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Milton V. Anastos

Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

17. Photius, the Constantinopolitan Council of 861, and the Byzantine position regarding appeals to Rome

This great injustice to Photius has now been rectified by Dvornik's courageous
book, and his findings agree at a few points with the conclusions of other Catholic scholars like Grumel and Gordillo, who have made important contributions to Photian studies. Ιn the Byzantine tradition, of course, the name of Photius has never been anything but glorious, and his criticism of Roman dogma and practice proved in later years to be among the most powerful weapons in the armoury of Byzantine anti-Latin polemics
It is for this reason that many Roman Catholic scholars(149) still insist that, despite everything which can be said in his favour, Photius was fundamentally an enemy of the Roman see, and sought to subordinate Rome and the whole of the Church to the partriarchate of Constantinople. This Roman hostility to Photius stems in part from the assumption that he was the author of a treatise directed against acknowledgment of the primacy of Rome.(150) Many authorities deny that this work can be attributed to Photius.

Nevertheless, it is agreed by all that Photius was a stern and resourceful adversary, as he showed when he anathematised Pope Nicholas Ι in 867; and there is no doubt that in a section of the Epanagoge (a proposed code of law) for which he was responsible, he claimed the exclusive right as patriarch to define and interpret Christian dogma. But his assertion of this privilege was intended to apply only to the Byzantine Church (with specific reference to its relations with the emperor), not to the Church as a whole, or to Rome. Even so, these provisions never went into effect, nor did control of Byzantine ecclesiastical policy ever slip from the hands of the emperors at any time during the patriarchate of Photius, who, it will not be forgotten, was twice forced by his imperial masters to vacate the patriarchal throne. Similarly, the first title (c.4) of Photius's digest of canon law (Nomocanon xiv titulorum), which declares Constantinople to be the head of all the churches on the basis of a number of citations from Justinian's Corpus iuris civilis (Cod.Just. 12.6, 16.l, 24 pr.), refers to the primacy of the church of the imperial city over the eastern half of the Empire and was not intended to include Rome.(l51)

Moreover, in one important respect, it has been argued,(152) Photius exhibited unique and otherwise unexampled deference to Rome. For he is the only patriarch
of Constantinople who ever permitted the pope of Rome (through the latter's two legates, Bishops Radoald of Porto and Zachariah of Anagni) to render judgment upon a decision of a Byzantine synod. Many disgruntled clerics in the Eastern Church had appealed to Rome. But this was the first and only time that the emperor and his patriarch had given the Roman pope an opportunity to pass upon the validity of a Byzantine conciliar decree, in this instance that of the Constantinopolitan Council of 859,(153) which had deposed Photius's predecessor, Ignatius, after the latter's followers revolted against Photius and declared Ignatius restored to the patriarchal throne.

The procedure in this case, at the Council of 861, which was held in Constantinople,
is therefore of great interest, and deserves careful examination. Actually, the events of 861 involved only a minimal concession to papal authority, as we shall see, and cannot be regarded as providing a precedent that would authorize the pope to intervene in the local affairs of the Byzantine Church as the papal envoys asserted that he could. For no Byzantine emperor, with whom the final word in these matters always rested, would ever have consented to such an arrangement. The most that the Byzantines would tolerate, as in the Council of 861, was a purely nominal intervention by a papal delegation which could be depended upon to do no more than approve the measures the Byzantine Church had already adopted. But they would never have taken the risk of exposing themselves to an adverse ruling from Rome.

At the Council of 861, the Emperor Michael ΙΙΙ deigned to submit the deposition of Ignatius to re-examination by Rome only because he and Photius needed an ally in their contest with the deposed patriarch, whose supporters were proving refractory.(154) As Pope Nicholas remarked in a letter he wrote to the Emperor Michael in 865, the Byzantine government had asked for envoys in 860 (the reference is to Radoald and Zachariah) only to secure universal confirmation of its own judgment in condemning Ignatius.(155) Ιn addition, Michael must have known in advance that the two papal legates would cast their votes in his favour.

