Christianity in the 8th century

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Age of the Caliphs
  Expansion under Muhammad, 622–632/A.H. 1-11
  Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632–661/A.H. 11-40
  Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750/A.H. 40-129

Christianity in the 8th century was much affected by the rise of Islam in the Middle East. By the late 8th century, the Muslim empire had conquered all of Persia and parts of the Eastern Roman ( Byzantine ) territory including Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. Suddenly parts of the Christian world were under Muslim rule. Over the coming centuries the Muslim nations became some of the most powerful in the Mediterranean basin.

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, universal religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, viewed by Muslims as the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Middle East region that encompasses Western Asia and Egypt

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt. Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East beginning in the early 20th century.

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are terms created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

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Though the Roman Church had claimed religious authority over Christians in Egypt and the Levant, in reality the majority of Christians in these regions were miaphysites and other sects that had long been persecuted by Constantinople.

Diocese of Rome Diocese of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Diocese of Rome is a diocese of the Catholic Church in Rome. The Bishop of Rome is the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff and leader of the Catholic Church. As the Holy See, the papacy is a sovereign entity with diplomatic relations, and civil jurisdiction over the Vatican City State located geographically within Rome. The Diocese of Rome is the metropolitan diocese of the Province of Rome, an ecclesiastical province in Italy. The first Bishop of Rome was Saint Peter in the first century. The incumbent since 13 March 2013 is Pope Francis.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the merciful Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers, with its followers affirming that Jesus is the Logos, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures and chronicled in the New Testament.

Levant Geographic and cultural region consisting of the eastern Mediterranean between Anatolia and Egypt

The Levant is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily in Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean with its islands; that is, it included all of the countries along the Eastern Mediterranean shores, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica.

Second Council of Nicea

Andrei Rublev's Trinity Andrej Rublev 001.jpg
Andrei Rublev's Trinity

The Second Council of Nicea was called under Empress Irene in 787. It affirmed the making and veneration of icons while also forbidding the worship of icons and the making of three-dimensional statuary. It reversed the declaration of the earlier Council of Hieria that had called itself the Seventh Ecumenical Council and also nullified its status.

Irene of Athens Empress of Byzantine Empire

Irene of Athens, also known as Irene Sarantapechaina, was Byzantine empress consort by marriage to Leo IV from 775 to 780, Byzantine regent during the minority of her son Constantine VI from 780 until 790, and finally sole empress regnant of the Byzantine Empire from 797 to 802. A member of the politically prominent Sarantapechos family, she was selected as Leo IV's bride for unknown reasons in 768. Even though her husband was an iconoclast, she harbored iconophile sympathies. During her rule as regent, she called the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, which condemned iconoclasm as heretical and brought an end to the first iconoclast period (730–787).

Icon religious work of art, generally a panel painting, in Eastern Christianity

An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholic, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. The most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and angels. Although especially associated with "portrait" style images concentrating on one or two main figures, the term also covers most religious images in a variety of artistic media produced by Eastern Christianity, including narrative scenes. Icons can represent various scenes in the Bible.

The iconoclast Council of Hieria was a Christian council of 754 which viewed itself as ecumenical, but was later rejected by the medieval Catholic Church. It was summoned by the Byzantine, Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine V in 754 in the palace of Hieria opposite Constantinople. The council supported the emperor's iconoclast position in the Byzantine iconoclasm controversy, condemning the spiritual and liturgical use of iconography as heretical.

Sometime between 726–730 the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian ordered the removal of an image of Jesus prominently placed over the Chalke gate, the ceremonial entrance to the Great Palace of Constantinople, and its replacement with a cross. This was followed by orders banning the pictorial representation of the family of Christ, subsequent Christian saints, and biblical scenes. The Council of Hieria had been held under the iconoclast Emperor Constantine V. It met with more than 340 bishops at Constantinople and Hieria in 754, declaring the making of icons of Jesus or the saints an error, mainly for Christological reasons.

Leo III the Isaurian emperor of Byzantine Empire

Leo III the Isaurian, also known as the Syrian, was Byzantine Emperor from 717 until his death in 741 who founded the Isaurian dynasty. He put an end to the Twenty Years' Anarchy, a period of great instability in the Byzantine Empire between 695 and 717, marked by the rapid succession of several emperors to the throne. He also successfully defended the Empire against the invading Umayyads and forbade the veneration of icons.

Chalke

The Chalke Gate, was the main ceremonial entrance (vestibule) to the Great Palace of Constantinople in the Byzantine period. The name, which means "the Bronze Gate", was given to it either because of the bronze portals or from the gilded bronze tiles used in its roof. The interior was lavishly decorated with marble and mosaics, and the exterior façade featured a number of statues. Most prominent was an icon of Christ which became a major iconodule symbol during the Byzantine Iconoclasm, and a chapel dedicated to the Christ Chalkites was erected in the 10th century next to the gate. The gate itself seems to have been demolished in the 13th century, but the chapel survived until the early 19th century.

