Byzantine Church, History of
BYZANTINE CHURCH, HISTORY OF
The term "Byzantine Church," as used here, designates exclusively the official Church of and in the Byzantine Empire from the death of Justinian (565) to the fall of Constantinople (1453), and does not cover its Slavic offshoots nor the Melkite patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria. The key to its history is the idea of the Christian World State, which may best be described as a Christianization of the Pax Romana. Rome, in conquering the Mediterranean basin, had brought peace, law, and prosperity to its variegated peoples and attempted to weld them into one by worship of the ruler. By extension, in the new Rome of Constantine the Great, worship of Christ, the Prince of Peace, would unite the various subject peoples. This conception in practice, however, made the Church an instrument of imperial policy and led to struggles for authority between emperor and pope; ecclesiastical differences became political divisions and vice versa. A state that made itself independent of Byzantium had necessarily to make its church autonomous. This mentality dominated all Europe for many centuries.
This article is divided as follows: from the death of Justinian I (565) to the accession of Leo III the Iconoclast (717); from the accession of Leo III to the Feast of Orthodoxy; from the Feast of Orthodoxy to the death of Michael Cerularius (843–1059); from the death of Michael Cerularius to the death of Michael VIII Palaeologus (1059–1282); and from the death of Michael VIII to the fall of Constantinople (1282–1453).
From Justinian I to Accession of Leo III, 565–717
With the death of justinian i (565), medieval Byzantium rapidly assumed its characteristic features. The Jacobite Monophysites consolidated their hold on Egypt and Syria and began to break away from the empire. The papacy and Italy were left to rely more and more on their own resources. The Slavs were settling down in the Balkans. Efforts to win back the Monophysites of Egypt and Syria by a compromise creed had begun with Zeno's Henoticon, and were continued by the pro-monophysite emperor Anastasius I (491–518), Heraclius (610–641), and Constans (641–668). The last phase consisted of the formula of one will and one operation in Christ, devised by Patriarch sergius i (610–638), but condemned by the Sixth General Council (680–681), and briefly revived by Emperor Philippicus (711–713).
Monophysitism, Monoenergism, and Monothelitism. The reorganization of the Jacobite Church occurred on the eve of the Persian and Arab invasions and shaped the whole course of Christianity in the Near East. At the death of Justinian, the Monophysites (see monophysit ism) were thoroughly demoralized by persecution and their own disagreements; they had split into more than 20 sects. But during the years of toleration granted by Emperors Tiberius I (578–582) and Maurice (582–602), they reconstituted their hierarchy; and by the end of the 6th century, Syria and Egypt were overwhelmingly Monophysite. The Monophysites had never thought of defecting from Byzantium before, but savage persecution under Emperor Phocas (602–610)—in contrast with the favor shown them by the invading Persians—disaffected them. The Persians drove out the orthodox Melkites and handed over their sees and parishes to the Monophysites. During the long enemy occupation, a cultural revolution took place. By depopulating the land, the Persians had given a mortal blow to the Greek language and ethnic element; and Aramaic rapidly became the predominant language. A new national literature of Jacobite tendencies replaced the Hellenic culture. By the time of the Arab conquest, the monophysite schism had developed into cultural, ethnic, and political antagonism, and Syria and Egypt were not unwilling to exchange Byzantine suzerainty for Arab.
Sergius and Heraclius. The cooperation of anti-Chalcedonian Armenia was indispensable to Heraclius's (610–641) strategy for the defeat of Persia. Patriarch Sergius I, practically coruler of Constantinople during Heraclius's reign, proposed a compromise formula by introducing Monoenergism, the doctrine that Christ did not have two distinct types of activity, both human and divine, but only one type, divine-human. He was supported by the sincere Chalcedonian Cyrus, bishop of Phasis, south of the Caucasus. By 633 Cyrus had made numerous converts to Monoenergism in cis-Caucasia, Armenia, Syria, and Egypt among the hierarchy and the monasteries, but not among the ordinary people.
The first open opposition came from Sophronius, a monk of Bethlehem, who went to Alexandria to protest to Cyrus, now patriarch of that city, and then to Constantinople, where Sergius prevailed on him not to press the matter any further. Sophronius was elected patriarch of Jerusalem (634) and in his synodal letter affirmed two energies, two types of activity, in Christ as a necessary consequence of His two natures. Meanwhile, Pope honorious i had responded to Sergius, stating that the debate about one or two energies should stop; he gave the same decision to Cyrus and Sophronius. All three patriarchs consequently agreed that the question should be debated no further and this decision was made law in a edict of Heracalius (634 or 635).
At a time when the Arab conquest was proceeding rapidly, this edict was not received well by the Monophysites. Heraclius, however, as shown by a proclamation circulated throughout the lost provinces, took for granted that he would soon recover them from the Arabs, and Emperor Constans II nourished the same hope. Consequently Hercalius published an exposition of the faith, his Ecthesis (638), a creed elaborated by Sergius. It presented the dogma of the Trinity and Incarnation according to the Council of Chalcedon, prohibited the expression
one or two energies in Christ, and affirmed that the unique hypostasis of Christ had one sole will without any confusion of the two natures (i.e., the Word made Flesh). monothelitism was thus substituted for Monoenergism. The expression "one will" was taken from the letter of Honorius, who, however, meant that in Christ there was no conflict between reason and the flesh. This doctrine was generally accepted by the Eastern Church and the Melchite patriarchs, but not by Coptic Egypt. It was condemned by Pope John IV, and Heraclius wrote to him disclaiming authorship of the edict.
Maximus the Confessor. After the death of Heraclius, the religious battleground shifted to Africa, where Syrian and Egyptian refugees from both Persians and Arabs, mostly Monophysites, were proselytizing zealously. There maximus the confessor took up the defense of orthodoxy, and in a debate he was able to persuade Sergius's successor, the patriarch Pyrrhus (638–641; January to June 654) who had been exiled from Constantinople. Pyrrhus then journeyed to Rome to make his submission to Pope Theodore I; this abjuration of error by a patriarch in the presence of the pope had a tremendous reaction in Italy and Africa.
Pope Theodore in a letter to Constantinople had already rejected and anathematized the Ecthesis. Now, he summoned Patriarch Paul II (641–653) to abjure Monothelitism, and on his refusal, he excommunicated him. He also excommunicated Pyrrhus, who, taking refuge in Ravenna, had written to the pope that he had returned to Monothelitism.
Emperor Constans II, to avoid a rupture with Rome and to settle the religious difficulties once for all, took down the Ecthesis from the place in which it had remained publicly posted, and issued his Typos or Decree (647, not 648), which forbade all discussion of one or two energies or of two wills. Pope Martin I, Theodore's successor, took action on the Typos by summoning a council at the Lateran (649), which condemned both the Ecthesis and the Typos and professed faith in two wills and two operations corresponding to the two natures in Christ.
Constans II arrested the pope, tried him for treason at Constantinople, and exiled him to Cherson, where he died of the cruelties and privation to which he was subjected. Maximus Confessor and two of his companions, Anastasius the Disciple and Anastasius the papal representative, were likewise arrested in Rome (653) and suffered severe hardships and cruelties for nine years. Their right hands were lopped off and their tongues cut out. Maximus and Anastasius the Disciple both died while they were in exile in Lazica, cis-Caucasia, in 662; the Roman representative survived until 666. Finally, under Popes Eugene I and Vitalian, a tacit understanding was reached; the latter sent his synodical letter to the patriarch and abstained from any condemnation of the Typos, while Constans II presented the pope with rich gifts and a perfectly orthodox confession of faith.
After the courageous stand of Maximus Confessor, a division occurred in the Byzantine Church. Many now believed in the importance of the issue and of finding the true solution, and discord persisted among the clergy between the followers of Maximus and the Monothelites. The latter took the offensive when Patriarch Theodore (667–679; 686–687) asked the emperor for authorization to strike the name of Pope Vitalian from the diptychs. The pope had died in 672, and neither of his successors had been added to the diptychs. Constantine IV (668–685), recognizing that Syria and Egypt were lost to the empire, not only rejected this suggestion but determined to effect a final settlement of the question by calling the Council of constantinople iii in conjunction with popes Donus, Agatho, and Leo II. This, the sixth ecumenical council, held 680–681 in a domed hall in the imperial palace known as the trullo, condemned Monoenergism and Monothelitism, but in the process listed Pope Honorius among the heretics condemned.
Quinisext Synod. In 691 Justinian II summoned another council at Trullon, now known as the Quinisext Synod, to make general laws for the Church, since the Fifth and Sixth General Councils had dealt with dogma, not with discipline. It is acknowledged as ecumenical by the Greeks, but not by the Latins. Its legislation, which is basic to Greek canon law, is characterized by open hostility to particular customs of both the Roman and Armenian Churches. Pope Sergius I (687–701) repudiated the synod, and Justinian's effort to arrest him was balked by the militia of Ravenna. The emperor then appealed to Pope John VII and, as he was anxious to have approval, finally invited Pope Constantine to Constantinople. The sources are vague as to the details for the ultimate settlement worked out principally with the future Pope Gregory II. Monothelitism was briefly revived by the Emperor Philippicus (711–713). But Pope Constantine rejected his heresy and would not recognize him.