The sources on this episode are scanty, and are greatly disfigured by bias of one sort or another. Most of them, including the Liber pontificalis, are hostile to Photius and the Emperor. The most reliable of the available materials is a synopsis of the Acts of the Council,(156) which is extant only in Latin, and is stated by the Liber pontificalis to have been compiled by Radoald and Zachariah.(157) Since this document was delivered to Rome by an imperial official (named Leo), we may presume that it represented the Byzantine version of what took place at the Council. But it is reasonable to suppose that the two papal legates had a free hand in preparing the Latin translation, and took special pains to exhibit their behaviour in such a way as to exculpate themselves in the eyes of the Pope, who had expressly forbidden them to render a verdict in the matter of Ignatius or to do any more than collect information and report back tο him.(158) However this may be, the Acts so prepared, presumably in the form known to us, were available to Pope Nicholas Ι and the author of the life of Nicholas in the Liber pontificalis.(159)

From the Ignatian sources we learn that, when Radoald and Zachariah reached Byzantine territory, they were presented with fine garments and jewels (enkolpia=pectoral crosses, made, we may suspect, of gold or silver, and adorned with precious gems), entertained at dinner by Photius, (160) and kept from communicating with the Greek people(161) for several months (from before Christmas 860 until nearly Easter 861, which fell οn April 6). Even if there was nο actual bribery, as the Liber pontificalis and the partisans of Ignatius contend there was,(162) it can hardly be doubted that in the course of this lengthy period of isolation, Emperor and Patriarch managed tο suggest to their Roman guests how their inquiry should be conducted and what conclusions they should reach.(163)

Under these circumstances, however honourable and incorruptible they might have been, the papal legates could not have failed to acquire a strong prejudice against Ignatius, exactly as Photius wished.(164) Ignatius, who had himself made nο appeal to Rome,(165) felt this very strongly, and complained, we learn from the Acts of the Council, that the papal legates had prejudged the case against him (as indeed their οwn words seem to indicate).

According to the same source, the papal delegates declared,(166) in answer to a question by Ignatius, that they and the Council would serve as his judges (nos et sancta synodus iudices sumus). This obviously meant that the two envoys from Rome could always be outvoted, and that the final disposition of the case, as the canons of Sardica provided, would necessarily remain securely in the hands of the members of the Council, which consisted in this instance largely of carefully selected pro-Photian bishops and imperial officials.

This impression is apparently confirmed by the fact that the papal legates accepted the verdict of the Council without question. Moreover, so far as we can tell from the extant summary of the proceedings, in pronouncing judgment, the legates based their condemnation of Ignatius, in the end, largely upοn the hostile testimony of seventy-two Byzantine patricii (=high imperial officers) and senators.(167) The fact that all seventy-two of these witnesses against Ignatius are stated to have been secular officials, and none a bishop, is in itself extraordinary.

It is also significant that, in opening the Council, the Emperor announced that the question of Ignatius's deposition had been settled, but that, out of respect
for "the holy Roman Church and the most holy Pope Nicholas," he would "permit" it to be reopened if the Roman envoys would settle the matter in Constantinople, without going back to Rome for consultation.(168) This pronouncement, which was repeated several times during the proceedings in somewhat different words by a number οf other Byzantine dignitaries,(169) demonstrates that the privilege given Nicholas's agents in 861 to re-examine the condemnation of Ignatius was altogether exceptional, and in no wise to be regarded as a right to which the see of Rome was normally entitled.

