Concordat of Bologna

The Concordat of Bologna (1516), marking a stage in the evolution of the Gallican Church, was an agreement[1] between King Francis I of France and Pope Leo X that Francis negotiated in the wake of his victory at Marignano in September 1515. The groundwork was laid in a series of personal meetings of king and pope in Bologna, 11–15 December 1515. The concordat was signed in Rome on 18 August 1516.

The Concordat explicitly superseded the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), which had proved ineffective in guaranteeing the privileges of the Church in France, where bishoprics and abbacies had been wrangled over even before the Parlement of Paris: "hardly anywhere were elections held in due form", R. Aubenas observes,[2] "for the king succeeded in foisting his own candidates upon the electors by every conceivable means, not excluding the most ruthless".

The Concordat permitted the Pope to collect all the income that the Catholic Church made in France, and the King of France was confirmed in his right to tithe the clerics and to restrict their right of appeal to Rome. The Concordat confirmed the King of France's right to nominate appointments to benefice (archbishops, bishops, abbots and priors), enabling the Crown, by controlling its personnel, to decide who was to lead the Gallican Church.[3]

Canonical installation of those church officers was reserved to the Pope; thus the agreement confirmed the papal veto of any leader the King of France chose who might be deemed truly unqualified. The Concordat confirmed the Apostolic Camera's right to collect annates, the first year's revenue from each benefice, a right that when abused led to shuffling of prelates among dioceses. The fiction of elections to bishopric by canons and to abbacies by monks was discontinued. On Francis's part, it was at last firmly conceded that the Pope's powers were not subject to any council (the previous French position had been to support the decisions of the Council of Basel), an affirmation of the papal position in the long-crushed Conciliar Movement, which was in the process of being condemned at the contemporaneous Fifth Lateran Council (1512–17), which confirmed the Concordat.


Though the Concordat of Bologna left many issues unsolved, it provided the ground rules for the limited Reformation in France: the sons of Francis and Catherine de' Medici saw no advantage to the Crown in any gestures towards Reformation. The king of France had enormous powers to direct the Church's wealth and to provide sinecures in the offices of bishops and abbots in commendam for his faithful followers among the powerful aristocracy. The Concordat ended any vestige of the elective principle in which the monks or cathedral canons chose the abbot or bishop: there were some protests from the disenfranchised communities whose approval of candidates had for some time devolved into a mere pro forma. It allowed the King to maintain control of the Church as well as the State.

For many years, the kings of France would struggle to keep the Catholic Church in power, as it was filled with supporters of their policies. This would lead to persecution of non-Catholics under Francis I, Henry II, Francis II, and Charles IX.[dubious ]

The religious intolerance would lead to the civil wars in France called the Wars of Religion, some religious freedom in the form of an edict of toleration, the Edict of Saint-Germain issued by Charles IX's regent in 1562 and finally the Edict of Nantes.


  1. ^ Concordat (Latin), "let it be agreed".
  2. ^ Aubenas, "The Papacy and the Catholic Church", in The New Cambridge Modern History, 1957:85.
  3. ^ Holt, Mack P., "The French Wars of Religion, 1562-1629,", Cambridge University Press, 1995: pages 10-13.


  • Knecht, R. J. (1963). "The Concordat of 1516: A Reassessment". In: University of Birmingham Historical Journal 9.1 (1963), pp. 16-32.
  • McManners, John (1999). Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France: The Clerical Establishment and Its Social Ramification. Oxford University Press. pp. 208–214. ISBN 978-0-19-827003-4.
  • Thomas, Jules (1910). Le Concordat de 1516 : ses origines, son histoire au XVIe siècle. Paris: Alphonse Picard. Première partie, deuxième partie, troisième partie (in French)

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