Nicholas I, Patriarch of Constantinople

views updated


Constantinople patriarchate, March 1, 901, to February 907, and c. May 15, 912, to 925; b. Constantinople, 852; d. there, May 15, 925. Nicholas was born of an Italian slave on the private estates of Patriarch photius and entered a career in the civil service; but, as a close friend of Photius, he was involved in his fall (886) and became a monk. Having been chosen as secretary (Mysticus ) by Emperor leo vi, he was appointed patriarch of Constantinople in 901. Nicholas's correspondence reveals the finer side of his complex character, his charity and forbearance in appeasing the strife over the emperor's four marriages, the so-called tetragamy; his prudence in dealing with abuses; and his zeal for converting the barbarians of Cisand Trans-Caucasia. He was deposed in 907 either for opposing Leo VI's fourth marriage or for treasonable dealings with a rebeleyewitness sources differ. Recalled either by Leo shortly before death or by Emperor Alexander (912913), Nicholas headed the board of regency for the minor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, but experienced great difficulties. By taking a savage revenge on euthymius i, who had replaced him as patriarch, he alienated many among the clergy, and he was opposed by the party in the state loyal to the Macedonian dynasty and the Queen Mother Zoë, who had been forced into a convent with Nicholas's connivance. Thus the Byzantine state was disturbed by conflict between the Nicholaites and Euthymians.

During the rise of Romanus Lecapenus (920944), Nicholas used his position as regent to arrange a marriage between his ward, Constantine VII, and Romanus's daughter Helen, and conducted a diplomatic correspondence with the Bulgarian Czar Symeon in favor of a peace treaty. He achieved a reconciliation with Euthymius before the latter's death (917) and undertook a campaign to restore unity to the Church. In a synod (920) he issued a decree of union, settling the question of more than one marriage by legislating that a second marriage was on a par with a first, that a third was subject to stringent regulations, and that a fourth was equivalent to living in sin. However, an influential group demanded the intervention of the Holy See, and Nicholas requested the pope to send legates to reassert the original decision of Pope sergius iii (904911) on Leo's fourth marriage, which, Nicholas said, had then become the decision of all (Grumel, Regestes, 675), namely, that a fourth marriage was against Byzantine law and the Byzantine sense of propriety, yet a dispensation was granted for the good of the state, the need of a settled succession in a legitimate heir. Pope john x (914928) complied, and thus in 923 he ended the schism between the Euthymians and Nicholaites. Nicholas was canonized by the Byzantine Church.

His literary remains consist of sermons on notable occasions, the decree of union, and his diplomatic letters.

Feast: May 15 (Greek Church).

Bibliography: Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 185766), 111:9392. a. mai, Spicilegium Romanum, 10 v. (Rome 183944) 10:161440. Cambridge Medieval History, 8 v. (2d, new ed. LondonNew York 1964) v. 4.1. h. g. beck, Kircheund theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Munich 1959), 550. k. baus, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Frieburg 195765) 7:995. g. moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, 2 v. (2d ed. Berlin 1958), v. 1. g. ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, tr. j. hussey from 2d German ed. (Oxford 1956); American ed. by p. charanis (New Brunswick, N.J. 1957) 190, 230236. a. a. vasiliev, A History of the Byzantine Empire (2d Eng. ed. Madison, Wis. 1952). j. darrouzÈs, ed., Epistoliers byzantins du X e siècle (Paris 1961). r. j. h. jenkins, Acta antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 11 (1963) 145147; "Three Documents Concerning the Tetragamy, " Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 16 (1962) 229241; "A Note on the Letter to the Emir of Nicholas Mysticus," ibid. 17 (1963) 399401. p. karlin-hayter, "La Préhistoire de la dernière volonté de Léon VI," Byzantion 33 (1963) 483486.

[m. j. higgins]

About this article

Nicholas I, Patriarch of Constantinople

Updated About content Print Article