Other Issues. Medieval Italy began to emerge after Justinian's death. The popes still regarded themselves as subjects of the empire. Gregory I (590–604) wanted a truce made with the Lombards to spare the people needless suffering. but he could not induce Emperor Maurice to accept this proposal. To save Rome in 593, Gregory concluded an armistice himself, for which he received an angry rebuke from Maurice. This episode is typical of the clash of policy that ultimately caused a total secession of the papacy. The Holy See and the Italian population became gradually more independent of Byzantium. The growth of national sentiment is dramatically highlighted by the fact (already noted) that, while Emperor Constans II did violence to Pope Martin in 653, Justinian II was prevented by a mutiny of the Ravenna militia from arresting Pope Sergius for disapproving of the Quinisext Synod (692).
Friction between Pope Gregory and Maurice developed over the title, ecumenical patriarch, regularly used in addressing Patriarch John IV the Faster. Pope Pelagius II had objected strongly and ordered his representative in Constantinople not to concelebrate the liturgy with John until the practice was abandoned. Gregory also carried out a tireless campaign against the title. Although he did not consider the issue important enough to make a break over it, he was displeased when Maurice refused to forbid the title. Later, Emperor Phocas did forbid it, but without permanent result. Scholars differ as to the significance of the issue, but it remained a bone of contention between Rome and Constantinople for centuries.
Another difference between Maurice and the pope occurred over an imperial law of 592 forbidding public functionaries to accept ecclesiastical office and barring municipal officials and soldiers from entering a monastery. The issue was ultimately resolved by a compromise: municipal officials could not become monks until they had quit themselves of their obligations, and soldiers would have to serve three years.
The primacy of Rome was taken for granted throughout this period in both dogma and discipline. When Gregory, patriarch of Antioch, was tried at Constantinople by the synod attended by the five patriarchs or their legates, the acts were forwarded to Pope Pelagius II for his approval as a matter of course. The papacy remained the center of the whole controversy over Monoenergism and Monothelitism. Maximian supported the authority of the pope over emperor and state, denying that the emperor had any role in the definition of dogma, and believed that the Church of Rome had primacy over the eastern sees. Popes exercised this primacy to a greater or lesser extent: Gregory the Great, for example, censured both Alexandria and Jerusalem for tolerating simony and rebuked Patriarch John the Faster for mistreating two priests accused of heresy. He was consulted by Kyrion of Georgia on the validity of Nestorian baptism. In general, however, the popes often struggled to remind the eastern sees and the emperor of their higher ecclesiastical authority.
From Accession of Leo III to Feast of Orthodoxy, 717–843
At the beginning of his reign, Emperor leo iii the Iconoclast (717–741) rendered a great service to Christendom. He saved it from being overrun by Islam, repulsing a massive attack of the Arabs from the walls of Constantinople. Nevertheless, following in the tradition of Byzantine emperors who believed that they were head of both State and Church, he though it his duty to cleanse the Church of images, thus beginning the iconoclast or image controversy (see iconoclasm).
This had a decisive influence on the history of Europe and of the Byzantine Church itself, and was responsible for the division between Eastern and Western Europe that exists to the present day. The Byzantine Empire thought of itself as the heir to the Roman Empire, but the iconoclast controversy precipitated the secession of the papacy and the ultimate creation of the Western Roman Empire of Germanic kings with its direct challenge to Byzantine supremacy. Leo's transfer of large territories from the jurisdiction of Rome to that of Constantinople also caused great bitterness between the see. Iconoclasm brought about a profound change in the Byzantine Church itself by impelling the monks into ecclesiastical leadership.
Iconoclasm. The iconoclast conflict lasted well over a century (726–843). Icons, a special type of religious picture, had become universal in Byzantium, not only in churches, but also in public places and in widespread private use. There is no clear-cut evidence for the origin of iconoclasm. Contemporary sources blamed Muslim influence since a decree of Omar II in 720 or Caliph Yezid II in 723 ordered the destruction of icons in all Christian churches. Yet there had always been unease in the Christian Church about the worship of an image, stemming from the prohibition in the First Commandment. At the beginning of the 8th century two bishops began to promote iconoclast views, which were accepted by Leo III. The emperor was anxious to find an explanation for God's disapproval that must surely be responsible for the loss of Byzantine territory to barbarians and a violent volcanic eruption on Thera.
Leo was opposed by Patriarch Germanus I, whom he forced to resign; Pope Gregory II; and john damascene, who living in safety under Muslim rule, developed the orthodox theology of images. Leo won enough support, however, to obtain a synodal decision against images and the destruction of icons, crosses, and reliquaries ensued. Destruction was limited mainly to movable objects, however, and iconophiles were exiled or, at worst, mutilated; there are no reliable reports of martyrdoms. His successor, however, Constantine V (741–775), pursued iconoclasm more relentlessly. Iconoclasts took over all important ecclesiastical posts and in 754 he convened the Synod of Hieria, at which the cult of icons was condemned as idiolatry. Empowered by this conciliar decree, Constantine persecuted all iconophiles, especially monks, and there were many martyrdoms, including that of St. Stephen the Younger. Nevertheless, claims that Constantine also criticized relics and the intercessions of the Virgin Mary should be treated with care.
Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II. Leo IV (775–780), in his brief and milder reign, temporized on the question. Irene, widow of Leo IV and regent for the 10-year-old Constantine VI, favored icons. She invited Pope Adrian I and the Eastern patriarchs to send representatives to a general council, and Tarasius was made patriarch of Constantinople. The Seventh General Council, nicaea ii, was the last acknowledged by the Byzantine Church. It met in 787, anathematized the enemies of icons, and clarified the theology of the cult of the Blessed Virgin, the saints and their pictures.
Pope Adrian had assumed that the council would return to Rome the territory taken from it by Leo III, namely, Sicily, Calabria, and Illyricum. But Tarasius had simply suppressed this statement in the Greek translation of the pope's letter to the council. This act occasioned lasting bitterness between the Sees of Rome and Constantinople. Pope Gregory I had conditioned his allegiance to Byzantium on its defense of the papacy and Italy. But when iconoclasts attacked and confiscated papal estates, Pope Stephen II (III) felt himself no longer bound to the Byzantine Empire, and he made an alliance with Pepin and the Franks. To Byzantium his action was an enormity. The loss of Rome, mother-city of the empire, must have been a profound shock. It is not known whether all this caused Constantinople's refusal at the council to restore the papal territories, but Pope Adrian resented the failure to do so.
The acts of this council seem never to have been submitted to Rome for approval. Tarasius had sent the pope a summary of events, and seven years later (784) the pope had still not answered. The Franks themselves did not believe in the cult of religious images; they regarded them as purely educational. Moreover, they had received a badly garbled Latin translation of the acts, which at times conveyed the opposite of the original meaning. They resented, too, the arrogance of the Byzantines in giving the name of a general council of the Church to a local Greek synod with no representatives of the West present. They reacted violently and rejected the definition of the council in favor of their own doctrine.
Charlemagne demanded that Pope Adrian repudiate the council, but the pope, who had received an authentic copy of the acts, easily answered all objections and staunchly defended the cult of icons. He was so dissatisfied, however, over the Byzantine retention of papal possessions that he offered, if Charlemagne wished, to inform the Eastern Empire that he would hold back approval of the council until restitution was made, and, if that were not done, he would declare the emperor heretical for persisting in this error. Whether such a step was ever taken is not known.
The Filioque and the Studite Monks. The term filioque first became a controversial issue at the council, which used the nicene creed for its profession of faith, recording it in the minutes. The Creed had been interpolated in the West with the Latin word filioque. The interpolation, first made in Spain in the 7th century, affirmed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and Son. The Eastern Church maintained the original wording without the filioque, and the Franks, eager to prove that the Greeks were heretics, accused them of holding that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. This doctrinal dispute provided Charlemagne with a theological reason for rejecting the acts of the council, and his letter that justified his position on the subject to Pope Adrian was the first written explanation in a polemic that was to continue for centuries. At first Adrian defended the Greeks, and by quoting statements from the great Fathers, showed that the omission of filioque did not necessarily imply that the Holy Spirit proceeded from God alone.
Another significant change took place at the Seventh General Council with the entrance of the monks into the government of the Church in the East. Monastic figures had taken over the leadership of the faithful during the iconoclast controversy in default of the episcopate, and this new role was now organized and consolidated in the Studite reform to which most of the monks adhered. The leading monastery was that of the Studion in Constantinople, and the leading spirit was its abbot, St. Theodore, who strove to imbue not only the Church, but also the state, layman as well as cleric, with the highest Christian ideals. He strongly opposed the claim of emperors, particularly the iconoclasts, to both priesthood and royalty, believing that the Church should be free to direct ecclesiastical dogma and discipline. Against the whole Byzantine theory and practice, he maintained that the civil ruler had no competence in matters of faith, moral, or ecclesiastical government and law. The only true head of the Church was the pope, and the papal primacy was the best safeguard of the Church's freedom. To purify society he insisted upon the strict and impartial application of the ecclesiastical canons without respect of persons.
