All Saints: the edict of Louis in 835 establishing the date as 1st November

The commemoration of All Saints was first made universal in 835 AD  by the Emperor Louis the Pious, in the 21st year of his reign, at the suggestion of Pope Gregory IV.  This information reaches us through the 12th century Chronographia or Chronicle of Sigebert of Gembloux, who records the following entry for the year:[1]

835. / 21 / 5.  Monente Gregorio papa et omnibus episcopis assentientibus, Ludowicus imperator statuit, ut in Gallia et Germania festivitas omnium Sanctorum in Kalendis Novembris celebraretur, quam Romani ex instituto Bonefacii papae celebrabant.  Hoc tempore reliquiae Viti martyris a Parisius ad Corbeiam Saxoniae transferuntur; unde ipsi Franci testati sunt,  quod ab illo tempore gloria Francorum ad Saxones translata sit. Ebbo Remorum archiepiscopus deponitur; aliique  inulti, qui cum eo in deiectionem Ludowici imperatoris conspiraverant, damnantur et exiliantur.

At the suggestion of Pope Gregory and with the agreement of all the bishops, the emperor Ludovicus ordered that in Gaul and Germany the festivity of the all the Saints would be celebrated on the Kalends of November, which the Romans were celebrating by the institution of Pope Boniface.  At this time the relics of Vitus the martyr are transported from Paris to Corbie in Saxony; because of which the Franks themselves bore witness that from that time the glory of the Franks was transferred to the Saxons.  Ebbo, archbishop of Riems is deposed; and others unpunished, who had conspired with him to depose the emperor Ludovicus, are condemned and exiled.

This made it official throughout the Holy Roman Empire.  No doubt the modern celebration results from this edict.

The reference to Boniface IV is slightly misleading.  The Romans were not celebrating on 1 November.  The reference is to the Liber Pontificalis and the year 607, when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon to St Mary Ever-Virgin and All the Martyrs.  This dedication took place and is commemorated, not on November 1, but on May 13, according to the old Roman martyrology.[2]  But that is another post!

  1. [1]L. C. Bethmann, MGH SS., 6, 1844, pp. 300-374. Online here.  Other information about the text here.
  2. [2]Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. 1, 1875, p.57.

15 thoughts on “All Saints: the edict of Louis in 835 establishing the date as 1st November

  1. I should have said Gregory III. Too many Gregories.

    Btw, I tried looking for the chapel of All Saints on the Old St. Peter’s map/guide thingie by Tiberio Alfarano ( has his whole “guidebook”). I didn’t see it, but then, pretty much everything seems to have gotten repurposed or added to.

  2. I have been reading about Pope Gregory III. He was actually from Syria! He came to Rome to participate in Pope Gregory II’s funeral, and ended up getting elected pope. Since he was from the Byzantine Rite side of things, and was just a priest under a bishop back in Syria, he asked the Exarch of Ravenna if it was okay for him to become Pope. (And get permission from his bishop, or whoever was over his bishop.)

    This was the middle of all the iconoclast junk, and St. John Damascene was getting all kinds of nasty comments from Emperor Leo III, for defending images of the saints. The new Pope Gregory III sent a letter to the emperor asking him to turn it down a notch, and the emperor responded by jailing the papal post-carrier.

    Pope Gregory III called a synod, which condemned iconoclasm. Emperor Leo III sent his fleet to haul Pope Gregory III off to prison or exile. The fleet wrecked, so he sent guys to capture papal estates in Sicily, Calabria, and Illyricum.

    Pope Gregory III restored and added images in churches all around Rome, as well as restoring church buildings in general. He also added a full iconostasis in front of the main altar of old St. Peter’s, including some nice marble pillars sent over from the Exarch of Ravenna.

    The “chapel” he built at Old St. Peter’s was actually an oratory that consolidated a lot of saints’ relics. He also founded a monastery, St. Chrysogonus, and a hospice/hospital he endowed for perpetuity, Ss. Sergius and Bacchus. He also was the guy who appointed St. Boniface archbishop of Germany and papal legate.

  3. So anyway… the important bit seems to be that Pope Greg III was promoting All Saints’ Day to fight iconoclasm and anti-saint ideas.

    I don’t know if the November thing was more Eastern than the May 13 thing, or if the “pagan feast takeover” on May 13 was just creeping him out. But either way, he was a Syrian pope who cared bupkis for Celtic spirituality.

  4. This whole thing is really embarrassing, in a way, because it all goes to show that I didn’t put enough effort into my third grade holiday report, when I picked Halloween. I thought two secondary sources that said the same thing were enough! But no!

    I don’t think I could have gotten ahold of Vinland Saga for my Leif Ericsson report, but I really could have looked up Pope Gregory III. Somewhere in the big pope history book, probably.

  5. Building the All Saints oratory was done in the first year of his papacy, and he got elected by acclaim in February and didn’t get his Ravenna permission slip until March. So his contractors did a darned good job to get the thing done by November 1.

    Oh, and the anti-iconoclast synod (which also took place in November 731, which was probably why the contractors sped it along) was followed by a special synod in February 732 for the All Saints’ chapel procedures, because they had to decide the correct format for prayers and devotions. (East, West, Rome, anti-iconoclasm vs. not weirding people out….)

    Also he banned eating horsemeat because pagan people did pagan ceremonies with it. Which really really goes against him supporting pagan Celtic spirituality, what with that one Irish kingship ritual!

    Oh, and it seems that the All Saints’ chapel/oratory was #38 on Alfarano’s numbered map and in his guidebook. There was a double altar, one for the Virgin Mary and one for St. Gabinius, and there were tons of saints and popes (including Greg III), or their relics, buried in the oratory and under the altars. It was in a prominent area.

  6. Pope Greg III is in volume 89 of Migne. Letter X is a super-polite one to the patriarch of Constantinople, and Letter XII/XIII are talking about images to Emperor Leo. Who was also from Syria, as I did not recall. Plot twist!

  7. Interesting – thank you! This certainly puts a new perspective on it, doesn’t it? I don’t believe any of this “celtic origins” stuff can be anything but wishful thinking.

  8. No thanks needed… this is fun stuff.

    Actually, Greg 3’s messenger was a priest named George. He got voluntold to go, and he refused (politely or otherwise), because he figured he’d get thrown in prison. So they actually had a minor synod earlier in 731, basically finding out if this could lose a guy his priesthood or his faculties. They said no, but apparently Fr. George got persuaded. He didn’t get any further than Sicily or similar, before he got arrested and thrown in prison. Then several other guys, including Byzantine nobles with bureaucratic or military positions, tried to deliver the letter, and also got stopped in Sicily. So that is what led up to the anti-iconoclasm synod.

    There were a ton of Syrians and Greeks that moved to Rome during the 600’s-800’s. They were getting away from the Persians and Muslims, I guess.

  9. Pope Greg 4 had similar stuff going on, although not so much of the assassination plots against him (Greg 2) and imprisonment of messengers and sending fleets against him (Greg 3). He’s the one who spread the feast to the whole Latin Rite, as obligatory.

  10. Oh, and I didn’t realize that if you look at Raphael’s “Donation of Constantine”, he has drawn it taking place in Old St. Peter’s. The little silver lamps hanging between the pillars, right in front of the main altar, were ordered by Pope Greg 3, and the freaky pillars up front were the ones he was sent by the Exarch of Ravenna.

  11. I really appreciate these updates! I’m sorry I can’t respond – some rather awful domestic stuff happening at the moment. More when I get free.

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