Quinisext Council

The Quinisext Council, i.e. the Fifth-Sixth Council, often called the Council in Trullo, Trullan Council, or the Penthekte Synod, was a church council held in 692 at Constantinople under Justinian II. It is known as the "Council in Trullo" because, like the Sixth Ecumenical Council, it was held in a domed hall in the Imperial Palace. Both the Fifth and the Sixth Ecumenical Councils had omitted to draw up disciplinary canons, and as this council was intended to complete both in this respect, it took the name of Quinisext. It was attended by 215 bishops, all from the Eastern Roman Empire. Basil of Gortyna in Crete, however, belonged to the Roman patriarchate and called himself papal legate, though no evidence is extant of his right to use that title.


Many of the Council's canons were reiterations. It endorsed not only the six ecumenical councils already held, but also the Apostolic Canons, the Synod of Laodicea, the Third Synod of Carthage, and the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius.

Ban on pre-Christian practices

The Council banned certain festivals and practices which were thought to have a pagan origin. Therefore, the Council gives some insight to historians about pre-Christian religious practices. As a consequence, neither cleric nor layman was allowed to observe the Pagan festivals of Bota, the Kalends or the Brumalia.

Ritual observance

Many of the council's canons were aimed at settling differences in ritual observance and clerical discipline in different parts of the Christian Church. Being held under Byzantine auspices, with an exclusively Eastern clergy, these overwhelmingly took the practice of the Church of Constantinople as orthodox.

Armenian practices

It explicitly condemned some customs of Armenian Christians – among them using wine unmixed with water for the Eucharist, choosing children of clergy for appointment as clergy, and eating eggs and cheese on Saturdays and Sundays of Lent – and decreed deposition for clergy and excommunication for laypeople who contravened the canons prohibiting these practices.

Roman practices

Likewise, it reprobated, with similar penalties, the Roman custom of not allowing married individuals to be ordained to the diaconate or priesthood unless they vowed for perpetual continence, and fasting on Saturdays of Lent. Without contrasting with the practice of the Roman Church, it also prescribed that the celebration of the Eucharist in Lent should only happen in Saturdays, Sundays, and the feast of the Annunciation.

Eucharist, liturgy, etc.

Grapes, milk and honey were not to be offered at the altar. Whoever came to receive the Eucharist should receive in the hand by holding his hands in the form of a cross. The Eucharist was not allowed to be given to dead bodies. During the liturgy the psalms were to be sung in modest and dulcet tones, and the phrase 'who was crucified for us' was not to be added to the Trisagion. Prelates were to preach the gospel as propounded by the fathers. Priests received special instructions on how to deal with those who were not baptized and they were also given rubrics to follow on how to admit heretics to the faith.

Moral guidelines for clerics and laity

In addition to these, the council also condemned clerics that had improper or illicit relations with women. It condemned simony and the charging of fees for administering the Eucharist. It enjoined those in holy orders from entering public houses, engaging in usurious practices, attending horse races in the Hippodrome, wearing unsuitable clothes or celebrating the liturgy in private homes without the consent of their bishops. Both clergy and laity were forbidden from gambling with dice, attending theatrical performances, or consulting soothsayers. No one was allowed to own a house of prostitution, engage in abortion, arrange hair in ornate plaits or to promote pornography. It also ordered law students at the University of Constantinople to cease wearing "clothing contrary to the general custom", which some have interpreted as a reference to transvestitism.


While the Orthodox Church widely considers this council an addendum to the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, adding its canons thereto, the Roman Catholic Church has never accepted the council as authoritative or in any sense ecumenical. In the West, Venerable Bede calls it a "reprobate" synod, and Paul the Deacon an "erratic" one. For the attitude of the Roman bishops, in face of the various attempts to obtain their approval of these canons see Hefele. However, Pope Hadrian I did write favourably of the canons of this council.
The pope of the time of the council, Sergius I, who was of Syrian origin, rejected it, preferring, he said, "to die rather than consent to erroneous novelties": though a loyal subject of the Empire, he would not be "its captive in matters of religion" and refused to sign the canons. Emperor Justinian II ordered his arrest and abduction to Constantinople by the notoriously violent protospatharios Zacharias. However, the militia of the exarchate of Ravenna frustrated the attempt. Zacharias nearly lost his life in his attempt to arrest Sergius I. Louis Duchesne suggests that it was in protest against the Council's banning of representations of Christ as a Lamb that Pope Sergius introduced the singing of the Agnus Dei at the breaking of the host at Mass.
In Visigothic Spain, the council was ratified by the Eighteenth Council of Toledo at the urging of the king, Wittiza, who was vilified by later chroniclers for his decision. Fruela I of Asturias reversed the decision.