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E01314: The Canons of the Council of Gangra, of c. 340, condemn the extreme ascetic followers of Eustathios of Sebaste for rejecting the festivals and services held at the shrines of martyrs. Written in Greek at Gangra (central Anatolia).

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posted on 2016-04-26, 00:00 authored by erizos
Canons of the Council of Gangra


The twelve bishops who convened at Gangra address the clergy of the province of Armenia. The council has been convoked in order to discuss malpractices of the extreme ascetic followers of Eustathios, who condemn marriage, wealth and social differences, and regard themselves as the only true expression of the church. Among other things, they reject the married clergy, and reproach those worshipping and officiating at the shrines of martyrs:

87.24 - 88.10 (...) καὶ ἐν οἴκοις γεγαμηκότων εὐχὰς ποιεῖσθαι μὴ βουλόμενοι, καὶ γινομένων εὐχῶν καταφρονοῦντες καὶ πολλάκις προσφορῶν ἐν αὐταῖς ταῖς οἰκίαις τῶν γεγαμηκότων γινομένων μὴ μεταλαμβάνοντες· καὶ πρεσβυτέρων γεγαμηκότων ὑπερφρονοῦντες, καὶ τῶν λειτουργιῶν τῶν ὑπ’αὐτῶν γινομένων μὴ ἁπτόμενοι· καὶ τὰς συνάξεις τῶν μαρτύρων καὶ τῶν ἐκεῖ συνερχομένων καὶ λειτουργούντων καταγινώσκοντες·

‘(...) Αnd they do not wish to worship at the houses [= churches] of married people. And when such worship takes place, they reject it, and very often, when offerings [Eucharists?] are celebrated at the same houses of the married, they do not partake of them. They also disdain married presbyters, and do not touch of the liturgies they offer. And they condemn the assemblies of the martyrs, and those who attend and officiate at them.’

Τhe 20th Canon of the Council anathematises those rejecting the memorial celebrations of martyrs:


Κ: Περὶ τῶν τὰς μαρτύρων βδελυσσομένων συνάξεις.

Εἴ τις αἰτιᾶται ὑπερηφάνῳ διαθέσει κεχρημένος καὶ βδελυσσόμενος τὰς συνάξεις τῶν μαρτύρων ἢ τὰς ἐν αὐτοῖς γινομένας λειτουργίας καὶ τὰς μνημας αὐτῶν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

‘Canon 20: On those who disdain the celebrations of the martyrs.

If someone, with a disposition of arrogance and loathing, criticises the assemblies of the martyrs or the services conducted for them, and their commemorations, let it be anathema.’

Text : Joannou 1962
Translation: E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Gangra Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Heretics


These passages belong to a decree containing twenty-one canons (decrees), issued by a council of twelve bishops who convened in c. AD 340 at the Paphlagonian city of Gangra/Germanikopolis. Although these are the rulings of a local episcopal conference, addressing a local problem, these canons were later included among the 102 canons of the Trullo Council (AD 692), and were thus incorporated to the canon law of the Greek Church. The revived interest in these canons in the 7th century may suggest that similar situations and movements had then emerged.


According to this decree, the council discussed various ecclesiastical issues, but its main subject was the condemnation of an extreme ascetic movement which caused turmoil in Anatolia. In a sequence of twenty anathemas, the Council condemned its followers for the following practices and beliefs: the condemnation of marriage; prohibition of meat consumption; rejection of slavery; rejection of married clergy and of the sacraments performed by them; rejection of the houses and services of the established Church; collection and distribution of alms without the consent of the bishop; wearing certain types of ascetic clothing; women wearing men's clothing; women leaving their husbands; parents abandoning their children; children leaving their parents; women cutting off their hair; fasting on Sunday; rejection of the cult of martyrs. The text states that the movement was led by a certain Eustathios, who is thought to have been the later bishop of Sebaste, and mentor of the young Basil of Caesarea. It is doubtful, however, whether all of these practices can be associated with him. A monastic community organised under his guidance existed on the private estate of Basil of Caesarea in Pontus. There, the cult of martyrs was not only accepted, but actively promoted by the transfer of relics of the *Forty Martyrs (see E01299). The ecclesiastical historian Sozomen also expresses the view that the excesses condemned at Gangra were due to some of Eustathios' followers rather than him personally (3.14.31-37). It is interesting that the canons of Gangra address the resistance against the cult of martyrs in the context of a broader rejection of the various established institutions of society, and of the alignment of the church with them, namely marriage, family, and slavery. It seems that part of the rejection of marriage and family was the rejection of married clergy and of all the forms and venues of worship associated with it, including services and festivals held at shrines of martyrs. It is unclear, however, if this constituted a general rejection of the cult of martyrs as a whole. It must be pointed out that, while referring to the condemnation of the Eustathian monks at Gangra, the ecclesiastical historians Socrates (2.43.2-6) and Sozomen (3.14.31-37) omit to mention the opposition to the cult of martyrs among their offences.


Text: Joannou, P.-P. Discipline generale antique (IVe - IXe s.). Fonti IX. Vol. I.2, Grottaferrata: Pontificia Commissione per la Redazione del Codice di Diritto Canonico Orientale, 1962, 83-97. English Translation: Percival, H. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900. Available online, revised by Kevin Knight: .

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