State church of the Roman Empire

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Missorium of Emperor Theodosius I, who made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Disco o Missorium Teodosio MPLdC.jpg
Missorium of Emperor Theodosius I, who made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire.

With the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD, Emperor Theodosius I made Nicene Christianity the Empire's state religion. [1] [2] The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Catholic Church each claim to stand in continuity with the church to which Theodosius granted recognition, but do not look on it as specific to the Roman Empire.

The Edict of Thessalonica, issued on 27 February AD 380 by three reigning Roman Emperors, made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire.

Theodosius I Roman emperor

Theodosius I, also known as Theodosius the Great, was a Roman Emperor from 379 to 395, and the last emperor to rule over both the Eastern and the Western halves of the Roman Empire. On accepting his elevation, he campaigned against Goths and other barbarians who had invaded the Empire. His resources were not sufficient to destroy them or drive them out, which had been Roman policy for centuries in dealing with invaders. By treaty, which followed his indecisive victory at the end of the Gothic War, they were established as foederati, autonomous allies of the Empire, south of the Danube, in Illyricum, within the Empire's borders. They were given lands and allowed to remain under their own leaders, a grave departure from Roman hegemonic ways. This turn away from traditional policies was accommodationist and had grave consequences for the Western Empire from the beginning of the century, as the Romans found themselves with the impossible task of defending the borders and dealing with unruly federates within. Theodosius I was obliged to fight two destructive civil wars, successively defeating the usurpers Magnus Maximus in 387–388 and Eugenius in 394, though not without material cost to the power of the Empire.

First Council of Nicaea council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in 325

The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.

Contents

Earlier in the 4th century, following the Diocletianic Persecution of 303–313 and the Donatist controversy that arose in consequence, Constantine had convened councils of bishops to define the orthodoxy of the Christian faith, expanding on earlier Christian councils. A series of ecumenical councils convened by successive emperors met during the 4th and 5th centuries, but Christianity continued to suffer rifts and schisms surrounding the issues of Arianism, Nestorianism, and Miaphysitism. In the 5th century, the Western Empire decayed as a polity: invaders sacked Rome in 410 and in 455, and Odoacer, an Arian barbarian warlord, forced Romulus Augustus, the last nominal Western Emperor, to abdicate in 476. However, apart from the aforementioned schisms, the church as an institution persisted in communion, if not without tension, between the east and west. In the 6th century the Byzantine armies of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I recovered Italy and other sections of the western Mediterranean shore. The Eastern Roman Empire soon lost most of these gains, but it held Rome, as part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, until 751, a period known in church history as the Byzantine Papacy. The Muslim conquests of the 7th century would begin a process of converting most of the then-Christian world in West Asia and North Africa to Islam, severely restricting the reach both of the Byzantine Empire and of its church. Missionary activity directed from Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, did not lead to a lasting expansion of the formal link between the church and the Byzantine emperor, since areas outside the empire's political and military control set up their own distinct churches, as in the case of Bulgaria in 919.

Diocletianic Persecution

The Diocletianic or Great Persecution was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In 303, the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding Christians' legal rights and demanding that they comply with traditional religious practices. Later edicts targeted the clergy and demanded universal sacrifice, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the gods. The persecution varied in intensity across the empire—weakest in Gaul and Britain, where only the first edict was applied, and strongest in the Eastern provinces. Persecutory laws were nullified by different emperors at different times, but Constantine and Licinius's Edict of Milan (313) has traditionally marked the end of the persecution.

Donatism was a heresy leading to schism in the Church of Carthage from the fourth to the sixth centuries AD. Donatists argued that Christian clergy must be faultless for their ministry to be effective and their prayers and sacraments to be valid. Donatism had its roots in the long-established Christian community of the Roman Africa province in the persecutions of Christians under Diocletian. Named after the Berber Christian bishop Donatus Magnus, Donatism flourished during the fourth and fifth centuries.

Constantine the Great Roman emperor

Constantine the Great, also known as Constantine I, was a Roman Emperor who ruled between 306 and 337 AD. Born in Naissus, in Dacia Ripensis, city now known as Niš, he was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman Army officer of Illyrian origins. His mother Helena was Greek. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west, in 293 AD. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under Emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia (Britain). Constantine was acclaimed as emperor by the army at Eboracum after his father's death in 306 AD. He emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against Emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324 AD.