The Roman envoys repeatedly insisted that the functions they were exercising
in the Council derived from the role of the pope as defined by the canons of Sardica. It is not surprising that they emphasized this point. But it is all the more significant that the record shows no more enthusiastic endorsement by a Byzantine prelate of the Roman theory about the Sardican canons than the words with which Bishop Theodore of Laodicea responded to the claim of the legates(170) that the pope of Rome was authorized by the Council of Sardica to re-examine the case of any bishop whatsoever (renovare causam cuiuslibet episcopi), and that they therefore wished (volumus) to investigate the affair of Ignatius. Replying thereto, Theodore said, "Our church rejoices in this, and makes no objection or complaint" (Et aecclesia [sic] nostra gaudet in hoc et nulla habet contradictionem aut tristitiam).(171) This may, perhaps, be taken as approval of the Roman interpretation of Sardica, or, more narrowly, only as acquiescence in the presence of the two legates at the Council.

Βut it was far from completely satisfying from the Roman point of view, and the papal legates themselves understood, as their own words show,(172) that, so far as Byzantium was concerned, their participation in the Council of 861 depended upon the Emperor's consent. For this reason they offered thanks to God that the Emperor and the Byzantine bishops had permitted them and the Pope to serve as judges in this case. They would hardly have expressed themselves in this way if they had believed that they were serving as instruments for the execution of canons whose relevance and application were automatic or unquestioned. The Supreme Court has no reason to express gratitude because litigants submit themselves to its jurisdiction.

If Photius had in fact recognized the Council of 861 as part of proceedings held pursuant to the Sardican canons, it is strange that Pope Nicholas Ι, who had access(173) to the same Acts of the Council which form the basis of our knowledge of this episode, should have continued to berate Photius, as he did in 866,(174) for refusing tο admit that the Byzantine Church had ever accepted these canons. Surely, his envoys would have boasted to him of their triumph in persuading the Byzantines to accept the principle, and he could not have refrained from alluding to such a concession on the part of Photius when he was reciting evidence to prove that Byzantium had endorsed the Sardican canons.(175)

Hence, we are bound to conclude that the statement of Theodore of Laodicea, quoted
above, even if genuine and not a fabrication intended by some zealot to mollify the Pope, was of very limited scope, and cannot be taken to be representative of the Byzantine Church as a whole.


149. - Ρ. Stephanou, loc. cit. (in note 148 above), 17-23; Κ. Bonis, Berichte zum ΧI Int. Byz.-Kongress (cited in note 140 above), Korreferate, IIΙ, 2, pp. 24-26; Ρ Stephanou, "La violation du compromis entre Photius et les Ignatiens," OrChrP, 21 (1955), 291-307; idem, "Les débuts de la querelle photienne vus de Rome et de Byzance," ibid., 18 (1952), 270-80; V Grumel, "Le schisme de Grégoire de Syracuse," ΕΟ, 39 (1940-42), 257-67; idem, "La genèse du schisme photien," SBN, 5 (1939), 177-85; Franz Dölger, "Rom in der Gedankenwelt der Byzantiner" (cited in note 6 above), 32 f., nn. 57 f; idem, "Europas Gestaltung" (cited in note 132 above), both reprinted in idem, Byzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt, 103 f., 312 ff.; idem, in idem and Α. Μ. Schneider, Byzanz (Munich, 1952), 134-38.

150. -Mauricius Gordillo argues that this treatise was not written by Photius but by an anonymous: "Photius et primatus romanus," OrChrP, 6 (1940), 5-39; Dvornik agrees. Contra are Franz Dölger, in his review, ΒΖ, 40 (1940), 522-25; idem, "Rom in der Gedankenwelt der Byzantiner" (cited in note 6 above), 40 (112 f); Μ. Jugie, "L'opuscule contre la primauté romaine attribué à Photius," in Mélanges L. Vaganay (Faculté Catholique de Lyon, Etudes de cririque et d'histoire religieuses, 2 [Lyon, 1948]), 43-66; idem, Le schisme byzantin, 136 ff.; Bonis, loc. cit. (in note 149 above), 25; Ambrosius Esser, ΕΟ, 9 (1960), 40; Beck, Kirche, 522 ("probably" by Photius); Μ. Jugie, "Photius et la primauté de Saint Pierre et du Pape," Bessarione, 35 (1919), 121-30; 36 (1920), 16-76, discusses Photius's varying statements on papal primacy, largely on the basis of this treatise.

