Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 458
Canon 46 of the Fourth Council of Toledo (Iberian Peninsula, AD 633) punishes clerics who demolish tombs.
[Titulus in recensione Iuliana] XLVI Si quis clericus in demoliendis sepulcris fuerit deprehensus.
[Titulus in recensione Vulgata] XLVI De clericis sepulcra demolientibus.
Canon 46
Si quis clericus in demoliendis sepulchris fuerit deprehensus, quia facinus hoc pro sacrilegio legibus publicis sanguine uindicatur, oportet canonibus in tali scelere proditum a clericatus ordine submoueri et paenitentiae triennio deputari.
(eds. Martinez Diez, Rodriguez 1992: 167, 174, 228)
[Title in the recension Iuliana] XLVI If a cleric is found destroying graves
[Title in the recension Vulgata] XLVI On clerics who destroy graves
Canon 46
If a cleric is found demolishing graves, for as much as this crime as a sacrilege in the secular law is punished by death, he ought to be punished by the canons with deposition from the clerical order and with three years of penance.
(trans. M. Szada)


To emphasise the serioussness of the offence, the conciliar fathers make allusion to the secular law, most probably to the Code of Theodosius IX, 17 (De sepulchri violati), that punishes the violation of tombs by death. Clerics, however, were not to supposed to be judged according to the secular law (see Constitutio Sirmondiana 6: "Clericos etiam, quos indiscretim ad saeculares iudices debere deduci infaustus praesumptor edixerat, episcopali audientiae reservamus, his manentibus, quae circa eos sanxit antiquitas."), but they will receive the more lenient punishment prescribed by the canon law.
We do not know whether the demolition of tombs was in any way linked with functions exercised by clerics, e.g. they did it in zeal of destroying the pagan monuments, or in the search of relics. The abovementioned law from the Code of Theodosius is directed specifically against those who destroy tombs in order to reuse the material for building, but it mentions as well those who violate the cadavers  (in the search of precious things? for magical purposes?).

Place of event:

  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Toledo

About the source:

Title: Fourth Council of Toledo (633), IV Council of Toledo, IV Concilium Toletanum, IIII Concilium Toletanum, Concilium Toletanum quartum a. 633
Origin: Toledo (Iberian Peninsula)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The Fourth Council of Toledo was a council of the whole Visigothic church (86 bishops were present) gathered by King Sisenand (631-636)  in 633 and held under the presidency of Isidore of Seville. It is sometimes claimed on stylistic grounds that Isidore was an author of the decrees (Collins 2004: 79).
The acts of the Fourth Council of Toledo are transmitted in the 7th-century canonical collection from Spain, the so-called Hispana. Its authorship has been attributed to the Isidore of Seville (it is still accepted by Martinez Diez 1966; other scholars reject this attribution: Munier 1966; Gaudemet 1967: 122-124; Schaferdiek 1967: 144-148; Landau 1968: 406-418). This collection has several recensions: a primitive one, the so-called Isidoriana, lost today; the Juliana recension edited after 681 and attributed to the Julian of Toledo, that adds to the previous recension the acts and canons of the councils from the Fifth Council of Toledo do the Twelfth (in 681); the Vulgata recension edited between 694 and 702 that adds the acts and canons of the councils from the the Thirteenth Council of Toledo up to the Seventeenth held in 694, this recension was the most widespread during the Middle Ages (more bibliography see Kéry 1999: 61-67). The two recensions Iuliana and Vulgata give different titles to the canons of the Fourth Council of Toledo (Martinez Diez 1992: 17-20).
G. Martínez Díez, F. Rodríguez eds., La colección canónica Hispana, Monumenta Hispaniae sacra. Serie canónica 5, Madrid 1992.
R. Collins, Visigothic Spain, 409-711, Oxford, OX, UK; Malden, MA, USA 2004.
J. Gaudemet, review of: "G. Martinez Diez, La coleccion canonica Hispana 1", Revue historique de droit français et étranger 4e ser.  45 (1967), 122-124.
L. Kéry, Canonical collections of the early Middle Ages (ca. 400-1140): a bibliographical guide to the manuscripts and literature, Washington, D.C 1999.
P. Landau, review of: "G. Martinez Diez, La coleccion canonica Hispana 1", Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte Kanonistische Abteilung 54 (1968), 406-414.
G. Martínez Díez, La Colección canónica Hispana, vol. 1 Estudio, Madrid 1966.
C. Munier, "Saint Isidore de Séville est-il l’auteur de I’Hispana chronologique?", Sacris Erudiri 17 (1966), 230-241.
K. Schaferdiek, review of: "G. Martinez Diez, La coleccion canonica Hispana 1", Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 78 (1967), 144-148.
M. Sotomayor, "Las relaciones iglesia urbana-iglesia rural en los concilios hispano-romanos y visigodos", Sacralidad y Arqueologia, Antig. Crist. (Murcia) 21 (2004), 525-539.


Described by a title - Clericus
    Public law - Ecclesiastical
      Public law - Secular
        Administration of justice - Ecclesiastical
          Administration of justice - Demotion
            Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER458,