Justinian I, who became emperor in Constantinople in 527, recognized the patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem as the top leadership of the Church (see Pentarchy). However, Justinian claimed "the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church". [3] [4]

Justinian I Eastern Roman emperor who ruled from 527 to 565

Justinian I, traditionally known as Justinian the Great and also Saint Justinian the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church, was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western-half of the historical Roman Empire. Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Later Roman empire, and his reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the Empire".

Patriarch ecclesiastical title

The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs.

Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to "lead" or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. Specialist literature debates various viewpoints, contrasting Eastern and Western approaches to leadership, and also United States versus European approaches. U.S. academic environments define leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task".

In Justinian's day, the Christian church was not entirely under the Emperor's control even in the East: the Oriental Orthodox had seceded, having rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and called the adherents of the imperially recognized Church "Melkites", from Syriac malkâniya "imperial". [5] [6] In western Europe, Christianity was mostly subject to the laws and customs of nations that owed no allegiance to the emperor in Constantinople. [7] While eastern-born popes appointed or at least confirmed by the Eastern Emperor continued to be loyal to him as their political lord, they refused to accept his authority in religious matters, [8] or the authority of such a council as the imperially convoked Council of Hieria of 754. Pope Gregory III (731–741) was the last Bishop of Rome to ask the Byzantine ruler to ratify his election. [9] [10] With the crowning of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800 as Imperator Romanorum , the political split between east and west became irrevocable. Spiritually, Chalcedonian Christianity persisted, at least in theory, as a unified entity until the Great Schism and its formal division with the mutual excommunication in 1054 of Rome and Constantinople. The Eastern Roman Empire finally collapsed with the Fall of Constantinople to the Islamic Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Council of Chalcedon Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451; not accepted by Oriental Orthodoxy

The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451, at Chalcedon, a town of Bithynia in Asia Minor. The Council was called by Emperor Marcian to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus. Its principal purpose was to assert the orthodox catholic doctrine against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites, although ecclesiastical discipline and jurisdiction also occupied the council's attention.

Byzantine Papacy Byzantine domination of the Roman papacy, 537 to 752

The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the Roman papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii or the inhabitants of Byzantine-ruled Greece, Syria, or Sicily. Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna.

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.

The obliteration of the Empire's boundaries by Germanic peoples and an outburst of missionary activity among these peoples, who had no direct links with the Eastern Roman Empire, and among Pictic and Celtic peoples who had never been part of the Roman Empire, fostered the idea of a universal church free from association with a particular state. [11] On the contrary, "in the East Roman or Byzantine view, when the Roman Empire became Christian, the perfect world order willed by God had been achieved: one universal empire was sovereign, and coterminous with it was the one universal church"; and the church came, by the time of the demise of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, to merge psychologically with it to the extent that its bishops had difficulty in thinking of Christianity without an emperor. [12] [13]

Germanic peoples A group of northern European tribes in Roman times

The Germanic peoples were an indigenous ethnolinguistic group of Northern European origin identified by Roman-era authors as distinct from neighbouring Celtic peoples, and identified in modern scholarship as speakers, at least for the most part, of early Germanic languages.

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. "Byzantine Empire" is a term 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".

Picts Ancient and medieval tribal confederation in northern Britain

The Picts were a confederation of Celtic language speaking peoples who lived in what is today eastern and northern Scotland during the Late British Iron Age and Early Medieval periods. Where they lived and what their culture was like can be inferred from early medieval texts and Pictish stones. Their Latin name, Picti, appears in written records from Late Antiquity to the 10th century. They lived to the north of the rivers Forth and Clyde. Early medieval sources report the existence of a distinct Pictish language, which today is believed to have been an Insular Celtic language, closely related to the Brittonic spoken by the Britons who lived to the south.

Modern authors refer to the church associated with the emperor in a variety of ways: as the catholic church, the orthodox church, the imperial church, the imperial Roman church, or the Byzantine church, although some of these terms are also used for wider communions extending outside the Roman Empire. [14] The legacy of the idea of a universal church carries on, directly or indirectly, in today's Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as in others, such as the Anglican Communion.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Anglican Communion International association of churches

The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion. Founded in 1867 in London, England, the communion currently has 85 million members within the Church of England and other national and regional churches in full communion. The traditional origins of Anglican doctrines are summarised in the Thirty-nine Articles (1571). The Archbishop of Canterbury in England acts as a focus of unity, recognised as primus inter pares, but does not exercise authority in Anglican provinces outside of the Church of England.