151. - Epanagoge, edd. J. and Ρ Zepos, Jus graecoromanum, 2 (Athens, 1931), 229-368, on which see J. Scharf, "Quellenstudien zum Prooimion der Epanagoge;" ΒΖ, 52 (1959), 68-81; idem, "Photios und die Epanagoge," ΒΖ, 49 (1956), 385-400; Franz Dölger, "Rom in der Gedankenwelt der Byzantiner" (cited in note 6 above), 32 f., note 51 f.; Νomocanon XIV titulorum, ed. Ι. Β. Pitra, Iuris ecclesiastics Graecorum historia et monumenta, 2 (Rome, 1868), 462.

152. - Dvornik, Ρhotian schism, 67 ff., 70, 90, 109; idem, "The Patriarch Photius" (cited in note 140 above), 20, 21 ff, 23 f.

153. - Dvornik, Photian schism, 53 ff., 58-63, 80.

154. - Stephanou, Berichte zum ΧΙ. Int. Byz.-Kongress (cited in note 140 above), Korreferate, III, 2, pp. 17 ff., gives a somewhat different interpretation of the behaviour of Ignatius after 858.

155. - Nicholas, Εp. 88, MGH Epist., 6, Karolini aevi, 4, 472.29-31.

156. - Edited by Victor Wolf von Glanvell, Die Kanonessammlung des Kardinals Deusdedit (Paderbom, 1905), docs. 428-31, pp. 603-10; cf. Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, 2, 169 n. 35. The pro-Ignatian sources are numerous, including the letters of Pope Nicholas Ι (especially 91, 92, and 98), the account in the Liber pontificalis, and the statements by Ignatius's close associates (Mansi, Concilia, 16, 237 Β-240 Ε, 293-301). See Dvornik, Ρhotian schism, 70-90. Since Hefele Leclercq, Conciles, 4, 1 (1911), 275 ff., and Hergenröther, Photius, 1, 420-38, were unaware of the existence of the Latin version of the Acts of 861 and rely solely on the anti-Photian sources, Ι ignore their treatment of the episode, although the texts they use, which cannot be completely untrustworthy, support my analysis.

157. - Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, 2, 158.30 f.: "in gestis Constantinopolim ab illis [i.e., by the two envoys] compilatis facile repperitur."

158. - Εpp. 83, 91, and 98, MGH Epist., 6, Κarolini aevi, 4, 440.16 ff., 514.30 ff., 554.24-38, 556.23-537.10, 559.16-31, etc.; Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, 2, 155.6 ff., 158.23-159.4.

159. - Εpp. 91 and 98. op. cit., 516.8-17, 555.8-11, 556.37 ff.; Liber pontifιcalis, ed. Duchesne, 2, 158.28-31. Cf. Dvornik, Photian schism, 97, 99, 301.

160. - So says the monk Theognostus, a partisan of Ignatius, but his testimony on this point is hardly to be questioned: Mansi, Concilia, 16, 297 D.

161. - MGH Epist., 6, Karolini aevi, 4, 451.8-23; see Dvornik, Photian schism, 77 f. The date for Easter is taken from Hans Lietzmann and Kurt Aland, Zeitrechnung der römischen Kaiserzeit, des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit für die Jahre 1-2000 nach Christus, 3d ed. (Berlin, 1956), 38.

162. - Pope Nicholas, Εpp. 91, 98, MGH Epist., 6, Karolini aevi, 4, 476 n. 7, 517.6-18, 556.15-29, merely says that there was a rumour that his envoys had been bribed; cf. Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, 2, 155.5 ff., 158.23-159.1; Mansi, Concilia,16, 245Β, 297D. Dvornik rejects all these sources as prejudiced. The forty horses and the silver mentioned in Liber pontificalis, 2, 180.8-13, do not refer to Radoald and Zachariah, but to another and later group of ambassadors.