The reform was soon put to the test in the moechian controversy. In 795 Emperor Constantine VI (780–797) made an adulterous marriage with his mistress that was blessed by Joseph, an abbot and high official of the patriarch, and Patriarch Tarasius permitted the guilty pair to receive Holy Communion as if nothing improper had been done. The Studites condemned the emperor and broke off communion with the patriarch. Thus began the Moechian controversy, which persisted until the reign of Michael I (811–813).
Attitude toward the West. The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800, caused a profound change in the Byzantine attitude toward the West. Whatever the intention of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III, it was taken for granted that within a few years the Western Roman Empire represented the true heir of Eternal Rome, and that it was the Universal Empire destined to conquer and unify the world. Byzantium was but a Greek state doomed ultimately to be absorbed into the providential world-state. Henceforward, the Eastern Empire regarded every advance of the Latin Church as an advance of the Frankish kingdom.
The issue of the primacy of Rome had been raised at the Seventh General Council, when it is argued by some that in translating Adrian's letter to the council, Tarasius had simply suppressed every suggestion of the primacy of Rome. Although the primacy of St. Peter himself was not disputed in the East, there was no agreement on its transmission to his successors. Tarasius stressed Christ's role as head of the Church and council, Irene's right to summon a council, and omitted to say that Rome still exercised complete authority over the Church. The emperor Nicephorus I (802–811), Irene's successor, followed this stand; he forbade the Patriarch Nicephorus I (806–815) to notify the pope of his accession because, as the emperor said explicitly, the pope had broken away from the true Church. The patriarch, however, did write to Rome of this own accord in the succeeding reign. His letter seems equivocal on the primacy, though he firmly supported it six years later; bitter experience had taught him the necessity of some independent check on the emperor's interference in Church affairs.
Revival of Iconoclasm. Although iconoclasm had been violently suppressed by Irene, it enjoyed continued support in the empire, particularly among the army. Most of its adherents were firmly convinced that the military calamities of the times were the direct result of its suppression. The next emperor, Leo V (813–820), the governor of the Anatolikon thema decided to bring back iconoclasm. The iconophile Patriarch Nicephorus was deposed, as was theodore the studite who put up a staunch protest at the emperor's interference in doctrinal affairs. A new patriarch was chosen, the pliant Theodotos Melissenos Cassiteras (815–821). At the Easter Synod of Hagia Sophia (815), the decrees of the Seventh General Council were annulled and the Synod of Hieria was reinstated. Persecution ensued once more for five years up to Leo's death. Though many defected, a goodly number remained faithful, so that the Byzantine Church could afterwards celebrate its heroic resistance.
Michael II (820–829) granted a general amnesty but refused to reestablish the cult of icons, for at heart he was an iconoclast. He proposed a council in which both sides could exchange their views, but the orthodox bishops and abbots declared it impossible: "If there remained in the mind of the emperor any doubt not settled by the patriarchs, he had only to submit it to the judgment of Rome, as tradition prescribed." When it became apparent that Michael would not restore images, the Studites became increasingly hostile, and Theodore went into voluntary exile in Bithynia. He died in 826 without seeing the triumph of the cause for which he had campaigned so long. Michael, alarmed by a dangerous rebel who posed as a champion of icons, engaged in persecution especially of monks. Anxious to restore peace to his country, he enlisted the Franks on his side (824) and asked Louis the Pious to send an embassy to accompany his own envoys to Rome to win over the new pope, Eugenius II (824–827), to a compromise with the iconoclasts. The Frankish doctrine was to provide the basis of agreement. Nothing further is known about this episode.
Michael's successor, Theophilus (829–842), resumed wholesale persecution; there was at least one martyrdom and numerous confessors, including the painter Lazarus and two brothers who were tattooed on their foreheads with verses deriding their folly. Support, however, both imperial and general, waned after the death of Theophilus. Theodora, regent for michael iii (842–867), saw to the appointment of an orthodox patriarch, met hodius i. A synod was called that renewed the decisions of the seven general councils, declared the cult of images legitimate, and excommunicated the iconoclasts. This triumph of the true doctrine was sealed by a solemn and joyful celebration on the first Sunday of Lent. This first Feast of Orthodoxy (March 11, 843) marked the birthday of the Holy "Orthodox" Church, the Church of the Seven Councils.
The Pentarchy. The rule of the five patriarchs, called the Pentarchy, gained great favor in Byzantium during this period. According to this theory, the college of the five patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, in that order of precedence, governed the Church as successors to the college of the Apostles with Peter as their coryphaeus, or head. From the end of the Acacian schism, Constantinople had begun to feel its lack of apostolicity, a handicap in comparison to Rome. Consequently, it welcomed the pentarch theology, in which all the patriarchal sees were apostolic in the sense that the patriarchal college succeeded to the apostolic college.
The iconoclastic emperors had regarded themselves as both kings and priests, heads of the Church by divine right. The Studites fought for absolute independence of the Church from the State. The Studites won to the extent that no subsequent ruler used the title of priest. Otherwise, the emperors continued to interfere as much as ever in ecclesiastical matters.
From Feast of Orthodoxy to Death of Cerularius, 843–1059
It is during this period that the Byzantine Church became estranged from the Roman. In the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries conflicts arose involving cultural and political elements alongside doctrinal and disciplinary issues. Neither Church ever formally excommunicated the other. They drifted apart; there is no one date on which the schism can be said to have begun. Disputes over issues of doctrine, for example, the filioque or iconoclasm, and the ongoing wrangling over the primacy of Rome and the pope gradually increased tension. A key period in this gradual worsening of relations was the patriarchate of Cerularius when differences in discipline and liturgy were accentuated; for example, the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist and the enforced celibacy of priests in the West. Even this serious rift, however, was patched up, and it was not until the time of the Fourth Crusade that the Churches were truly in schism.
The Photian Affair. Shortly after the Synod of Orthodoxy occurred the celebrated affair of photius. Michael III exiled Patriarch ignatius (858), who was not deposed; he may have resigned, but it was under duress and invalid, as even his enemies tacitly admitted when they finally deposed him three years later in the synod of 861 for uncanonical promotion to the see (after he had occupied it, universally acknowledged, for 11 years). Photius was duly elected to succeed him, and he chose as one of his co-consecrators Gregory Asbestas, who was under a ban from the Holy See. Photius's election thus had two defects: the see was not vacant and he was consecrated by a suspended bishop.
Strife soon broke out between the backers of Photius and supporters of Ignatius (Studites), who included a popular following and most of the monks. Two separate meetings were held at this time, one in August 859 and one in the spring of 861; the details are as follows. When Photius sent his synodal letter to Pope nicholas i (858–867), Michael III invited the pope to send legates to a general council for a second condemnation of iconoclasm. The Holy See could not participate in an affair in which Photius acted as patriarch without thereby acknowledging him as legitimate. To do so would have gone a long way toward breaking down the opposition to Photius, since the Studites had the highest respect for Rome. Many scholars think that iconoclasm was just a pretext for calling the council and gaining Rome's tacit approval of Photius. Nicholas accepted the invitation to the council but, dissatisfied with the treatment of Ignatius, insisted on reviewing the case, reserving judgment himself, and empowering his legates only to take evidence. He also requested the restitution to Roman control of Illyricum, Calabria, and Sicily. Despite his explicit instructions, the legates deposed Ignatius on the ground that he had been uncanonically elevated to the see, and pronounced Photius the lawful patriarch. Nicholas disavowed this action immediately without, however, censuring his legates. And he let it be known that he regarded Ignatius as the legitimate patriarch until proof to the contrary should be presented by Photius. There was no answer.
In 862 or 863, however, a supporter of Ignatius appeared in Rome to present an appeal. Nicholas heard his version, waited a full year to give Photius a chance to reply, and then at a synod (863), denounced Photius as a usurper and reinstated Ignatius and his followers. He censured Photius for trying to bribe the legates, disqualified all those consecrated or ordained by him and excommunicated the legates sent to the synod in 861. The verdict against Photius, however, was provisional since it had been rendered only by default, and the way was still left open for a fair trial at Rome with both parties either in person or by proxy—an offer that was repeated on several occasions and to which no answer was ever made.
The Bulgarian Question. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Bulgaria was fought over by Rome, Constantinople, and the Franks. At the request of Boris, the king of Bulgaria who had been baptized with the emperor Michael as his godfather, Photius had sent Greek clergy to instruct that nation. Boris wanted an autonomous Church with an independent patriarch to crown him czar, and as Photius refused this arrangement, the Bulgarian king turned to Rome in 866. Latin missionaries superseded the Greeks. Boris took a great fancy to the leader of the group, Bishop Formosus, and in 867 he decided that he wanted him named archbishop of Bulgaria without delay. But Nicholas refused.
