Cerularios, Michael

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CERULARIOS, MICHAEL (c. 10001058), patriarch of Constantinople. Cerularios typified the Byzantine prelate in that he was characterized by experience in imperial and ecclesiastical matters, intellectual inclinations (which included an interest in occultism), and private monastic devotion. But he had one flaw: he was arrogant and relentless in increasing his see's ecclesiastical prerogatives.

Born in Constantinople of a senatorial family, Cerularios rose to power as a civil servant. His tenure was marked by his direct involvement in the conspiracy to depose Emperor Michael IV (1040) in favor of Constantine IX Monomachus. To avoid political banishment, he became a monk. Elected to the patriarchate in 1043, Cerularios held this position until 1058 through the reigns of four emperors.

The events of 1054 caused Cerularios to be viewed as one of the most controversial of patriarchs. His critics do not agree as to the extent of his responsibility for the schism between Rome and Constantinople. The patriarch's relations with Rome, however, must be seen in the greater context of the growing ideological rift that existed between Eastern and Western Christendom and that was manifest in the political, cultural, and theological misunderstandings of the eleventh century. An assessment of Cerularios solely in the light of this dispute unduly minimizes his role as a patriarch who attempted to extend his powers over the state.

The legacy of Cerularios, then, remains a mixed one. Admired by his flock as a champion of orthodoxy and celebrated as a confessor of the faith, Cerularios's aura reminded the faithful, especially during the Fourth Crusade (1204), that compromise with the West was inadmissible. Yet he is not commemorated as a saint. Moreover, he was able, unlike his predecessors, to elevate himself to a position of supra-imperial authority, as evidenced by his wearing of the purple buckskins reserved for the emperor. Ironically, Cerularios was forced to abdicate in 1058 at the height of his glory by the very Isaac I Commenus whose position as emperor he had secured.


The published works of Cerularios can be found in Patrologia Graeca, edited by J.-P. Migne, vol. 120 (Paris, 1864). For Michael Psellus's denunciatory address against Cerularios, see Louis Bréhier's "Un discours inédit de Psellos," Revue des études grecques 16 (1903): 375416 and 17 (1904): 3575; for Psellus's funeral oration to Cerularios, see Konstantinos N. Sathas's Mesaionike bibliotheke e sylloge anekdoton mnemeion tes Hellenikes historias, vol. 4 (Paris, 1874), pp. 303387.

An older but reliable essay on Cerularios is J. B. Bury's "Roman Emperors from Basil II to Isaac Komnenos," in Selected Essays of J. B. Bury, edited by Harold Temperley (1930; reprint, Chicago, 1967), pp. 210214. The classic narrative of the patriarch's role in the schism remains Steven Runciman's The Eastern Schism: A Study of the Papacy and the Eastern Churches during the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (1955; reprint, Oxford, 1963). A well-documented account of his role in the azyme controversy with updated bibliography is Mahlon H. Smith III's And Taking Bread: Cerularius and the Azyme Controversy of 1054, "Théologie historique," vol. 47 (Paris, 1978).

John Travis (1987)

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