History

Christianity Branches without text.svg
Major denominational families in Christianity:
Western Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Protestantism
Evangelicalism
Anabaptism
Anglicanism
Calvinism
Lutheranism
(Latin Church)
Catholic Church
(Eastern Catholic Churches)
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Church of the East
Nestorianism
Schism (1552)
Assyrian Church of the East
Ancient Church of the East
Protestant Reformation
(16th century)
Great Schism
(11th century)
Council of Ephesus (431)
Council of Chalcedon (451)
Early Christianity
State church of the
Roman Empire
"Great Church"
(Full communion)

Early Christianity in relation to the state

Monogramme of Christ (the Chi Rho) on a plaque of a sarcophagus, 4th-century AD, marble, Musei Vaticani, on display in a temporary exhibition at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy Chrisme Colosseum Rome Italy crop.jpg
Monogramme of Christ (the Chi Rho) on a plaque of a sarcophagus, 4th-century AD, marble, Musei Vaticani, on display in a temporary exhibition at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Before the end of the 1st century, the Roman authorities recognized Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism. The distinction, perhaps already made in practice at the time of the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64, was given official status by the emperor Nerva around the year 98 by granting Christians exemption from paying the Fiscus Iudaicus , the annual tax upon the Jews. Pliny the Younger, when propraetor in Bithynia in 103, assumes in his letters to Trajan that because Christians do not pay the tax, they are not Jews. [15] [16] [17]

Since paying taxes had been one of the ways that Jews demonstrated their goodwill and loyalty toward the Empire, Christians had to negotiate their own alternatives to participating in the imperial cult. Their refusal to worship the Roman gods or to pay homage to the emperor as divine resulted at times in persecution and martyrdom. [15] [16] [17] Church Father Tertullian, for instance, attempted to argue that Christianity was not inherently treasonous, and that Christians could offer their own form of prayer for the well-being of the emperor. [18]

Christianity spread especially in the eastern parts of the Empire and beyond its border; in the west it was at first relatively limited, but significant Christian communities emerged in Rome, Carthage, and other urban centers, becoming by the end of the 3rd century, the dominant faith in some of them. Christians accounted for approximately 10% of the Roman population by 300, according to some estimates. [19] According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals. [20]

In 301, the Kingdom of Armenia, nominally a Roman client kingdom but ruled by a Parthian dynasty, [21] became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion.

Establishment and early controversies

Major communions of the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries
CommunionMajor churchesPrimary centers
Chalcedonian
Christianity

(after 451)
Catholic/Orthodox Church
Georgian Church
Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople,
Georgian Kingdoms (Colchis and Iberia)
Nestorianism
(after 431)
Persian church Syria,
Sassanid Empire (Persia) [22]
Miaphysitism
(after 451)
Armenian Church
Coptic Church
Syriac Church
Ethiopian Church
Armenia, Syria, Egypt [23]
Donatism
(largely ended after 411)
North Africa [24]
Arianism parts of Eastern Roman Empire until 380
Gothic tribes [25]

In 311, the dying Emperor Galerius ended the Diocletianic Persecution that he is reputed to have instigated, and in 313, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting to Christians and others "the right of open and free observance of their worship". [26]

Constantine began to utilize Christian symbols such as the Chi-Rho early in his reign but still encouraged traditional Roman religious practices including sun worship. In 330, Constantine established the city of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The city would gradually come to be seen as the intellectual and cultural center of the Christian world. [27]

Over the course of the 4th century the Christian body became consumed by debates surrounding orthodoxy, i.e. which religious doctrines are the correct ones. In the early 4th century, a group in North Africa, later called Donatists, who believed in a very rigid interpretation of Christianity that excluded many who had abandoned the faith during the Diocletianic persecution, created a crisis in the western Empire. [28]

A synod was held in Rome in 313, followed by another in Arles in 314. These synods ruled that the Donatist faith was heresy and, when the Donatists refused to recant, Constantine launched the first campaign of persecution by Christians against Christians, and began imperial involvement in Christian theology. However, during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, the Donatists, who formed the majority party in the Roman province of Africa for 30 years, [29] were given official approval. [30]

Icon depicting Constantine and the bishops of the Council of Nicaea (325). The centrally placed and haloed Emperor holds the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople (381). Nicaea icon.jpg
Icon depicting Constantine and the bishops of the Council of Nicaea (325). The centrally placed and haloed Emperor holds the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople (381).