The evangelization of Bulgaria by the papacy seemed to Byzantium to bring the Franks to their back door, and, as the Byzantines could not conquer the country by force, they decided on a religious offensive. The imperial government supported Photius as the representative of the interests of the Byzantine Empire and Church. The emperor wrote to the pope demanding the papal verdict be withdrawn and asserted the independence of the Byzantine Church. Photius then invited the Eastern patriarchs to a general council in a famous encyclical that proposed to condemn the papal incumbent without repudiating the see. Photius rejected the filioque, affirming that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. The synod, presided over by the emperor, met in the summer of 867 and excommunicated Nicholas I for exceeding his authority; but the pope died in November without ever hearing of the action taken.
In September Basil I (867–886) assassinated Michael III and assumed the purple; he brought back into favor the Studites, deposed Photius, reinstated Ignatius, and restored communion with Rome. He likewise offered to accept Nicholas's offer of a fair trial at Rome for Photius and Ignatius as if the antipapal council of 867 had never existed, and he sent representatives of both prelates with his embassy to submit the affair to the judgment of the Holy See. adrian ii (867–872), Nicholas's successor, could hardly overlook the antipapal council; he decided that Photius and all the bishops consecrated by him should be deposed, that those consecrated by Methodius and Ignatius who had gone over to Photius should be pardoned only after signing a libellus that professed the primacy and condemned Photius and his adherents, and that the signatories to the acts of the council of 867 would be pardoned but would have to apply to the Holy See for absolution.
Photius's representative had died before the trial, but Adrian II nevertheless condemned Photius, presumably because he had excommunicated a pope and his guilt was clear from the acts. As a general council was being prepared in Constantinople, Adrian was determined to impose his verdict on it and instructed his legates to that effect.
The emperor, however, knew that Photius's supporters would seize upon the fact that he had been condemned without a hearing and would continue the factional strife throughout the empire. His own hold on the throne was not secure, and he was equally determined to have some sort of trial. Hence he decided to proceed with the council.
Council of Constantinople IV. The Eighth General Council was held in Constantinople (869–870) and became a conflict of wills between Roman legates and Basil's representatives. The dictatorial conduct of the legates alienated even the pro-Studite bishops, the pope's warmest supporters. In the end, however, the council finally submitted to Pope Adrian's will, but it caused further dissension between the Churches. The council was added to the list of ecumenical councils in the West, but is not recognized in the East.
In the end, however, not all decisions went in Rome's favor. At the last session, a Bulgarian embassy arrived; for Boris had turned back to Constantinople when the pope refused to give him Formosus as archbishop. The determination of the jurisdiction to which Bulgaria belonged was left to the judgment of the pentarchy, and the three Eastern patriarchs pronounced in favor of Constantinople. Though formally forbidden by the legates to interfere in Bulgaria, on their departure for Rome, Ignatius consecrated an archbishop and later 12 bishops for that country. Ignatius was about to be excommunicated by Pope John VIII (872–882) when he died; he was succeeded by Photius, who was now acceptable to all parties.
Peace was made between the two sees in the Synod of Constantinople (879–880), the Great Council of Union held in St. Sophia. John VIII agreed to recognize Photius if he apologized to the assembled bishops for his past misconduct, became reconciled with his enemies, and gave up Bulgaria. Photius refused to apologize but satisfied the other demands. It was agreed that Bulgaria should remain in the Byzantine rite, but under Roman jurisdiction. Finally John VIII absolved Photius from all censures and synodal decrees against him, including the disciplinary decrees of the Eighth General Council. The authenticity of the acts of the last two sessions, which deal with the filioque, has been questioned; both parties, according to the present text, came to terms on the basis of the status quo ante, i.e., that the addition should not be made to the Creed. Nevertheless, because Photius later quoted this as proof that John VIII taught that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, and since papal legates could not have subscribed to that, it is difficult to know how the matter could have been resolved. Agreement was also reached as to the relative positions of Rome and Constantinople; the privileges of Old Rome were recognized, but the canonical and judicial authority of pope and patriarch were deemed to be equal. At all events, the two sees were in union at the end of Photius's patriarchate (886), though their relations in the interval did not always remain cordial. Whether minor breaks between the sees occurred under Pope Formosus or Pope Stephen VII is a matter of dispute.
Photius is a controversial figure. Older scholars held that he was the chief author of the Eastern Schism. But F.Dvornik has demonstrated that though his works became a source book for writers against the Latins, nobody singled him out as leader of schism until centuries after his death. Some maintain that he was a loyal son of the Church despite mistakes. Others, however, for various reasons think that he tried deliberately to make the Byzantine Church independent of Rome.
Photius instituted the missions to the Slavs, which won so many peoples for the Church of Constantinople. The most famous mission was the sending of the brothers cyril (constantine) and methodius to the Moravians in 863. They created a new alphabet, and translated the Scripture into the language of the Slavs, but eventually had to withdraw under pressure from competing Frankish missionaries. Photius also began the evangelization of the Rhos of Kiev, marked by the conversion of Olga, princess of Kiev, and tried to win over their neighbors, the Khazars in the Crimea, to Christianity. The real conversion of the Rhos, however, came with the baptism of Vladimir of Kiev and his marriage to Anna, Basil II's sister, in 989. Bulgaria was taken over by the Byzantine hierarchy after 1025, and the Church of Kiev, in 1037. Patriarch Nicholas I Mysticus sent an archbishop to the Alans, north of the Caucasus, and kept him there by his encouragement.
Photius was forced to resign (886) by Emperor leo vi (886–912), who wished to appoint his brother Stephen. The Studites returned to power once more but objected to the new patriarch because he had been ordained a deacon by Photius. They believed that Photius had been consecrated invalidly (or illicitly—they were not clear about the distinction), and therefore all orders administered by him were invalid (or illicit). They were willing to recognize Stephen if Rome granted a dispensation to all those promoted by Photius, and therefore appealed. The affair dragged on until Pope John IX (898–900) reaffirmed the previous papal decisions, that the correct patriarchal line was Methodius, Ignatius, Photius, Stephen, Anthony; i.e., Photius's first term did not count, but his second did. Most of the Studites accepted this settlement and were thus finally reconciled to both Rome and Patriarch Anthony II Cauleas (893–901) at a Synod of Union in 899.
Dispute over the Tetragamy. Peace lasted less than 10 years, after which the Church was torn asunder by the quarrel over the fourth marriage (tetragamy) of the emperor. The Byzantine Church had remained faithful to the early Christian attitude toward the unity of marriage; its canon law imposed a penance for a second marriage, very severe penalties for a third marriage, and absolutely forbade a fourth. In fact this legislation had been strengthened by Emperor Leo himself, who had even disapproved of a second marriage. After the death of his third wife left him without male issue, however, he took as a mistress Zoë, and in 905 she bore him a son out of wedlock, the future Constantine VII (913–959). Patriarch Nicholas I Mysticus had kept on cordial terms with the emperor, paying no attention to the love affair. He himself baptized the infant with all the pomp befitting a Porphyrogenitus (one born in the Purple Chamber of the palace while his father was emperor); this act amounted virtually to a legitimization of the child. He set one condition—that Leo and Zoë should separate. Two or three days after the baptism, however, Leo brought Zoë back to the palace and shortly thereafter crowned her queen; they were married by a priest, Thomas. The patriarch then forbade them to attend the liturgy or receive the Sacraments while he considered whether or not he could dispense them. At Christmas 906 and on the Feast of Epiphany 907, the emperor was turned away from Hagia Sophia. Despite the confusing nature of the sources, it seems that Leo had already appealed to the pentarchy, and chiefly to Rome—at the patriarch's suggestion, according to Nicholas's own statement.
The emperor was firmly convinced that the patriarch was engaged in treasonable dealings with a rebel in Asia Minor, and he resolved to depose Nicholas at the first opportunity, despite the patriarch's large popular following in Constantinople. Nicholas had almost decided to allow Leo and Zoë to remain in communion, but suddenly reversed his position. Several influential bishops, notably Arethas, metropolitan of Caesarea, were inalterably opposed to a dispensation, and the patriarch made the members of the synod take a solemn oath to resist the emperor's attempt at tetragamy even to the death, if need be. At last the verdict of Rome and the other patriarchs arrived. It showed the utmost respect for Byzantine usage: Pope sergius iii (904–911) stated that a fourth marriage was against Byzantine canon law and propriety; the dispensation, however, was granted out of consideration for the good of the state. To those who objected that a fourth marriage was adultery, Rome pointed to its own practice in this regard, and the texts of St. Paul but did not thereby intend to foist its customs on the Eastern Church. Backed by the decision of the pentarchy, Leo determined to break the resistance of the patriarch. Nicholas resigned despite the urging of Arethas and others opposed to the dispensation. Arethas thereafter always despised Nicholas, who had with great bravado led them into battle and then, by resigning, deserted them at the first sign of danger. The synod voted to accept the pentarchy's verdict, but Arethas and his companions stood their ground.
