Epaon Synod of, Concilium Epaonense or Epaunense, a general synod of the Catholic bishops of Burgundy, held in 517. A great change in the relation of the Catholic Church of Burgundy to the state government took place in 516, when the new king Sigmond, son of the Arian king Gundobald, joined it. The Catholic Church thus became the State Church, though it does not appear that Sigmond, like so many kings of his times, aspired to exercise a controlling influence upon Church affairs. The Council of Epaon, which was to establish Church discipline in the .new Catholic kingdom upon a permanent basis, was not called by the king, but by Avitus, bishop of Vienne, and Viventiolus, metropolitan of Lyons. The letters of both bishops are still extant. That of Viventiolus is addressed to all bishops, clergymen, lords, and notables of the land, complains of want of discipline among the clergy, and invites every one who has to bring charges against the moral conduct of any clergyman to appear before the council. The clergymen are commanded to be present, and the laymen are permitted to attend in order that the people may receive information of what the bishops will decree. The letter of Avitus complains that the Church law ordering the holding of two synods every year had entirely fallen into disuse, and states that he had been censured by the Pope on this account, and had been commanded to assemble a synod, to renew and enforce the old Church laws, as far as they were still applicable, and to add, if necessary, new ones. As no such censure can be found in a letter of the Pope to Avitus, written in February 517, nor in any other papal letter extant, it has been inferred (Vogel, in Herzog's Real-Enycklop. s.v.) that Avitus, in order to secure the meeting of the council, used the papal authority to a greater extent than he was authorized to do. In compliance with the letters of invitation, 24 bishops appeared personally at Epaon, and one sent representatives. Their deliberations were of but short duration, and on September 14, 517, the bishops signed the acts upon which, "under divine inspiration," they had agreed. The acts consist of a brief preface and 40 canons which concern the conduct of bishops, clergymen, monks, secular authorities, and laymen, the intercourse with the Arian heretics, the property and discipline of the Church. . The provisions concerning the heretics are of special importance. Catholic clergymen, under severe penalties, are forbidden to sit at table with heretics. With a Jew no layman shall dine, under penalty of being never admitted to a clergyman's table. Heretics who wish to join the Church must apply to the bishops personally; only when they are on the death-bed they may be received by a priest. The church edifices of the heretics are declared to be objects worthy of special horror, and their purification is declared impossible. The 30th canon forbids marriages with near relatives, in particular with the sister of a deceased wife. This canon directly concerned a prominent officer at the royal court, Stephanus, who was married to his sister-in-law Palladia. The bishops seem to have anticipated trouble from the opposition of Stephanus, for, after the dissolution of the Council of Epaon, eleven bishops, among whom was Apollinaris, bishop of Valence and brother of Avitus, went to Lyons, where, under the presidency of Viventiolus, they agreed upon a line of conduct for the enforcement of the canon, providing even for the case that the king should leave the Church, and appoint Arian bishops for some of the episcopal sees.
A part of the canons of Epaon remained in force in Southern France, as canons of the Council of Agde ("Agathenses"). This council had been held in 504, and established 47 canons, to which subsequently, for the purpose of obtaining a complete code of discipline, 24 canons of other councils were added; of these 24, 13 were taken from the Council of Epaon.
The site of Epaon cannot be established with certainty. According to some, it is the little town of Yenne, in Savoy, on the left bank of the Rhone; according to others, a little village, Ponas, about half way between Lyons and Vienne. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 4:75; Wetzer und Welte, Kirchen- Lex. 3:603; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, 2:660; Landon, Manual of
Councils, page 224; Mansi, Coll. Concil. 8:310; Labbe, Dissertatio de Concil. Epaunensi. (A.J.S.)