Gallicanism | Free Online Biblical Library

If you like our 14,000 Articles library, you'll love our Courses tailor-made for all stages of church life:

Courses cover a wide range of Bible, Theology and Ministry.


A movement, triumphant in the seventeenth century, defining the authorities of, and relations among, the French king, the French Church, the papacy, and indirectly the French Parlements. The central event was the French bishops' declaration of the Four Gallican Articles* of 1682, at the insistence of Louis XIV. Common to the varieties of Gallican theories and practices are three assertions, as shown by Victor Martin: the sovereignty of the crown in temporal things, the authority of general councils over the pope, and the authority of crown and bishops to regulate papal interference in France.

Gallicanists professed to recognize the universal spiritual authority of the pope, but with these qualifications. The secular absolutist statism of Louis XIV de facto subjugated the French Church to the Crown, and completed the reversal of the pre-1300 relations between papacy and Crown. The progress of this reversal and the assertion of Gallicanism was marked by the resistance of Philip the Fair to Boniface VIII,* the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges* (1438), the Concordat of Bologna* (1516), the nonreception of decrees of the Council of Trent in France, and similar events, whereby the Crown claimed rights in control of episcopal elections, liturgy, canon law, education, and in many other ecclesiastical matters. The Crown made such successful claims often in conflict with contrary claims by the bishops and the Parlements, as the modern self-sufficient sovereign state emerged by the late eighteenth century. Pierre Pithou's Les Libertés de l'église gallicane (1594) served as the standard handbook until the nineteenth century.

The French Revolution and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) effected an even more radically secularist Gallicanism, only somewhat modified by the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801* as unilaterally amended in 1802 by Napoleon's Organic Articles. The Ultramontane Catholic revival aroused among the French faithful and clergy a devotion to the unity and teachings of the church under the pope. This provided a core support for the reception of the Syllabus of Errors* and the dogma of papal infallibility (1870), which effectively rendered Gallicanism an unacceptable doctrine.

V. Martin, Les Origines du gallicanisme (2 vols., 1939), Le Gallicanisme et la réforme catholique (1919), and Le Gallicanisme politique et le clergé de France (1929); F. Mourret, History of the Catholic Church, VI (1947); C.B. du Chesnay, “Gallicanism,” in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, VI, pp. 262-67; A.- G. Martimort, Le gallicanisme de Bossuet (1953).