The synod then elected euthymius i, a saintly man, in February 907. He accepted only on condition that the patriarchal representatives repeat their decision in his presence. He reconciled Arethas to the dispensation. He degraded Thomas, the priest who had performed the marriage and refused to crown Zoë in church or put her name in the diptychs. Not everybody shared Arethas's low opinion of Nicholas. Very many regarded him as the hero of Christian marriage, who had resigned rather than debauch it, and they formed the Nicholites, who were opposed by the Euthymians. The government persecuted the former, and once more strife raged.
On the death of Leo, his brother Alexander (912–913) deposed Euthymius, and reinstated Nicholas. It is debated whether Leo himself may have repented and recalled Nicholas before his death. Nicholas took savage vengeance on Euthymius and severely punished his party, particularly those who had sworn to stand by Nicholas then changed over. Nicholas maintained that he had not resigned, and, even if he had, the resignation had been motivated by fear. As Arethas put it, he had the impudence to demand that the bishops suffer anything rather than admit the validity of the resignation by which he had himself evaded what he was asking them to endure. Nicholas turned on the pope, protesting the deep humiliation inflicted on his Church; and he pretended that he had never thought of granting the dispensation himself. He berated the Holy See for approving of adultery by permitting a fourth marriage in order to curry favor with the emperor, and demanded that the pope make an example of the legates guilty of such an enormity. Then he erased the pope's name from the diptychs. Yet in 917 Nicholas was reconciled with Euthymius and attempted to bring peace between the Euthymians and the Nicholites. He succeeded partially at a synod in July 920. The two parties agreed not to condemn those who had contracted a fourth marriage and to settle the canon law on marriage by stating that a second marriage was on a par with a first, that a third was subject to stringent restrictions, and that a fourth marriage was equivalent to living in sin. An apparently strong minority demanded the intervention of the pope, however, and Nicholas finally persuaded (923) the Holy See to send legates to repeat the decision originally made by Pope Sergius III. A few Euthymians resisted and were reconciled finally under Patriarch Nicholas II (979–991) or his successor, sisinnius ii (996–998).
Formal Schism under Sergius IV. The formal break with Rome did not come until the beginning of the 11th century. Throughout the 10th century, there remained a group within the Byzantine Church who had continued to believe in the primacy of Rome. Papal approval, when it suited, was still sought for the ordination of Constantinopolitan patriarchs, as in the case of Theophylact Lecapenus. In 933 after the death of his eldest son and heir, Christopher, the emperor romanus i leca penus decided to make his younger son, Theophylact, patriarch. Theophylact was only 16 years old and was known for his worldly interests, especially horses. The corrupt Pope John XI, however, was prevailed upon to send legates, who assisted at the consecration and enthroned him. As the Byzantine hierarchy did not object on doctrinal grounds, and had no rival candidate, there was no strong opposition.
In 1009, however, Patriarch sergius ii (1001–19) dropped the name of Pope sergius iv (1009–12) from the diptychs. Even a contemporary, Peter, later patriarch of Antioch, did not know why this was done. Later Byzantine statements that it was because the pope had sent a creed containing the filioque must have been conjectures. As the pope's name was never restored to the diptychs, this is the only official beginning of the schism; yet, as already mentioned, neither Church ever formally excommunicated the other.
The pentarchy had developed into a theory that negated the supremacy of Rome. Peter of Antioch expounded the ecclesiology of the period in one of his epistles to Dominic, patriarch of Venice. Peter took pains to point out that there was no such thing as a patriarch of Venice; that a sixth patriarchate was unheard of; and that just as there were five senses so there were five patriarchates, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. He described the pentarchy as a committee of five equals in which the majority rules. This was unequivocal; the patriarchs are all independent and the only head of the Church is its invisible Head, Christ. Peter took for granted that this was the doctrine held universally. He mentioned it incidentally as the self-evident proof for the impossibility of a sixth patriarchate, and though his correspondent was a Latin bishop, he had no doubt that they both agreed. Furthermore, Peter did not believe in the inerrancy of the Holy See; it was not only capable of error, but actually in error.
In 1024, according to a Western writer, the proposition was made to the pope by Emperor Basil II, "whether with the Roman Pontiff's consent, the Church of Constantinople might be entitled, within its own limits, to be called, and treated as, ecumenical, as Rome was ecumenical throughout the world." The proposal was rejected. Some authorities maintain that this report is unreliable and the event did not occur at all; others think that it did occur, but disagree as to the meaning of the offer. If it happened, it was the first effort at reunion.
Patriarch Michael Cerularius. In 1042–43 mi chael cerularius, a relation of the Ducas family, was appointed patriarch by Constantine Monomachus IX. Cerularius had returned to the capital after some years in exile for instigating a conspiracy against the Paphlagonian Michael IV. He enjoyed popular support in Constantinople, especially with his famous opposition to Western liturgical and disciplinary practices that he pursued vigorously, even at a time when the emperor was seeking to make an alliance with Pope Leo IX (1049–April 19, 1054) against the Normans who were gaining the upper hand against the Byzantines in South Italy. It was taken for granted as a preliminary to the political treaty between emperor and pope that religious unity would be established. But Leo, Byzantine archbishop of Bulgaria, supposedly incited by Cerularius, wrote a letter to a bishop of southern Italy, John of Trani, addressing through him the pope and the whole Western Church. He argued, while condemning many lesser points such as fasting on Saturdays, that unleavened bread (or azymes) was not valid matter for the Holy Eucharist. He continued that only Constantinople had the true faith and the true sacrifice, and that every other Church had to learn from her. Constantinople claimed Rome's own prerogative. To the Byzantines of the 11th century, the title "Holy Orthodox Church" meant what it said, and Orthodox was equivalent to infallible. This idea had been formulated clearly in Photius's encyclical of 867, and the synod repeated his words in its excommunication of the papal legate, Cardinal Humbert, which closed the Cerularian episode. Though Constantinople subscribed in theory to the equality of the patriarchs in the pentarchy, in fact she regarded herself as the first see. The foundation for this belief was based upon a revision (ascribed by some to Photius) of the ancient Constantinian translatio imperii, the claim that both the civil and the religious leadership had been transferred to Constantinople from the Old (decrepit) Rome to the New (vigorous) Constantinople by St. Andrew, the "first-called" of the Apostles, thus establishing the See of Byzantium.
Having heard these sentiments, Pope Leo would not agree to a treaty with the emperor. At other times, the emperor would have simply had the patriarch deposed, but Cerularius had no intention of compromising his convictions or of resigning. His great asset was the enormous popularity he enjoyed with the common people of Constantinople, while his adversary, Emperor constantine ix (1042–55), was quite unpopular. The patriarch closed the Latin churches in Constantinople, after desecrating their hosts to demonstrate that they were invalidly consecrated. He likewise began an intensive campaign to rouse the populace.
The papal embassy, headed by Cardinal Humbert, a staunch believer in the superiority of Rome, arrived in Constantinople to negotiate the treaty. The conditions for reunion of the Churches were the long sought-after restitution of Illyricum, Calabria, and Sicily to Roman jurisdiction and the acknowledgment of the primacy. In June, two months after the pope's death, in the presence of the emperor, Humbert insisted that one of his literary opponents, Nicetas Stethatos, repudiate his own work and in addition deliver a clear anathema against all those who denied that Rome was the first church or questioned its orthodox faith. Constantine, who realized the strong position of the Normans in South Italy, was keen that communion between the two Churches should be restored. But still Cerularius would not agree to compromise with a pope whose views he regarded as heretical: as he said, "if the head of a fish is rotten, how can the rest be healthy" (Angold). He therefore averred that the legates were imposters and refused to meet them, except in the patriarchal palace surrounded by the synod. On July 16, the legates in the Church of Hagia Sophia, crowded for the morning liturgy, laid a document of excommunication on the high altar. It anathematized Michael, the patriarch, and his followers; and it condemned as heretical the special features of the Byzantine Liturgy and ecclesial usages. In this way, though intended only against Cerularius, the anathema was applied to the whole Byzantine Church and aroused strong opposition. The legates had to flee for their lives, and the emperor was forced to a humiliating surrender to the patriarch. On July 24, 1054, the synod met, condemned Humbert and his companions as imposters, repudiated the filioque, following word for word Photius's encyclical, and defended the beards and marriage of the Byzantine priests. They made very clear that they were not excommunicating either the pope or the Western Church. The silence on unleavened bread was a stinging rebuff to Cerularius, who, after all, had commanded one of his officials to trample on the Latin consecrated hosts. Nevertheless, Michael reached a pinnacle of power never attained by any other ecclesiastic in the history of Byzantium.
The importance of incident in relations between the two Churches has been much discussed. It is clear, however, that it was not the beginning of the Eastern Schism, as has previously been argued. Popes had excommunicated patriarchs before, and Humbert's excommunication of Cerularius was of doubtful value, since the pope had died before it was proclaimed. The Byzantines made clear that they were not excommunicating the Western Church. The episode was, in fact, an unsuccessful attempt to heal a schism, though it is unlikely that an solution would have endured.
