GALLICAN CHURCH, the church of France, less, however, considered under the relation of geographical boundaries than in its constitution and principles of church government. The Christian faith was widely diffused in France, even during the life time of the apostles; and it especially flourished among the descendants of the Greek colonies of the south, and in the numerous towns and cities upon the Rhone and its confluent rivers. In the persecutions to which the early professors of Christianity were subjected, the Christians of these churches had their full share; and one of the most monuments of early Christian literature, is the letter of the Christians of Lyons and Vienne to their brethren in Asia, on the martyrs of these churches, which Eusebius has preserved in his Ecclesiastical history (book v. c. 1). Although sharing in the general literary inferiority to their eastern brethren which characterizes western ecclesiastics during the early period, the church of Gaul numbers several eminent names in the literature of the 3d, 4th, and 5th centuries. The works of Tremens, bishop of Lyons, are among the most important for the history of doctrine of all the early patristic remains; and in • the following century, Sulpicius Severus, Hilary of Poitiers, Hilary of Arles, Vincent of Lerins, Prosper, Victor, Euelierius, Salvias, and Gregory of Tours, combine to form a body of literature of which the later modern representatives of the French church are not unreasonably proud. The hierarchical organization, also, of the church of Gaul was, at a very early period, among the most complete and regular throughout the churches of western Christendom; and in the council held at Arles in 314, we may recognize the titles of many bishops of sees which are still represented in the catalogue of the French episcopacy.
But the history of the G. C., so far as regards the development of those peculiar principles which have acquired a distinctive name and status in Roman Catholic theo logy, begins at a much later period. We shall see elsewhere the origin and progress of the temporal power of the papacy. See PAPACY. It will be enough, in this place, to observe, that, from circumstances which are differently viewed by the opposite schools of theology, the Roman pontiffs began, from the very date of the establishment of the western empire, to exercise a large and widely extended influence over the civil as well as ecclesiastical affairs of the several European kingdoms. On the other hand, owing
to the intimate connection between the church and state in most of these kingdoms, and especially to the feudal relations between the crown and the church dignitaries, most of whom held the temporalities of their benefices under the crown by the ordinary feuda tory tenure, the crown also asserted a correlative claim to certain privileges in respect of ecclesiastical affairs. The satisfactory adjustment of these conflicting claims was the great problem of mediaeval polity; and the alternations of the struggle between them form the staple of mediaeval history. More than one of the French sovereigns engaged in a conflict with the Roman see as to the respective authority of the two powers; these conflicts naturally called out a division of opinion among the members of the church of France, one party supporting the papal claims, and the other maintaining the adverse prerogatives of the French crown, and the privileges of the national church of France. The latter party, professing to represent the rights of the G. C., have given a name to the principles which they profess; and the appellation of Gallicanism has come to designate, in general, that system in Roman Catholic theology which, while it recog nizes the primacy of the Roman pontiff, by divine right, over the universal church, yet asserts the independence of national churches in many details of self-government and of local discipline, and limits the exercise of the papal prerogative by canons and decrees of general councils and by the laws of the universal church. It must be added that, while the Gallican theory to this extent claims an exemption from dependence upon the authority of the Roman pontiff, it acquiesces, on the other hand, to an almost propor tionate degree, in the assumption of ecclesiastical authority on the part of the state. Gallicanism, in truth, in many of its details, falls into the grossest form of Erastianism.