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Barlaam of Calabria


Italo-Greek monk, theologian, and bishop, opponent of hesychasm; b. Seminara, Calabria, c. 1290; d. Gerace, Calabria, 1350. Born of schismatic parents and educated in the Byzantine monasteries of southern Italy, Barlaam appeared first as a teacher in the Holy Savior monastery and the Imperial University in Constantinople from 1326 to 1327. After a public debate with Nice-phorus Gregoras on the physical sciences, he taught at Thessalonica, where he had Demetrius Cydones as a pupil. In 1334 he was chosen to dispute with two Dominican bishops, envoys of Pope John XXII, on the issues of papal primacy and the procession of the Holy Spirit. Pamphlets that he wrote for the occasion were criticized by Gregory palamas, and between 1334 and 1337 Barlaam engaged in a bitter dispute with the Hesychastic monks of Mt. Athos. He accused them of illuminism and a crude type of Messalianism and ridiculed their posture when engaged in contemplative prayer. He sarcastically called the monks omphalopsychoi (men-with-their-soulsin-their-navels) and ordered them to be delated to the patriarch John Calecas.

In 1339 the imperial court sent Barlaam to Pope Benedict XII at Avignon to solicit a crusade against the Turks and to discuss reunion. There he apparently taught Greek to Petrarch, who persuaded him to reconsider the Catholic position. On his return to Constantinople (1341), a synod condemned his attack on the Hesychasts, and he had to make a public retraction. He was in Calabria in July 1341 and at Avignon again in 1342. Upon his full conversion to Roman Catholicism with the aid of Petrarch, he was consecrated bishop of Gerace in Calabria by Pope Clement VI at Avignon in 1342. He is said to have influenced the Italian Renaissance through his contact with the Italian humanists. In 1346 he was sent to Constantinople to discuss reunion, but the project proved fruitless since the emperor was the Palamite, John Cantecuzenus. Barlaam returned to his diocese, where he died in 1350 (not 1348).

Barlaam seems to have denied the possibility of apodictic arguments in theology in his dispute with the Dominicans. He wanted to base reunion of the churches on the fact that the disputes between East and West were really unresolvable and should not be cause for separation. In his disagreement with Palamas, he accused him of dividing God by teaching that while God's nature was invisible, his energies could be apprehended as in the white light that shone on Mt. Thabor at the Transfiguration. Most of Barlaam's writings are still unedited. He wrote 21 tracts against the Latins (18 on the Holy Spirit and three on the Roman primacy); a Contra Messalianos; two books on Stoic ethics; and a number of letters supporting

the Catholic position after his conversion. He wrote also a Reasoned Arithmetic and a commentary on the second book of Euclid.

Bibliography: j. p. migne, ed., Patrologia Graeca 151:12431364. j. a. fabricius and c. c. harles, Bibliotheca Graeca (Hamburg 17901809) 11:46270. m. jugie, Catholicisme 1:125355; Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 6:81734. j. meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palareas, tr. g. lawrence (London 1964). k. m. setton, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 100 (1956) 176. j. s. romanides, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 6 (196061) 186205, Palamite controversy.

[h. d. hunter]

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