From Death of Michael Cerularius to Death of Michael VIII Palaeologus, 1059–1282
This period is marked by the succession of efforts at reunion of the Churches, culminating in the Council of Lyons. The attempts provoked a vigorous polemic over the differences between Byzantine and Latin liturgy and theology. A number of other theological controversies occurred during the time of the Comneni.
John Italus and Psellus. The case of john italus came to a head early in the reign of alexius i comnenus (1081–1118) and is of extraordinary interest. He came from South Italy to Constantinople, and became the pupil of Michael Psellus. Italus succeeded Psellus in the chair of philosophy at the university as consul of philosophers, or head of the school, and was also given responsibility for the emperor's policy of rapprochment with the Normans. His trial seems an isolated event, but it really constitutes the last act of the conflict between the Byzantine Church and the classics. While symeon the new theo logian argued for the idea of a mystical communion with God and the exclusive preeminence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit over all science and all authority, Psellus with his pupil Italus launched the idea that all human knowledge is a step toward God, and that dogma should be interpreted in the light of rational principles, a sort of scholasticism. This contradicted the attitude adopted by the monks since the Studite reform in the 9th century. For them the object of knowledge was revelation; all else was valueless. The only science was the insight inspired by the Holy Spirit, which comes from prayer.
Psellus had returned to the Neoplatonism of pro clus, not to Plato; Italus favored Plotinus, but he also learned much from Origen. Together with their contemporaries, they represented a revolutionary and rationalistic tendency, and their age had a remarkable affinity with the later Western Renaissance. In 1076–77 the movement was condemned by the synod, which mentioned no particular theologians but anathematized doctrines close to modern rationalism. One excommunicated group denied the miracles of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints; another considered profane literature the repository of truth to which all else must be reduced directly or indirectly. They thus placed reason above faith. Neither Psellus or Italus held such extreme views, but their lectures were open to the public and, as they encouraged free discussion, this gave rise to serious misunderstandings. Psellus was suspected of heresy and was temporarily excommunicated by the patriarch John Xiphilinos (1064–75) until he was able to convince the patriarch that his work was not at odds with the Church Fathers. Italus's teachings, however, were believed to be not only heretical but were also in danger of corrupting his students. Eventually, in a synod of 1083, his teaching was rejected explicitly and although he retracted his views, Alexius continued to be unsatisfied and sought the condemnation of Italus's pupils.
Many reasons have been argued for the emperor's determination to secure this complete condemnation of Italus and his work. He may have been simply a victim of imperial propaganda, for the most likely explanation was Alexius's desire to be seen as restoring or cleansing the orthodoxy of the empire. The trial of Italus was held on the Feast of Orthodoxy, and the anathemas against him and his followers were appended to the Synodicon of Orthodoxy. The Synodicon became the expression of the beliefs of the Orthodox Church, and continued as a reminder of Alexius's defense of orthodoxy.
Other Controversies under the Comneni. Leo of Chalcedon accused Alexius I Comnenus of iconoclasm when, in order to save the state, he melted the gold and silver attached to icons and particularly medals stamped with the image of Christ or a saint. In 1086 the synod condemned and deposed him. Eustratius of Nicaea, who had been appointed by Alexius and had opposed Leo, was now himself condemned by a council in 1117 for heretical beliefs approximating Nestorianism during a controversy with the Monophysite Armenians; he recanted. Nilus, an unlearned but upright monk with a large following of monks in Constantinople, unwittingly became a Monophysite, after the death of Alexius, the synod condemned both him and the Monophysites to perpetual anathema (1087).
The contest between the empire and the sects of Manichaean character seems to have reached a crisis under Alexius. The Paulicians, a group that first appeared in the 7th century, believed that the whole material world was an evil creation of an evil God. They rejected the hierarchy, sacraments, and cult, and opposed images. Subject to sporadic persecution, they were favored by the early iconoclastic emperors and spread all over Asia Minor. Large numbers were transplanted to Thrace by Constantine V to counterbalance the sentiment there in favor of icons. They were reinforced by another group brought over by the emperor John I Tzimisces (969–976). They won many converts and made their center Philippopolis. By the 12th century they were absorbed into a similar sect, the Bogomils, named after the Bulgarian priest Bogomil, who in the first half of the 10th century developed a Bulgarian strain of Paulician dualism. The Bogomils believed in the fall of Satanael, the elder son of God, who made Earth habitable and tried to create man with a soul stolen from God. God sent Jesus Christ, his second son, to bring salvation. The Bogomils rejected the material world, and sacraments, and despite condemning marriage and procreation, by the 12th century they had won great popular support in Constantinople and throughout the empire. Alexius led a special expedition against Philippopolis in order to convert the heretics; two of the high officials were imprisoned for life, and their leader, Basil the Physician, was burned at the stake. Under John Comnenus (1118–43), the works of the monk Constantine Chrysomallus, which were tainted with Manichaean errors, were discovered circulating in several monasteries and were burnt by order of the synod in 1140. In the reign of Manuel I Comnenus (1143–80), two bishops were found guilty of upholding certain Bogomil tenets; Patriarch Cosmas II Atticus (1146–47) was involved and deposed, though perhaps unjustly.
During Manuel's reign two interesting discussions arose. The first concerned the meaning of a passage in the liturgy, "You are the offerer and the offered, and the receiver." Soterichus Panteugenus, titular patriarch of Antioch, decided that Christ's sacrifice was offered only to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, and not to God the Son, since he held that Christ could not offer something to Himself. This view was condemned in a synod of 1157. Soterichus taught also that the Mass was not a sacrifice but merely a solemn and dramatic recall of Christ's Passion and death. This doctrine was repudiated. The other controversy dealt with the meaning of Christ's words, "The Father is greater than I." At least five different interpretations were proposed; the debate became embittered, and some of the views were clearly unorthodox. It required eight sessions of the synod in 1170–71 to dispose of the difficulties. Even then the emperor's interference prevented a thorough examination of the issues and the forced solution proved unsatisfactory. An attempt at revision of the synod's decisions, however, by Patriarch Michael IV Autorianus (1208–14) was blocked by opposition within the Church.
In the reign of Alexius III and Patriarch John X Camateros (1198–1206), Michael Glycas, the imperial secretary and partly blinded for plotting against Manuel Comnenus, proposed the theory that Christ's body in the Holy Eucharist is mortal from the Consecration to the Communion, just as it was at the Last Supper, but incorruptible immediately after it had been absorbed by the communicant, as it was in the Resurrection. The synod took no positive action but simply forbade anyone to read Glycas or his opponent.
Efforts at Reunion. Once the Cerularius incident had disclosed the rent between Rome and Constantinople, efforts at reunion began almost immediately, For the East, the initiative was begun by the emperor due to the special place of the civil ruler in the Byzantine Church. As a result of this situation, the popes, even when their principal end was reunion, had to negotiate politically, not religiously, and they never bypassed the monarch to treat directly with the patriarch. The popes seem to have taken for granted that once they had won the emperor, they could make the Church do anything he pleased, although this was never true of Cerularius.
These political compromises belong to the history of the Byzantine state, not the Church, which often was not even consulted. Certain episodes stand out as worthy of note. The first of this period involved Pope Urban II. He complained to Alexius I Comnenus that his name had been removed from the diptychs uncanonically and asked to have it restored. A synod summoned by the emperor had to concede the justice of the complaint, but as uncompromising as ever, decided that, for the time being, the pope should be commemorated only if he submitted a satisfactory confession of faith and accepted the Quinisext synod (which had condemned clerical celibacy). Whether the pope took any further interest in reunion is not known, but at any rate friendly relations were established between Alexius and Urban, which were, of course, ultimately to lead to the first crusade in response to the former's request for more Christian troops to fight against the Muslims.
After the death of Urban II, Alexius negotiated with his successor, Paschal II, for reunion between the churches and held debates between eastern and western theologians in Constantinople in 1112 and 1114. The primacy of Rome remained the sticking point, as did the addition of the filioque, which the Byzantines still rejected. Emperors remained keen to establish union. In 1141, John II wrote to Pope Innocent II saying that "there were two swords, the secular which he himself would wield, and the spiritual which he would leave to the Pope, and together they would restore the unity of the Christian Church and establish the world supremacy of the one Roman Empire" (Ostrogorsky). The emperor Manual Comnenus was also prepared to press the issue and held another synod in the 1160s or 1170s (the date is disputed). It appears that he proposed that the primacy of the pope be acknowledged, but Patriarch Michael II Anchialus replied that it was impossible to have communion with heretics; the primacy had been lost to Rome when the pope had become a heretic, and had been transferred to Constantinople; the pope was nothing but a layman.
