In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gallicanism

  • Introduction
  • Documents and General Overviews
  • Pre-Reformation, to 1516
  • Gallicanism from the Concordat to the Edict of Nantes, c. 1516–1595
  • Gallicanism after the Wars of Religion, c. 1595–1625
  • Gallicanism in the Age of Absolutism, c. 1625–1715
  • Gallicanism as a Form of Religiosity
  • Beyond French Borders

Renaissance and Reformation Gallicanism
Jotham Parsons
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 June 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 June 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0447


“Gallicanism” is a 19th-century term used to refer to a range of ecclesiological and political theories extending from the High Middle Ages to at least the French Revolution that sought to decrease papal or increase royal control over the Roman Catholic Church in France. Its boundaries are poorly defined: it often formed part of larger ideological complexes with elements that might be defined as absolutist, constitutionalist, or Jansenist and it had complex but important relationships with similar movements in other polities and even, for example, with Protestant Erastianism. Typically, Gallicanism is understood as an erudite discourse among learned jurists and theologians, and scholarly interest in it has usually been undertaken within the context of the intellectual history of state formation in the Early Modern period and of Conciliarist and post-Tridentine Catholic theology. In the 16th century it was closely entwined with the rise of humanism and the Reformation; in the 17th century, with royal absolutism, religious revival, and the Jansenist controversy. More recent studies have investigated it as a broadly shared religious and national culture among French Catholics of varied backgrounds and ideological orientations. Its influence beyond France proper was complex and did not fully develop until the 18th century, but it has been the subject of some interesting work.

Documents and General Overviews

No thorough general survey of Gallicanism is available, leaving reference work articles like DuChesnay and Grès-Gayer 2003, or the broader scope of Hildesheimer 2017, the best entry points. Given the very high levels of erudition with which Gallican debates were carried out, both the documentation on which it was built and the edifice itself ramified almost endlessly. Still, it is worth indicating some of the touchstones of the Gallican tradition. Luckily, Gallicans were obsessive about collecting and publishing the sources of their doctrines, as exemplified in Durand de Maillane, et al. 1771.

  • Burns, J. H., and Thomas M. Izbicki, eds. Conciliarism and Papalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    Includes translations of early-16th-century treatises by the Paris theologians Jacques Almain and John Maier defending a limited version of papal authority, which were foundational to the later theology of Gallicanism.

  • Dubruel, Marc. “Gallicanisme.” In Dictionnaire de théologie catholique. Vol. 6.1. Edited by Alfred Vacant, cols. 1096–1137. Paris: Letouzey et Arnoë, 1947.

    A worthwhile piece of scholarship in its own right, but particularly valuable in showing what “Gallicanism” meant to the ultramontanist Catholics of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • DuChesnay, C. Berthelot, and J. M. Grès-Gayer. “Gallicanism.” In New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2d ed. Vol. 6, Fri–Hoh. Edited by the Catholic University of America, 73–78. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2003.

    Probably the best reference summary of Gallicanism.

  • Durand de Maillane, Pierre Toussaint, Pierre Pithou, and Pierre Dupuy. Les libertez de l’Église Gallicane: prouvées et commentées suivant l’ordre & la disposition des articles dressés par M. Pierre Dupuy. 5 vols. Lyon, France: P. B. Ponthus, 1771.

    Pierre Pithou began publishing treatises and documents upholding the “Gallican liberties” in the late 16th century, an enterprise pursued for two centuries by Pierre Dupuy and others. This edition stands near the end of that tradition and is available in digitized form beginning at online.

  • Guymier, Cosme, Philippe Prudhomme, and Galliot du Pré. Pragmatica sanctio cum glossis egregii, eminentisque scientiæ viri, Domini Cosmæ Guimier Parisini, in supremo. Parisiensi senatu Inquestarum Præsidis. Quibus accesserunt ad cuiuslibet Decreti Parraphos summaria, suisque in locis Concordatorum concordia, & illorum dissonantia: Necnon glossæ, ac additiones, … Opera aut labore D. Philippi Propi Biturici. ‘Secunda editio quoad additiones.’ Paris: Apud Galeotum à Prato, 1555.

    The standard edition of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges with its commentaries, which formed much of the juristic basis of Gallicanism. Available online.

  • Hildesheimer, Françoise. Rendez à César: l’Église et le pouvoir, IVe–XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Flammarion, 2017.

    This history of church and state in France (or Gaul) since the end of the Roman Empire includes what is certainly the broadest survey of Gallicanism yet.

  • Moreau, Gabriel-François. Collection des procès-verbaux des Assemblées-Générales du Clergé de France, Depuis l’année 1560, jusqu’à présent, rédigés par ordre de matieres, Et réduits à ce qu’ils ont d’essentiel; Ouvrage Composé sous la direction de M. l’Evesque de Mâcon. Autorisé par les Assemblées de 1762 & 1765, & imprimé par ordre du Clergé. 8 vols. Paris: Guillaume Desprez, 1767.

    The official acts of the Assembly of the French Clergy, a frequent though conflicted defender of the liberties of the Gallican Church.

  • Oakley, Francis. The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church, 1300–1870. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    Not all Conciliarists were Gallicans, but almost all Gallicans were Conciliarists. This survey of the Conciliarist movement provides essential background to all phases of Gallicanism.

  • Pasquier, Étienne. Le catéchisme des jésuites. Edited by Claude Sutto. Sherbrooke, QC: Éditions de l’Université de Sherbrooke, 1982.

    A modern edition of a seminal anti-Jesuit, pro-Gallican text. An English translation by Patricia Ranum is forthcoming.

  • Special Issue: La culture gallicane: Références et modèles (droit, ecclésiologie, histoire). Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 3 (2009).

    Special issue on Gallicanism with thirteen articles and an introduction covering a broad range of topics.

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