Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople
MICHAEL CERULARIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Patriarchate, Mar. 25, 1043, to his exile, Nov. 1058;d. Jan. 21, 1059. The supposed author of the eastern schism, Michael came from a distinguished family of Constantinople, was educated for the civil service, and never acquired any real knowledge of ecclesiastical studies. Nevertheless, he had a lofty concept of his office, regarding the spiritual ruler above the temporal, a theory influenced by the thought of symeon the new theologian. Since he was a controversial figure in his own lifetime, even the contemporary sources are contradictory. When in 1040 a plot against Emperor Michael IV was discovered, Cerularius was accused by some sources of leading it, and by humbert of silva candida in Excommunication of having become a monk to escape punishment; others stated that he was guiltless and entered religion freely. At the accession of Emperor constantine ix, who had taken part in the conspiracy, Cerularius became syncellus, virtual successor-designate to the patriarch, and the emperor's most trusted adviser. Succeeding to the See of constantinople in 1043, he broke with Constantine over the question of submission to Rome.
The byzantine church, separated from Rome since 1009, had, by the middle of the eleventh century, lost all belief in the primacy—did not even recognize, in fact, that Rome had ever made such a claim—and, though it conceded in principle that all five patriarchates were equal and independent, regarded Constantinople as the foremost see in Christendom. At first, Cerularius proposed reunion with Rome, thinking that he was dealing with the pope as an equal. He was shocked when confronted with the demand of the legates (he thought them demented, cf. Epistola ad Petrum, Will, 183–184), backed by the emperor, that he acknowledge the primacy of Rome. This demand ran counter to his convictions, and he was excommunicated by the legates, but after the death of the pope. [The question of the excommunication has since been reconsidered in light of the ecumenical movement growing out of vatican council ii. See the joint statement of Pope Paul and Athenagoras, Patriarch of Constantinas, Patriarch of Constantinople, on Dec. 7, 1965 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, [Rome 1919–]58.1:2021).] In consonance with his theory of the supremacy of the spiritual, Cerularius fought the temporal power. He enjoyed tremendous popularity in Constantinople, and knowing well how to sway the mob, he forced Constantine to an abject surrender.
Thereafter he exercised unchallenged authority in the capital—an unparalleled position for a patriarch in Byzantine history—but he did so in the public interest. Boldly, he told Empress Theodora that sole rule by a woman jeopardized the Byzantine state and that she should appoint an emperor (his frankness very nearly cost him his life; cf. Psellus, Chron. 6.17), and he played the decisive role in the deposition of the weak Emperor Michael VI and the crowning of the able Isaac I Comnenus. As a reward, Cerularius gained control over all revenues and appointments in hagia sophia, but he gradually became overbearing, as even the friendly sources relate, and the ensuing struggle for power was fatal to emperor and patriarch.
According to the testimony of an eyewitness, Cerularius's right hand remained incorrupt after his death. Immediately he won renown throughout the East for sanctity as a confessor, and in Constantinople he received a popular cult, made official the next year. Among the patriarchs of Constantinople he is unique; no other ever attained such power. He was not without defects: he was weak in theology, violent and uncompromising, vindictive, and corrupted by power in his last years. But he had great personal courage and a high sense of duty, as proven by the risk he took in admonishing Theodora. In the quarrel with Cardinal Humbert and the emperor, he fought bravely and resourcefully and in all good faith for what he considered the preservation of true doctrine. It was his misfortune to have served the wrong cause; but modern historians who condemn him seem not to make allowance for his psychological background. Cerularius is an early counterpart of Patriarch joseph i, who rejected the union of the Council of Lyons, with this difference: while Joseph resigned, Cerularius fought.
Bibliography: Works. Panoplia. ed. a. michel, Humbert und Kerullarios, 2 v. (Paderborn 1924–30) 2:208–281, title given by Michel to an anonymous collection of texts, which he ascribes with the approval of most scholars to Cerularius. It contains C.'s speeches and pamphlets against union, with pertinent anathemas. Destined for use as an abjuration-of-heresy formula, it was published in the summer of 1054. Semeioma, ed. c. will, Acta et scripta quae de còntroversiis ecclesiae graecae et latinae s. XI composita extant (Leipzig and Marburg 1861) 155–168; Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 120:736–748, answering Humbert's excommunication. Two letters to Peter of Antioch: Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 120:781–796, 815–820; c. will, op. cit., 172–188. m. psellus, Chronographia, Eng. tr. e. r. a. sewter (New Haven 1953). l. brÉhier, "Un Discours inédit de Psellos: Accusation du patriarche M. C. devant le synode," Revue Grégorienne 16 (1903): 375–416; 17 (1904): 35–76. Literature. e. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50) 10:1677–1703. m. jugie, Le Schisme byzantin (Paris 1941) 187–234, esp. 220–223, 229–231. a. michel, Die Kaisermacht in der Ostkirche (Darmstadt 1959). h. g. beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich, 533–538, passim. f. dvornik, Cambridge Medieval History, 8 v. (London-New York 1991) 2: 4.1 ch. 10.
[m. j. higgins]