The Crusades. Relations between the Churches of the East and West worsened during the crusades. Years before this tension had been increased by the followers of peter the hermit, who looted their way across Europe in the First Crusade, and by Bohemund's seizure of Antioch, which established the Normans, the deadliest enemy of Byzantium, on both its flanks. The Byzantine Church, particularly, resented its humiliating position in the Holy Land. Meantime, the ears of the West were filled with calumnies about Byzantine perfidy principally by the Normans. The Second and Third Crusades, with their threat to Constantinople itself, strained relations almost to the breaking point. The Venetians, using their trading privileges ruthlessly were driving the Byzantines out of business in their own country and making themselves everywhere detested. Emperor Manual I Comnenus had favored the Latins, and the Greeks saw the Latins displacing themselves in high government positions. The mounting fury was unleashed in a massacre of Latins all over the empire in 1182. By this time Latin hatred of the Greeks was also intense. The climax came in the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, when for three days the soldiers pillaged and murdered, and desecrated nuns and the altars of refuge, as well as the Sacred Species.
The Byzantine Church and empire took refuge in Asia Minor, rallying around Theodore I Lascaris (1208–22), who gathered the scattered elements of both in Nicaea. He invited Patriarch John X Camateros to join him but was refused. In 1206 Camateros died, and in 1208 Theodore assembled all available Byzantine bishops and suggested that they elect a new patriarch. Michael IV Autorianus (1208–14) was chosen, and he crowned Theodore emperor in Holy Week of 1208. Nicaea thus became the rallying point and new hope of the eastern Greeks. It had a rival, however, in the Despotate of Epirus, the cultural and political center of the western Greeks.
Innocent III. Though shocked at the outrage to Constantinople, Pope Innocent III acquiesced in the fait accompli and regarded the conquest as a providentially designed reunion of the Churches. The Venetians gained control of Hagia Sophia, and so of the patriarchate, and selected Thomas Morosini as Latin patriarch of Constantinople; the pope had no choice but to approve. Naturally it angered the Byzantines exceedingly to have any other than a Greek patriarch. Despite the long existence of Byzantine churches and monasteries in Rome itself and in other parts of Italy under papal control, Innocent III planned the absorption of the Byzantine Church by the Latin. This was his idea of union of Churches. But he pursued a policy of limited tolerance. When early conferences (1205–07) of Byzantine representatives with the legate Cardinal Benedict made it clear that they would not adopt the filioque, unleavened bread, or other Latin customs, the pope did not force them. He did insist on the oath of canonical obedience to the pope and the Latin patriarchate of Constantinople. If the bishops demurred, every effort was made to win them over before deposing them and appointing a Latin in their stead. No new bishop, however, was to be consecrated in any rite but Latin; hence the Byzantine hierarchy was doomed to die out with the existing generation.
Despite all this, the Byzantine Church survived to a certain extent. Cardinal Benedict had a winning personality, and he induced many clerics, though a minority, to take the oath of obedience. They felt that they were yielding nothing essential and their flock would still have shepherds. When some who were willing to submit to the pope found it abhorrent to recognize the Latin patriarch, since they regarded the patriarch at Nicaea as the true one, Cardinal Benedict dispensed them. The majority refused to take the oath. To those who resigned and went into voluntary exile, the empire of Nicaea offered a refuge. To those who stood their ground, it held out hope and encouragement. Many never had to take the oath because the Latin rulers refused to carry out the law, some out of sympathy and some out of cupidity, pocketing the income that should have gone either to the Latin bishop or the Holy See. Intending to put a stop to these abuses and to win over the rest of the Byzantines, Innocent III despatched a new legate, Cardinal Pelagius, in 1213 or 1214. Acting entirely contrary to the spirit of his orders, Pelagius started a persecution, manacling and imprisoning those who refused the oath of canonical obedience, sealing up churches, and driving monks from their monasteries. The Latin emperor Henry, who dealt fairly with the Greeks, released them from jail and made a compromise, according to which they need not mention the pope in the diptychs if they acclaimed the Latin emperor as political ruler after the service when they used to acclaim the Byzantine emperor. Pelagius also had been commissioned to treat with the empire of Nicaea on reunion and for political ends, and when he did that he had to stop the persecution.
Yet reunion via a general council was still possible. Among those Byzantines who had remained in the Latinheld territory was a group who believed with Innocent III that the conquest had providentially brought together under one power the two previously divided peoples. It had not, however, achieved a spiritual union of the Churches. In a letter to the pope they proposed that they should be permitted to elect a Greek patriarch who shared their views, and that then it would be possible to settle the religious differences in a general council. This move was made, apparently, with the approval of Nicaea. Innocent III would not hear of it and held to his own policy; he had proclaimed the union of Churches and to permit a general council would be to confess that the union was illusory. As a result, the conciliatory party turned its back on the Latin empire and gave its allegiance to Nicaea. The episode is variously dated 1206–07 or 1213–14.
Innocent IV. The most promising attempt at reconciliation ever made was that between Pope Innocent IV (1243–54) and Emperor John III Vatatzes in 1253–54. The immediate successors of Innocent III continued his policy, but Innocent IV abandoned it completely. He saw that the cooperation of the rising Byzantine Empire of Nicaea and union with the Greek Church offered more than the Latin Empire. John, in turn, was prepared to sacrifice the independence of the Greek Church in order to win back Constantinople. Patriarch Manuel II (1244–54), who sincerely desired an end to the schism, suggested a compromise formula, "the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son," instead of "… and the Son," a formula entirely acceptable to the Latins. He succeeded in winning over the Greek Church to the following agreement: if the pope yielded the throne of Constantinople to the Greek emperor and its see to the Greek patriarch, the Greek Church would acknowledge the primacy by restoring his name to the diptychs and would take the oath of canonical obedience. Innocent accepted these terms and also consented to a general council on Greek territory to ratify the agreement. But all the principal personalities died, Innocent IV, John III Vatatzes, and Patriarch Manuel. John's successor, Theodore II Lascaris, rejected the whole plan.
Council of Lyons. Though official efforts at reunion had little success, informal exchanges between scholars contributed to a better understanding. The Latins were represented during the age of the Comneni by Peter Grossolano (Chrysolanus, to the Greeks), archbishop of Milan, and Bishop Anselm of Havelberg, a Premonstratensian, who both had occasion to visit Constantinople, and Hugo Eterianus, councilor and official theologian to Manuel I Comnenus. The Byzantines relied on Photius's work Mystagogy, which was written in his old age and is far from his best work. Photius had taught that the Holy Sprit proceeded from the Father alone, but Eterianus's three books on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, published in both Greek and Latin, forced on the Photians a notable revision of their patristic material. The discussion of Grossolano and Anselm induced some of the Byzantines to consider the formula "through the Son" instead of "from the Father alone," and led others to admit the validity of the Latin position. Most of the Comnenian theologians, however, held to the Photian doctrine, and the Fourth Crusade hardly gained friends for the Western views. A chance came with the work of nicephorus blemmydes during the Nicaean period. He accepted the Latin argument that unless the Son is involved in the procession of the Holy Spirit, no distinction between Son and Holy Spirit could be established. He abandoned the Photian teaching entirely. It was principally due to Blemmydes and partially to Hugo Eterianus that Patriarch John XI Beccus (1275–82), the union patriarch under michael viii palaeologus, owed his conversion to the Latin position. Beccus himself made an important point that "through the Son" was in the best Greek tradition and Photius had not done it justice.
On July 6, 1274, at the Second Council of Lyons, the union between Rome and Constantinople was sealed. Letters from Michael VIII, his son and coemperor Andronicus II, and the Byzantine hierarchy were read. The emperor recognized the primacy in a formula worded by Pope Gregory X himself. He accepted the filioque and the validity of consecration of unleavened bread. The Byzantine hierarchy acknowledged the primacy as it had existed before the schism and affirmed their entry into the Church, but did not repeat the formula of faith contained in the emperor's letter. A plea of the hierarchy was put into the pope's hands before they returned to Byzantium: they asked the pope to permit the Greek hierarchy to exist side by side with the Latin, and for a guarantee in writing that Greek customs would not be disturbed. The latter request was made a condition of acceptance of the union.
Michael VIII had been impelled to negotiate with the pope as the only way of saving Byzantium from destruction by Charles of Anjou. The emperor had to use pressure, but ultimately he got most of the hierarchy to sign. Patriarch Joseph preferred to resign, and John XI Beccus succeeded to the patriarchal see. Beccus had greatly aided the emperor's efforts. At first a determined foe of the filioque, he had been imprisoned and his reading of Blemmydes and study in jail had converted him to the Latin view.
The union was successful for a time politically, but a failure religiously. The people bitterly opposed it. To gain the throne, Michael VIII had blinded the legitimate ruler, John IV Lascaris, and had been excommunicated by Patriarch Arsenius Autorianus. He succeeded in deposing the latter (1266), but the Arsenites formed a schism and fought against both the emperor and reconciliation with Rome. After the union of Lyons, the country was divided into two hostile camps. Michael had to enforce the union to keep Charles of Anjou at bay, and he had recourse to persecution. All sections of the population were affected and the imperial family itself was divided. Finally Pope Martin IV, a friend of Charles of Anjou, excommunicated Michael VIII as a heretic (1281), and all of the West turned against Byzantium. Byzantium was saved by the Sicilian Vespers (1282), the revolt achieved by the skillful diplomacy of Michael. The Union of the Churches, however, did not survive his death and at a council held in Constantinople in 1285, it was formally rejected. A refutation of the filioque, drafted by the patriarch Gregory II of Cyprus (1283–89) was agreed. The Arsenite Schism ended only in 1310.