163. - Ι leave out of account the letters of Pope Nicholas (Εp. 90, MGH Epist., 6, Karolini aevi, 4, 490.44-492.12; cf. Εp. 86, ibid., 451.8-23) and the statement of Nicetas in his Vita Ignatii (Mansi, Concilia, 16, 246), both of whom maintain that, during this period of confinement, the legates were threatened and intimidated until they agreed to disregard the Pope's injunctions and proceed in the manner suggested by the Emperor Michael.

164. - Glanvell, 603.23 ff., 604.2, 607.12-21, 26-33; 608.1-10 (where Ignatius questions the authority of the papal legates).

165. - Ibid., 603.29 f., 604.3 ff., 609.3 ff., 607.12 (Ignatius says he had not appealed to Rome).

166. - Ibid., 607.26 f.

167. - Ibid., 608.33 ff, 609.2 ff., 14-610.5, n.b. 609.22 f.: "Et obliti [= oblati] sunt patricii VIII et alii de senatu usque ad LXXII."

168. - Ibid., 603.7 ff.: "imperator dixit: 'Oportuerat quidem de Ignatio nullam iam fieri questionem, qui pro manifestis culpis depositus est, set [sic] honorantes sanctam Romanorum ecclesiam et sanctissimum papam Nicolaum in uicariis suis permittimus, que de eo sunt, iterum uentilare:' " N.b. the effect of the italicized words, which Dvornik, Photian schism, 78, 89, rightly stresses.

Note other statements by the Emperor (Glanvell, op. cit., 607.34 f., 608.11 f.) and Bardas (ibid., 608.13 ff.) that they "received" (habeo, recipit, etc.), i.e., accepted, the Roman legates and the Pope as judges.

169. - Glanvell, 603.10-14, 17-20; 605.14-16, 20-22, 26 f.; cf. 606.24-26; 608.11 ff; cf 609.19 f., 25 ff.

170. - Ibid., 605.22-27.

171. - Ibid., 605.26 f.

172. - Ibid., 604.9 f.: "Licet nobis et potestatem habemus ab apostolico et imperatore iustum iudicare iudicium." Ibid., 608.15 f.: "Gratias agimus deo, quia imperator et uos et omnes uenerabiles episcopi recipiunt nos iudices et dominum papam."

173. - See texts cited in note 159 above.

174. - Εp. 92, MGH Εpist., 6, Karolini aevi, 4, 537.28-538.10. The texts are reprinted by Μ. Gordillo, OrChrP, 6 (1940), 34 f.

175. - Εp. 92 (note 174 above). It might, perhaps, be argued that Nicholas preferred to ignore what he fully realized was an example of Byzantine submission to Rome in 861 because he was dissatisfied with the results his envoys brought home from Constantinople, and wished to reinstate Ignatius to the patriarchal throne. In that case, however, he might well have emphasized Byzantine acceptance of the papal right to hear appeals and deplored the errors committed by Radoald and Zachariah. It is interesting also that he brushes aside the Emperor Michael's remark, which he quotes in 865 (Εp. 88, MGH Epist., 6, Karolinι aevi, 4, 457.2 ff., 34 ff, 458.1-459.4), that no Byzantine emperor since the Sixth Oecumenical Council had honoured the papacy so much as he had when he asked the Roman legates to pass on the deposition of Ignatius. On this point see Dvornik, Ρhοtian schism, 104-7. Stephanou will not grant that the Byzantine Church was autonomous in the ninth century, and, like Pope Nicholas, rejects the suggestion that the Byzantines made "concessions" to Rome in 861, arguing in effect that Constantinople had no choice in 861 but to submit to Roman jurisdiction. The sources, it must be admitted, present the situation in a different light.

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