly ever been in as difficult a position as that in which it now found itself. The secular rulers made contradictory and, in part, impossible demands. At the same time warm debates were held by the fathers on the questions of the duty of residence and the relations of the bishops to the pope. The French bishops who arrived on 13 November made several dubious propositions. Cardinals Gonzaga and Seripando, who were of the number of cardinal legates, died. The two new legates and presidents, Morone and Navagero, gradually mastered the difficulties. The various points of the dogma concerning the ordination of priests were discussed both in the congregations of the eighty-four theologians, among whom Salmeron, Soto, and Lainez were the most prominent, and in the general congregations. Finally, on 15 July, 1563, the twenty-third session was held. It promulgated the decree on the Sacrament of Orders and on the ecclesiastical hierarchy (in four chapters and eight canons), and a decree on reform (in eighteen chapters). This disciplinary decree treated the obligation of residence, the conferring of the different grades of ordination, and the education of young clerics (seminarists). The decrees which were proclaimed to the Church at this session were the result of long and arduous debates, in which 235 members entitled to a vote took part. Disputes now arose once more as to whether the council should be speedily terminated or should be carried on longer. In the meantime the congregations debated the draft of the decree on the Sacrament of Matrimony, and at the twenty-fourth session (11 Nov., 1563) there were promulgated a dogmatic decree (with twelve canons) on marriage as a sacrament and a reformatory decree (in ten chapters), which treated the various conditions requisite for contracting of a valid marriage. A general decree on reform (in twenty-one chapters) was also published which treated the various questions connected with the administration of ecclesiastical offices.

The desire for the closing of the council grew stronger among all connected with it, and it was decided to close it as speedily as possible. A number of questions had been discussed preliminarily and were now ready for final definition. Consequently in the twenty-fifth and final session, which occupied two days (3-4 December, 1563), the following decrees were approved and promulgated: on 3 December a dogmatic decree on the veneration and invocation of the saints, and on the relics and images of the same; a decree on reform (in twenty-two chapters) concerning monks and nuns; a decree on reform, treating of the mode of life of cardinals and bishops, certificates of fitness for ecclesiastics, legacies for Masses, the administration of ecclesiastical benefices, the suppression of concubinage among the clergy, and the life of the clergy in general. On 4 December the following were promulgated: a dogmatic decree on indulgences; a decree on fasts and feast days; a further decree on the preparation by the pope of editions of the Missal, the Breviary, and a catechism, and of a list of forbidden books. It was also declared that no secular power had been placed at a disadvantage by the rank accorded to its ambassadors, and the secular rulers were called upon to accept the decisions of the council and to execute them. Finally, the decrees passed by the council during the pontificates of Paul III and Julius III were read and proclaimed to be binding. After the fathers had agreed to lay the decisions before the pope for confirmation, the president, Cardinal Morone, declared the council to be closed. The decrees were subscribed by two hundred and fifteen fathers of the council, consisting of four cardinal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-seven bishops, seven abbots, seven generals of orders, and also by nineteen proxies for thirty-three absent prelates. The decrees were confirmed on 26 Jan., 1564, by Pius IV in the Bull "Benedictus Deus," and were accepted by Catholic countries, by some with reservations.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent has proved to be of the greatest importance for the development of the inner life of the Church. No council has ever had to accomplish its task under more serious difficulties, none has had so many questions of the greatest importance to decide. The assembly proved to the world that notwithstanding repeated apostasy in church life there still existed in it an abundance of religious force and of loyal championship of the unchanging principles of Christianity. Although unfortunately the council, through no fault of the fathers assembled, was not able to heal the religious differences of western Europe, yet the infallible Divine truth was clearly proclaimed in opposition to the false doctrines of the day, and in this way a firm foundation was laid for the overthrow of heresy and the carrying out of genuine internal reform in the Church.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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Simple English

Council of Trent was the 19th Ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church.[1] Important members of the Catholic Church met in Trento three times between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563, as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation.[1] It stated current Catholic doctrines on salvation, the sacraments, and the Biblical canon, it answered all Protestant disputes.[1]

The council often could not meet when they wanted to, and sometimes could not meet at all, because of resistance from the popes and revolt against the emperor.[2] Emperor Charles V wanted the council to meet, and Pope Paul III summoned the council in 1537, but the plans fell through.[2] In 1538, ideas for a council again failed.[2] The pope asked for the council to meet in 1542, but it did not actually meet until 1545. The council was not active from 1547 and 1551. It again met from 1551 to 1552, when it was suspended due to a revolt against the emperor.[2] Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) strongly disliked Protestant ideas and the council could not start again until his succesor took office.[2] The council met for the last time from 1562 to 1563.

The Council of Trent was part of the Counter-Reformation. It would be over 300 years until the next Ecumenical Council.

Pope Paul III (1534–49) – saw that the Protestant Reformation was growing in size. Before, a small number of priests were part of the reformation, but soon many princes, particularly in Germany, supported its ideas. Therefore Pope Paul III desired a council. But the council could not meet until 1545, and met right before Luther's death. The council was moved to Bologna in March, 1547 with the excuse of avoiding a plague;[2] without any plans to meet again, September 17th, 1549. The council was reopened at Trento, May 1, 1551, by Pope Julius III (1550–55); broken up 1552, recalled by Pope Pius IV (1559–65) for the last time, January 18, 1562, when it continued until December 4, 1563.


Objects and general results

Objects were:

1. To stop the ideas and practice of Protestantism and to support the Catholic Church's ideas.

2. To change the parts of the church and actions of church leaders that damaged or hurt the Catholic Church's ideas and image.

The results were:

1. The church's interpretation of the Bible was final. Any Christian who did not agree with the interpretation was a heretic. Also, the Bible and Church Tradition had equal authority.

2. The relationship of faith and works in salvation was defined, following disagreements over Martin Luther's doctrine of "justification by faith alone".

3. Catholic practices such as Indulgences, pilgrimages, the veneration of saints and relics, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary were strongly reaffirmed.

The doctrinal decisions of the council are divided into decrees (decreta), which contain the positive statement of the conciliar dogmas, and into short canons (canones), which condemn the differing Protestant views with the concluding "anathema sit" ("let him be anathema").

The canons and decrees

List of dogmatic decrees

Doctrine Session Date Canons Decrees
On the Symbol of the Faith 3 February 4, 1546 None 1
The Holy Scriptures 4 April 8, 1546 None 1
Original sin 5June 7, 1546 5 4
Justification 6January 13, 1547 33 16
The Sacraments in General 7March 3, 1547 13 1
Baptism 7March 3, 1547 14 None
Confirmation 7 March 3, 1547 3 None
Holy Eucharist 13October 11, 1551 11 8
Penance 14 November 15, 1551 15 15
Extreme Unction 14November 4, 1551 4 3
Holy Eucharist, On Communion 21June 16, 1562 4 3
Holy Eucharist, On the Sacrifice of the Mass 22September 9, 1562 9 4
Holy Orders 23July 15, 1563 8 3
Matrimony 24November 11, 1563 12 1
Purgatory 25December 4, 1563 None 1
Cults: Saints Relics Images 25December 4, 1563 None 3
Indulgences 25December 4, 1563 None 1


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wetterau, Bruce. World history. New York: Henry Holt and company. 1994.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005

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