Debates within Christianity

Christian scholars and populace within the Empire were increasingly embroiled in debates regarding christology (i.e., regarding the nature of the Christ). Opinions ranged from belief that Jesus was entirely human to belief that he was entirely divine. The most persistent debate was that between the homoousian view (the Father and the Son are of one substance), defined at the Council at Nicaea in 325 and later championed by Athanasius of Alexandria, and the Arian view (the Father and the Son are similar, but the Father is greater than the Son). Emperors thereby became ever more involved with the increasingly divided Church. [31]

Constantine backed the Nicene creed of Nicaea, but was baptized on his deathbed by the Eusebius of Nicomedia, a bishop with Arian sympathies. His successor Constantius II supported Arian positions: under his rule, the Council of Constantinople in 360 supported the Arian view. After the interlude of Emperor Julian, who wanted to return to the pagan Roman/Greek religion, the west stuck to the Nicene creed, while Arianism or Semi-Arianism was dominant in the east (under Emperor Valens), until Emperor Theodosius I called the Council of Constantinople in 381, which reasserted the Nicene view and rejected the Arian view. This council further refined the definition of orthodoxy, issuing the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

On 27 February of the previous year, Theodosius I established, with the Edict of Thessalonica, the Christianity of the First Council of Nicaea as the official state religion, reserving for its followers the title of Catholic Christians and declaring that those who did not follow the religion taught by Pope Damasus I of Rome and Pope Peter of Alexandria were to be called heretics: [32]

It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.

Edict of Thessalonica

In 391, Theodosius closed all the "pagan" (non-Christian and non-Jewish) temples and formally forbade pagan worship.

Late antiquity

Changes in extent of the Empire ruled from Constantinople.
476 End of the Western Empire; 550 Conquests of Justinian I; 717 Accession of Leo the Isaurian; 867 Accession of Basil I; 1025 Death of Basil II; 1095 Eve of the First Crusade; 1170 Under Manuel I; 1270 Under Michael VIII Palaiologos; 1400 Before the fall of Constantinople Byzantine Empire animated.gif
Changes in extent of the Empire ruled from Constantinople.
476 End of the Western Empire; 550 Conquests of Justinian I; 717 Accession of Leo the Isaurian; 867 Accession of Basil I; 1025 Death of Basil II; 1095 Eve of the First Crusade; 1170 Under Manuel I; 1270 Under Michael VIII Palaiologos; 1400 Before the fall of Constantinople

At the end of the 4th century the Roman Empire had effectively split into two parts although their economies and the Church were still strongly tied. The two halves of the Empire had always had cultural differences, exemplified in particular by the widespread use of the Greek language in the Eastern Empire and its more limited use in the West (Greek, as well as Latin, was used in the West, but Latin was the spoken vernacular).

By the time Christianity became the state religion of the Empire at the end of the 4th century, scholars in the West had largely abandoned Greek in favor of Latin. Even the Church in Rome, where Greek continued to be used in the liturgy longer than in the provinces, abandoned Greek. [33] Jerome's Vulgate had begun to replace the older Latin translations of the Bible.

The Hagia Sophia basilica in Constantinople, for centuries the largest church building in the world. Hagia Sophia exterior 2007 002.jpg
The Hagia Sophia basilica in Constantinople, for centuries the largest church building in the world.

The 5th century would see further fracturing of the Church. Emperor Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, the first of which condemned the teachings of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, while the second supported the teachings of Eutyches against Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople. [34]

Nestorius taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. Eutyches taught on the contrary that there was in Christ only a single nature, different from that of human beings in general. The First Council of Ephesus rejected Nestorius' view, causing churches centered around the School of Edessa, a city at the edge of the empire, to break with the imperial church (see Nestorian schism). [34]

Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church (the future Church of the East). The Second Council of Ephesus upheld the view of Eutyches, but was overturned two years later by the Council of Chalcedon, called by Emperor Marcian. Rejection of the Council of Chalcedon led to the exodus from the state church of the majority of Christians in Egypt and many in the Levant, who preferred miaphysite theology. [34]

Thus, within a century of the link established by Theodosius between the emperor and the church in his empire, it suffered a significant diminishment. Those who upheld the Council of Chalcedon became known in Syriac as Melkites, the imperial group, followers of the emperor (in Syriac, malka). [35] This schism resulted in an independent communion of churches, including the Egyptian, Syrian, Ethiopian and Armenian churches, that is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy. [36] In spite of these schisms, however, the Chalcedonian church still represented the majority of Christians within the by now already diminished Roman Empire. [37]

End of the Western Roman Empire

Odoacer's kingdom in 480, after annexing Dalmatia and most of Sicily. Odoacer 480ad.jpg
Odoacer's kingdom in 480, after annexing Dalmatia and most of Sicily.

