Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 477
Pope Silvester (AD 314-335) prohibits presbyters from preparing the chrism or accepting heretics into the Church. He orders that laymen cannot bring accusations against clerics. Account of the Liber Pontificalis (written in Rome, AD 530/546).
34. Silvester:
[…] Et constituit ut presbiter arrianum resipiscentem non susciperet, nisi episcopus loci designati, et chrisma a episcopo confici, et privilegium episcopis ut baptizatum consignet propter hereticam suasionem. Hic et hoc constituit ut nullus laicus crimen clerico inferret. […]
(ed. Duchesne 1886: 171)
34. Silvester:
[...] He ordered that a presbyter should not accept an Arian who comes back to his senses, but only a bishop of the designated place; and that chrism should be prepared by a bishop, and that it is a bishop's privilege to sign [with the chrism] those who were baptised into the heretical persuasion. He also constituted that no layman may bring an accusation of a crime against a cleric. [...]
(trans. S. Adamiak)


The passage refers to some of the traditional areas of conflicts of competence between presbyters and bishops: the chrism and the reconciliation, here particularly of the Arians (which is obviously an anachronism when referred to the times of Silvester I). The prohibition on accepting accusations against clergymen brought by laymen, if true, may have referred only to the ecclesiastical judicial procedure.

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Rome

About the source:

Title: Liber Pontificalis, The Book of Pontiffs, Gesta Pontificum Romanorum
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Liber Pontificalis is a major source for the history of the papacy in the first millenium. It is a collection of the lives of popes, starting from St Peter and kept going through to 870. Liber Pontificalis is prefaced by two apocryphical letters of Pope Damasus and Jerome, but it cannot be dated to that period. Although Mommsen tended to put the date of the actual compilation as late as the seventh century, nowadays Duchesne`s view is generally accepted that there were two editions made in the 530s-540s. The first, presumably completed soon after 530, has not survived as such, though we have two epitomes made from it (known as “Felician” and “Cononian” from the names of the popes at which they end). Duchesne tried to reconstruct it in his edition, but we follow the second edition presented by him, which was completed by the siege of Rome in 546. The work was then left aside for some time, and taken up again probably under Honorius (625-638) or shortly afterwards; hence the additions were written shortly after each pontiff`s death.
Liber starts to provide some more reliable information with the times of Pope Leo I (440-461), and becomes very well informed with the end of the fifth century. The lives of earlier popes cannot be considered as a valid source of information about their lifetime. However, those notices are a precious source for the sixth century: we learn what was considered an old tradition at the time, and how the past of the Roman church was being seen and constructed then. It is especially important when we deal with the liturgy.
 L. Duchesne ed., Le `Liber Pontificalis`, vol. 1., Paris 1886.
 T. Mommsen ed., Liber Pontificalis pars prior, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Gesta Pontificum Romanorum 1, Berlin 1898.
 The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis). The ancient biographies of the first ninety Roman bishops to AD 715, revised edition, translated with an introduction by R. Davis, Liverpool 2000.


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
    Ritual activity - Anointment with chrism
      Ritual activity - Reconciliation/Administering penance
        Public law - Ecclesiastical
          Relation with - Heretic/Schismatic
            Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER477,