Great Palace of Constantinople Byzantine imperial palace complex

The Great Palace of Constantinople, also known as the Sacred Palace, was the large Imperial Byzantine palace complex located in the south-eastern end of the peninsula now known as Old Istanbul, in modern Turkey. It served as the main royal residence of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine emperors from 330 to 1081 and was the center of imperial administration for over 690 years. Only a few remnants and fragments of its foundations have survived into the present day.

Iconoclasm

Iconoclasm was a movement within the Eastern Christian Byzantine church to establish that the Christian culture of portraits of the family of Christ and subsequent Christians and biblical scenes were not of a Christian origin and therefore heretical. [1] This movement was later defined as heretical under the council. The group destroyed much of the Christian churches' art history, which is needed in addressing the traditional interruptions of the Christian faith and the artistic works that in the early church were devoted to Jesus Christ or God. Many works were destroyed during this period. [2]

Iconoclasm the destruction of religious icons

Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons. People who engage in or support iconoclasm are called iconoclasts, a term that has come to be figuratively applied to any individual who challenges "cherished beliefs or venerated institutions on the grounds that they are erroneous or pernicious".

Two prototypes of icons would be the Christ Pantocrator and the Icon of the Hodegetria. In the West the tradition of icons have been seen as the veneration of "graven images" or against "no graven images" as noted in Exodus 20:4. From the Orthodox point of view graven then would be engraved or carved. Thus this restriction would include many of the ornaments that Moses was commanded to create in the passages right after the commandment was given i.e. the carving of cherubim Exodus 26:1. The commandment as understood by such out of context interpretation would mean "no carved images". This would include the cross and other holy artifacts. The commandment in the East is understood that the people of God are not to create idols and then worship them. It is "right worship" to worship which is of God, which is Holy and that alone. [3]

Christ Pantocrator depiction of Christ

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantocrator is a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator or Pantokrator is, used in this context, derived from of one of many names of God in Judaism.

Idolatry idol worship, any reverence of an image, statue or icon

Idolatry literally means the worship of an "idol", also known as a worship cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue. In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God. In these and several other monotheistic religions, idolatry has been considered as the "worship of false gods" and is forbidden. In many Indian religions, such as theistic and non-theistic forms of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, idols (murti) are considered as symbolism for the absolute but not The Absolute, or icons of spiritual ideas, or the embodiment of the divine. It is a means to focus one's religious pursuits and worship (bhakti). In the traditional religions of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa, Asia, the Americas and elsewhere, the reverence of an image or statue has been a common practice, and cult images have carried different meanings and significance.

John of Damascus John-of-Damascus 01.jpg
John of Damascus
9th-century depiction of Charles the Bald with popes Gelasius I and Gregory the Great Couronnement d'un prince - Sacramentaire de Charles le Chauve Lat1141 f2v.jpg
9th-century depiction of Charles the Bald with popes Gelasius I and Gregory the Great

John of Damascus

In the Roman Catholic Church, St. John of Damascus, who lived in the 8th century, is generally considered to be the last of the Church Fathers and at the same time the first seed of the next period of church writers, scholasticism.

Tensions between East and West

In the early 8th century, Byzantine iconoclasm became a major source of conflict between the Eastern and Western parts of the Church. Byzantine emperors forbade the creation and veneration of religious images. Other major religions in the East such as Judaism and Islam had similar prohibitions. Pope Gregory III vehemently disagreed [4]

Spread of Christianity

Anglo Saxons

The Germanic peoples underwent gradual Christianization in the course of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. By the 8th century, most of Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire was de jure Christian.

In the 8th century, the Franks became standard-bearers of Roman Catholic Christianity in Western Europe, waging wars on its behalf against Arian Christians, Islamic invaders, and pagan Germanic peoples such as the Saxons and Frisians. Until 1066, when the Dane and the Norse had lost their foothold in Britain, theological and missionary work in Germany was largely organized by Anglo-Saxon missionaries, with mixed success. A key event was the felling of Thor's Oak near Fritzlar by Boniface, apostle of the Germans, in 723.

Eventually, the conversion was imposed by armed force and successfully completed by Charlemagne and the Franks in a series of campaigns, starting in 772 with the destruction of their Irminsul and culminating in the defeat and massacre of Saxon leaders at the Bloody Verdict of Verden in 782 and the subjugation of this large tribe.

Frankish Empire

Charlemagne, the Frankish monarch who unified much of Western Europe and re-established the authority of the Roman Church in the West Image-Charlemagne-by-Durer.jpg
Charlemagne, the Frankish monarch who unified much of Western Europe and re-established the authority of the Roman Church in the West

By the 8th century, the Frankish Kingdom, a Germanic kingdom that had originated east of the Rhine, ruled much of western Europe, particularly in what is now France and Germany. The first Frankish king, Clovis had joined the Roman Church in 496 and since that time the Franks had been part of the Church. In 768 Charles, son of King Pepin the Short, succeeded to the Frankish throne. During the 770s Charles the conquered the Lombards in Italy extending the Frankish realm over almost all of Italy. On Christmas Day in 800, the Roman Patriarch Leo III crowned Charles as the Roman Emperor, in essence denying the status of the Roman Empress Irene, reigning in Constantinople. This act caused a substantial diplomatic rift between the Franks and the Eastern Romans, as well as between Rome and the other patriarchs in the East.

