Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The London Synod of Reginald Cardinal Pole 1555-6

The London Synod of Reginald Cardinal Pole 1555-6 Thumbnail


From the time when Pole in 1535 agreed to serve on the ‘reform commission’, until his return to England after the marriage of Philip and Mary, he was a significant figure in the Catholic reform movement in its early days in Italy. During this time he wrote a number of works, some of which were only published later (one of which is still only available in manuscript). His known integrity and his contribution to reform won him a favourable reputation with some of the Lutherans and this in turn led to his being appointed papal legate to the Council of Trent. He eventually left Trent because of ill health and unhappy with the way in which the Council was dealing with the problem of justification.
In all his writings there is both continuity and development of the theme of renewal. In the last major literary work with which he was associated was the decrees of the London synod. The synod is incomplete and the decrees were most probably actually drafted by a canonist, but the thoughts of Pole are evident. It is the aim of this thesis to study the synod as Pole's final efforts at reform.
The conclusions reached are that it is possible to identify material coming from Pole's Italian experience, and especially from Giberti at Verona: there is evidence of a rejection of some of the Tridentine developments in theology. Cranmer's attempt to replace the old canon law with a Reformatio lequm ecclesiasticarum had been blocked: but there are some echoes of his legislation in the London synod. It is not possible to prove that Pole knew of the text of the Reformatio, but certainly some of the ideas - not found in previous laws - are common to Pole and Cranmer.
As Pole died under suspicion of heresy, and as all his work perished in the Elizabethan settlement of religion the influence of the synod could well have been nil. In fact parts of it entered into the universal law of the Catholic Church through the final session of the Council of Trent and through the influence of Ormaneto (Pole's secretary} as Vicar General in Milan to St. Charles Borromeo.


(1974). The London Synod of Reginald Cardinal Pole 1555-6


Downloadable Citations