From Death of Michael VIII Palaeologus to Fall of Constantinople, 1282–1453
The high points of this period are the Hesychast movement and the Council of Florence. The latter had no influence on the Byzantine Church. The agreements made at the council, however, have ever since served as the basis for reunion, e.g., with the Melkites.
The discussions between scholars of the filioque continued and bore fruit. The Dominicans founded houses in Constantinople and elsewhere in the Latin kingdoms and kept up a vigorous offensive with influential publications in Greek. The union of Lyons had stimulated considerable polemic; and the controversy took a new turn with the translation into Greek of important Latin works, particularly Augustine's On the Trinity by Maximus Planudes, a celebrated humanist, in the reign of Michael VIII, and of the Summa contra gentiles and Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas by Demetrius Cydones (1355–58), completed by his brother Prochorus. These works were used extensively in the controversy over Hesychasm. Disciples and successors of Demetrius continued this activity. manuel calecas translated Boethius's De trinitate and Anselm's Cur Deus Homo; he died a Dominican in 1410. Maximus Chrysoberges (d.1430) entered the Dominicans c. 1390; his younger brother, known as Andrew of Crete, also a Dominican, devoted his life's work to missionary activity for union. Several Byzantines were won over to the Catholic cause at the Council of Florence, notably Isidore of Kiev and Bessarion. Most of these scholars, beginning with Demetrius Cydones, found life too difficult at Constantinople and sought refuge in Italy; they were forerunners of those who revived Greek in the West and reunited the two cultures after centuries of isolation. Theodore of Gaza, a translator of Aristotle, was a follower of Bessarion. John Argyropulos, founder of Greek philology in Italy, was famous among scholars deriving from Cydones. Both Theodore and John were staunch supporters of Florence.
The papal primacy constituted an insuperable barrier to union. To acknowledge the primacy was to admit the pope's prerogative to abolish the Byzantine Church at will. This was just what Innocent III and his successors had hoped to do. The Byzantine Church could never concede this possibility; at Lyons and Florence the unionists restricted their acceptance of the primacy correspondingly, and the popes tolerated the restriction.
Differences arose with respect to purgatory in the 13th century, and over the epiclesis in the 14th century. The Greeks objected to the idea of a purgatorial fire, for which they could find no proof in Scripture or the Fathers. It was the Latins who raised the question about the epiclesis, a prayer to the Holy Spirit in the Greek Liturgy after the Consecration: "Send down thy Holy Spirit…and make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this chalice the Precious Blood of Christ, transmuting them by Thy Holy Spirit." How could this petition be made after the Consecration? Neither of the objections, however, became prominent in polemic; the energies of the Greeks were entirely absorbed with the filioque and the Hesychastic controversies.
The debate on the azymes, which raged so hotly starting with Cerularius and continuing through the 12th century, gradually subsided thereafter. Both sides realized that the argument was of its nature incapable of settlement. Furthermore, moderate Greek churchmen found it too abhorrent to believe that the Latin Church had been deprived of the Eucharist for centuries.
Hesychastic Controversy. Although the controversy did not arise until the 12th century, hesychasm had been practiced for centuries. John Climmacus (580–650) in his Ladder of Paradise had already explained thus: "the hesychast is one who aspires to circumscribe the Incorporeal in a dwelling of flesh; hesychasm is worship and interrupted service of God.…" Hesychasm, following a traditionally Byzantine school of mysticism that reached its most complete development with Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022), abbot of St. Mamas in Constantinople, became associated on Mount Athos with a special technique for inducing ecstasy, and by the 12th century had become very popular. When by a life of mortification and prayer the monk had arrived at the contemplative stage, to make further progress he should adopt the following practice: sitting in the corner of a quiet cell, he should bend his head so as to rest his chin on his chest, fix his eyes on his navel, hold his breath, and repeat the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." Gradually sinking into ecstasy, he would see himself bathed in supernatural light, the Increate Light that the Apostles beheld in the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. This method had only mild opposition till its orthodoxy was challenged in 1337 by the monk Barlaam of Calabria, who, besides ridiculing the peculiar procedure, contested the notion of uncreated light: what is uncreated must be God, and how could God be seen?
Gregory palamas came to the defense of the monks. He accepted as fact the visionaries' belief that they saw the Increate Light of Mount Tabor and thus came into direct union with God. This new revelation made to them was implied in the New Testament as the Trinity was implied in the Old. To reconcile this doctrine with the traditional teaching about the incommunicability and invisibility of the Divine Essence, Palamas, during his debates with Barlaam, enunciated a special theory, but one incapable of logical proof, since it involved a mystery, such as the Trinity.
The Palamite controversy convulsed the Byzantine world for many years. Gregory was challenged by such scholars as Gregorius Akindynos, who argued from the Church Fathers according to the true Byzantine method, and Prochorus Cydones, who used the scholastic type of reasoning. When the question became inextricably embroiled in politics, Palamas and the monks prevailed through the backing of Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus (1347–54), who presided over a great synod at Constantinople in 1351 that condemned all opposition to Palamas. John V Palaeologus (1341–91), after the expulsion of Cantacuzenus, permitted free discussion but did not prevent the Church from imposing spiritual penalties on the anti-Palamites. The Synod of Constantinople in 1368 closed the affair so far as the Church was concerned by suspending Prochorus Cydones for life and canonizing Gregory Palamas. Hesychasm gained in popularity, especially in Bulgaria and Russia.
True union between Latins and Greeks had by now become impossible. Occasionally explorations were made by the Churches themselves, as in the conversations in 1367 between the papal legate, the imperial family, the ex-emperor Cantacuzenus, three high-ranking metropolitans of the synod, and representatives of the patriarch, in which it was agreed that a general council should debate the issues between the Churches. But the pope refused this suggestion as it seemed to put in doubt the teaching defined at the Council of Lyons. Besides, Cantacuzenus had made modifications in Palamas's theology that the Palamites would never had admitted. Generally, however, negotiations centered on the political question of the peril to Byzantium from the Turks and as time went on the chance of success diminished. In 1369 John V Palaeologus went to Rome and became a Catholic. He also promised, somewhat unrealistically, in return for Western military aid, to convert the Byzantine people to the Roman faith within six months. Pope Urban V, and after him, gregory xi, a true friend of the Greeks, made a ringing appeal to Europe to come to the aid of the now Catholic Byzantine emperor; but the plea fell on deaf ears. The Byzantine people became convinced that even if they changed their religion they would get no effective military help. It got to the point where schism made no real difference; the Latin principalities in Greece were by then in grave danger, and coalitions including schismatists had to be made for mutual protection. Finally in 1396, the one really strong Western effort, the Crusade of Nicopolis, collapsed.
Council of Florence. Nevertheless, John VIII Palaeologus (1425–48) decided to bring his people and the Greek clergy into union with Rome; early in 1438, on the invitation of Pope Eugene IV, he arrived in Ferrara for the General Council of Ferrara-Florence. After a thorough discussion of each point, agreement was reached on the filioque, azymes, purgatory, the enjoyment of the beatific vision by the blessed before the Last Judgment, the primacy, and the order of the patriarchs, Constantinople being named second after Rome. Compromises were reached: nothing was said about purgatorial fire since the Greeks did not teach it; the pope's right to call a general council was not specifically stated owing to the objection of the emperor; but the pope was acknowledged as head of the Church without prejudice to the rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs; and finally, the pope waived the question of the distinction between God's substance and operations, which had been the subject of controversy between the Palamites and the antiPalamites. This question was too explosive to reopen, since it was threatening to cause a civil war in Byzantium. Eventually on July 6, 1439, the union was proclaimed in both Greek and Latin.
The only consistent dissenter among the Greeks was Mark Eugenicus, bishop of Ephesus, who alone did not sign the council's decrees. Most of the other Greek prelates agreed to the union, but with varying decrees of assent. Patriarch Joseph II, who had contributed to the outcome of the debate on the filioque, died before the end of the council. On the night of his death he left a note professing his faith in the filioque, purgatory, and the primacy.
The Council of Florence was never accepted by the Byzantine monks and lower clergy. John VIII vacillated about proclaiming its decrees, and many of the prelates who agreed to the union revoked their assent in the hostile atmosphere of Constantinople shortly after their return. But the new emperor, Constantine XI Palaeologus (1449–53), a Catholic, determined to carry out the union, and Cardinal Isidore, formerly of Kiev, as papal legate, solemnly proclaimed it in Hagia Sophia on Dec. 12, 1452, despite herculean efforts of the antiunionists to prevent it. At that moment, however, the sultan was determined to take the city by storm, and neither argument nor impassioned plea could avail against the grim fortress of Rumeli Hissar, built earlier that year by the Turks a few miles above Constantinople, which cut off help from the north. Six months later, May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell to Muḥammad II the Conqueror.
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