Christian missionaries to the Frankish Empire include:

Scandinavia

Although the Scandinavians became nominally Christian in the 8th century, it took considerably longer for actual Christian beliefs to become established among the people. [5] The old indigenous traditions that had provided security and structure since time immemorial were challenged by ideas that were unfamiliar, such as original sin, the Immaculate Conception, the Trinity and so forth [5] Archaeological excavations of burial sites on the island of Lovön near modern-day Stockholm have shown that the actual Christianization of the people was very slow and took at least 150–200 years, [6] and this was a very central location in the Swedish kingdom. At this time, enough knowledge of Norse mythology remained to be preserved in sources such as the Eddas in Iceland.

Netherlands and non-Frankish Germany

In 698 the Northumbrian Benedictine monk, Saint Willibrord was commissioned by Pope Sergius I as bishop of the Frisians in what is now the Netherlands. Willibrord established a church in Utrecht.

Much of Willibrord's work was wiped out when the pagan Radbod, king of the Frisians destroyed many Christian centres between 716 and 719. In 717, the English missionary Boniface was sent to aid Willibrord, re-establishing churches in Frisia and continuing to preach throughout the pagan lands of Germany. Boniface was killed by pagans in 754.

China

The Nestorian Stele was constructed in 781 as a monument to 150 years of early Christianity in China. It was buried in the ninth century during religious suppression and lay underground until it was discovered in 1625. The top of the monument is adorned not only with a cross but also with the Buddhist emblem of the lotus and the Taoist symbol of the cloud. The writer of the inscription was Jingjing (monk), a monk of the "Luminous Religion,"as well as Buddhism and the calligraphist was Huangbo Xiyun (these two are thought to have later collaborated on some Buddhist writing). It's unclear whether they were commentators or followers of Christianity.

Christianity and Islam

Missionary expansion

Once the Christian faith had been established in the valleys of the Oxus and Jaxartes Rivers, it was easily carried further east into the basin of the Tarim River, then into the area north of the Tien Shan Mountains, and finally down into far northwest China, above Tibet. This was the principal caravan route, and with so many Christians engaged in the trade it was natural that the gospel was early planted in the towns and cities which were caravan centers. The Mesopotamian patriarch in the 8th century wrote that he was appointing a metropolitan for Tibet, implying that their churches were numerous enough to require bishops and lesser clergy. Thus Christians were to be found in Xinjiang, and possibly in Tibet, as early as the 9th century. But it was not until the beginning of the 11th century that the faith spread among the nomadic peoples of this and other central Asian regions. These Christians were chiefly Turko-Tatar peoples, including the Keraites, Onguts, Uyghurs, Naimans, Merkits, and Mongols.

Iberian Peninsula and the Reconquista

The interiors of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain decorated with arabesque designs. Adolf Seel Innenhof der Alhambra.jpg
The interiors of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain decorated with arabesque designs.

Between 711–718 the Iberian peninsula had been conquered by Muslims in the Umayyad conquest of Hispania; between 722 and 1492 the Christian kingdoms that later would become Spain and Portugal reconquered it from the Moorish states of Al-Ándalus. The notorious Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition were not installed until 1478 and 1536 when the Reconquista was already (mostly) completed.

The Arabs, under the command of the Berber General Tarik ibn Ziyad, first began their conquest of southern Spain or al-Andalus in 711. A raiding party led by Tarik was sent to intervene in a civil war in the Visigothic kingdomin Hispania. Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, it won a decisive victory in the summer of 711 when the Visigothic king Roderic was defeated and killed on July 19 at the Battle of Guadalete. Tariq's commander, Musa bin Nusair quickly crossed with substantial reinforcements, and by 718 the Muslims dominated most of the peninsula. There are some later Arabic and Christian sources present an earlier raid by a certain Ṭārif in 710 and one, the Ad Sebastianum recension of the Chronicle of Alfonso III, refers to an Arab attack incited by Erwig during the reign of Wamba (672680). and two reasonably large armies may have been in the south for a year before the decisive battle was fought. [7]

The rulers of Al-Andalus were granted the rank of Emir by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I in Damascus. After the Abbasids came to power in the Middle East, some Umayyads fled to Muslim Spain to establish themselves there.



Timeline

8th century Timeline


See also

Notes and references

  1. Epitome, Iconoclast Council at Hieria, 754
  2. Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann: Byzantium, Iconoclasm and the Monks
  3. No Graven Image
  4. Vidmar, Jedin 34
  5. 1 2 Schön 2004, 170
  6. Schön 2004, 172
  7. Collins (2004), 139.
  8. Tucker, 2004, p. 55
  9. Neill, p. 64
  10. Moreau, p. 467
  11. Herzog, p. 351
  12. Neill, Stephen A History of Christian Missions, p. 82, Penguin Books, 1986
  13. Herbermann, p. 415

Further reading

History of Christianity: The Middle Ages
Preceded by:
Christianity in
the 7th century
8th
century
Followed by:
Christianity in
the 9th century
BC 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st

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