Synagoge in Fifty Titles (before 550) Syntagma in Fourteen Titles (ca. 580) Corpus Trullanum (691)
Apostolic canons
85 canons of the apostles the so-called 85 canons of the apostles by Clemens the so-called 85 canons of the apostles
Synodical canons
20 canons of Nicaea I 20 canons of Nicaea I Nicaea I
21 canons of Ancyra 25 canons of Ancyra Ancyra
14 canons of Neocaesarea 14 canons of Neocaesarea Neocaesarea
21 canons of Sardica
20 canons of Gangra 20 canons of Gangra Gangra
25 canons of Antioch 25 canons of Antioch in Syria Antioch in Syria
59 canons of Laodicea in Phrygia 59 canons of Laodicea in Phrygia Laodicea in Phrygia
6 canons of Constantinople I 7 canons of Constantinople I Constantinople I
7 canons of Ephesus 7 canons and a letter of Ephesus Ephesus
27 canons of Chalcedon 28 canons of Chalcedon Chalcedon
21 canons of Sardica Sardica
138 canons of Carthage Carthage
1 canon of Constantinople Constantinople under Nektarios and Theophilos
Patristic canons
4 canons of Archbishop Dionysius of Alexandria from his letter to Basilides Dionysios of Alexandria
14 canons of Archbishop and Martyr Peter of Alexandria from his sermon on penance; 1 canon of the same from his paschal sermon Peter of Alexandria
A canonical letter of Bishop Gregory Thaumatourgos of Neocaesarea Gregory Thaumatourgos of Neocaesarea
Athanasios of Alexandria
68 canons of Basil the Great 84 canons of Bishop Basil of Caesarea, Cappadocia, from his three canonicial letters to Bishop Amphilochius of Iconium; 1 canon of the same from another letter to the same Bishop Amphilochius; A canonical letter of the same to Diodorus; A canonical letter of the same to Presbyter Gregory; A canonical letter of the same to the archbishops; A canonical letter of the same to the bishops under him; Exctract from his writtings on the Holy Spirit to Amphilochius Basil of Caesarea in Cappadocia
8 canons from the canonical letter of Bishop Gregory of Nyssa to Bishop Letoïus of Melitine Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory the Theologian
Amphilochios of Iconium
18 canons of Archbishop Timothy of the Ancient Alexandria from his rescripts Timothy of Alexandria
A rescript of Archbishop Theophilos on Holy Theophany; 1 canon of the same from his memorandum about the city Lyco in Egypt; A letter of the same to Bishop Aphyngius; A letter of the same to Bishop Agathon; A letter of the same to Bishop Menas Theophilos of Alexandria
3 canons of Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria from his letter to Domnus; 4 canons of the same from his letter to the bishops in Libya and Pentapolis Cyril of Alexandria
An encyclical letter of his holiness Patriarch Gennadius of Constantinople and his Holy Synod to all most-holy metropolitans Gennadios of Constantinople
Cyprian of Carthage

This table shows the development of the basic corpus canonum (i.e., canonical material) of the Byzantine church during its formative period. The content of the Syntagma in Fourteen Titles has been reconstructed from the index of canons preserved in the later redactions of the Nomokanon in Fourteen Titles (see Rallis/Potlis, vol. 1, pp. 10-12). The index of the Synagoge in Fifty Titles follows Beneshevich’s edition. The Corpus Trullanum follows canon 2 of the Quinisext synod.

This basic corpus canonum was later completed by Nicaea II (i.e., seventh ecumenical synod) which ratified the 102 canons of the Quinisext synod (i.e., Trullan synod), and issued own twenty-two canons. In later Byzantine collection of canons the canons of the two Photian synods (i.e., seventeen canons of the Prododeutera synod and three canons of the synod in Hagia Sophia) were added to the corpus canonum.

In some late Byzantine collection of canons there was also added canons of Patriarch Tarasios of Constantinople, of Patriarch Nikephoros Homologetes of Constantinople, and Patriarch Nicholas of Constantinople. It should also be noted that various pseudepigraphic collections of penitential canons attributed to Patriarch John IV Nesteutes of Constantinople were also transmitted together with some late Byzantine collections of canons.

Note 1. Only the first four canons of Constantinople I are genuine works of the synod. Canons 5 and 6 were issued by a later local synod in Constantinople (382). “Canon 7” is originally a letter written ca. 430 by Patriarch Gennadios of Constantinople to Martyrios of Antioch.

Note 2. Ephesus did not issue any canons but the canons attributed to the synod are excerpts from the acts made by the Byzantine canonists.

Note 3. Only the first twenty-seven canons of Chalcedon were issued by the whole synod. Canon 28 was issued in the last sessions after the Western bishops had left the synod. “Canons 29 and 30” are not genuine canons but excerpts from the acts of the synod made by the Byzantine canonists.

Note 4. The Quinisext synod added four patristic canons to the corpus canonum . The first three of these deals with the issue of the canon of the Bible. The canon of Cyprian was added because of its great antiquity but was only considered a particular law of the North African church; since this canons was only a particular norm as well as abrogated by later norms (i.e., canons 8 and 19 of Nicaea I, canon 7 of Constantinople I, and canon 95 of Quinisext) it was often omitted from the manuscript tradition of the collections of canons.

David Heith-Stade

Lund University

Selected bibliography

Ferme, B. Introduction to the History of the Sources of Canon Law. 2007.

Hartmann, W. and K. Pennington, eds. The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500. 2012.


Stickler, A. M. Historia Iuris Canonici Latini, vol. 1: Historia Fontium. 1950.

Troianos, S. N. ΟΙ ΠΗΓΕΣ ΤΟΥ ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΝΟΥ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ. 3d ed. 2011.