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“The Canons of the Council of Elvira” (first decade of fourth century)

the original Latin text of the 81 canons with English Translation

Helpful background notes are given on the Canons

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Click here to read at in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). Translations by the Webmaster or (where available) from Dale, The Synod of Elvira and Christian Life in the Fourth Century (Macmillan, 1882). or Kidd, Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church (SPCK, 1920). Translations of just the first five are given below. All 81 canons are given through the link above.

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Canon 1

Any one, who after faith in the baptism of salvation, and being of adult years, shall have entered the temple of an idol [to commit idolatry] and shall have sacrificed - this being a capital offence, because it involves supreme guilt - shall not receive communion even at death. (Dale)

Canon 2

Flamens who after the faith of baptism and regeneration shall have sacrificed, because they will have doubled their guilt if murder be added, and have tripled their sin if sexual immorality be involved, shall not receive communion even at death. (Dale, slightly altered)

Canon 3

In the case of Flamens who have not sacrificed but merely given the games, inasmuch as they have abstained from the fatal sacrifices, we decree that they may be received into communion at the last: provided, however, that they first submit to a suitable penance; but if, after their penance, they commit sexual offences they should not be given communion lest they seem to be mocking Sunday communion. (Kidd, Documents, plus Webmaster)

Canon 4

Flamens who have been catechumens and have abstained from sacrifices, may be admitted to baptism after three years.

Canon 5

If a woman in a fit of rage whips her maidservant so severely that she dies a horrible death within three days, and it is not certain whether she killed her on purpose or by accident: provided that the required penance has been done, she shall be readmitted to communion after seven years if it was done on purpose, and after five years if by accident; if she becomes ill during the prescribed time, let her receive communion.


There are 81 canons and all are given through the link at the top of this page.

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Canons of Elvira
Concilium Eliberitanum
81 Canons
Eighty-one canons
Latin Text
in Latin
Hefele notes
Clerical celibacy
celibacy in the church
Christians and Jews
Christians and pagans
Early Christian sexual ethics, sexual morals
abortion and infanticide
images prohibited
prohibition of images
Lending of money with interest prohibited
Early Church Councils
Early Church law and practice


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