In the 5th century, the Western Empire rapidly decayed and by the end of the century was no more. Within a few decades, Germanic tribes, particularly the Goths and Vandals, conquered the western provinces. Rome was sacked in 410 and 455, and was to be sacked again in the following century in 546. [25]

By 476 the Germanic chieftain Odoacer had conquered Italy and deposed the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, though he nominally submitted to the authority of Constantinople. The Arian Germanic tribes established their own systems of churches and bishops in the western provinces but were generally tolerant of the population who chose to remain in communion with the imperial church. [25]

In 533 Roman Emperor Justinian in Constantinople launched a military campaign to reclaim the western provinces from the Arian Germans, starting with North Africa and proceeding to Italy. His success in recapturing much of the western Mediterranean was temporary. The empire soon lost most of these gains, but held Rome, as part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, until 751.

Justinian definitively established Caesaropapism, [38] believing "he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church". [3] According to the entry in Liddell & Scott, the term orthodox first occurs in the Codex Justinianus: "We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed." [39]

By the end of the 6th century the Church within the Empire had become firmly tied with the imperial government, [40] while in the west Christianity was mostly subject to the laws and customs of nations that owed no allegiance to the emperor. [7]

Patriarchates in the Eastern Roman Empire

A map of the five patriarchates in the Eastern Mediterranean as constituted by Justinian I. Rome is coloured in pink, Constantinople in green, Antioch in blue, Jerusalem in pink and Alexandria in yellow. Leo III extended the jurisdiction of Constantinople to the territories bordered in pink. 1800 Wilkinson Map of the 4 Eastern Churches rectified.jpg
A map of the five patriarchates in the Eastern Mediterranean as constituted by Justinian I. Rome is coloured in pink, Constantinople in green, Antioch in blue, Jerusalem in pink and Alexandria in yellow. Leo III extended the jurisdiction of Constantinople to the territories bordered in pink.

Emperor Justinian I assigned to five sees, those of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, a superior ecclesial authority that covered the whole of his empire. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 reaffirmed that the bishop of a provincial capital, the metropolitan bishop, had a certain authority over the bishops of the province. [41] But it also recognized the existing supra-metropolitan authority of the sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, [42] and granted special recognition to Jerusalem. [43] [44] [45]

Constantinople was added at the First Council of Constantinople (381) [46] and given authority initially only over Thrace. By a canon of contested validity, [47] the Council of Chalcedon (451) placed Asia and Pontus, [48] which together made up Anatolia, under Constantinople, although their autonomy had been recognized at the council of 381. [49] [50]

Rome never recognized this pentarchy of five sees as constituting the leadership of the church. It maintained that, in accordance with the First Council of Nicaea, only the three "Petrine" sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch had a real patriarchal function. [51] The canons of the Quinisext Council of 692, which gave ecclesiastical sanction to Justinian's decree, were also never fully accepted by the Western Church. [52]

Muslim conquests of the territories of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, most of whose Christians were in any case lost to the orthodox church since the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon, left in effect only two patriarchates, those of Rome and Constantinople. [53] In 732, Emperor Leo III's iconoclast policies were resisted by Pope Gregory III. The Emperor reacted by transferring to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Constantinople in 740 the territories in Greece, Illyria, Sicily and Calabria that had been under Rome (see map), leaving the bishop of Rome with only a minute part of the lands over which the empire still had control. [54]

The Patriarch of Constantinople had already adopted the title of "ecumenical patriarch", indicating what he saw as his position in the oikoumene, the Christian world ideally headed by the emperor and the patriarch of the emperor's capital. [55] [56] Also under the influence of the imperial model of governance of the state church, in which "the emperor becomes the actual executive organ of the universal Church", [57] the pentarchy model of governance of the state church regressed to a monarchy of the Patriarch of Constantinople. [57] [58]

Rise of Islam

A map of Muslim expansion in the 7th and 8th centuries. Age of Caliphs.png
A map of Muslim expansion in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The Rashidun conquests began to expand the sway of Islam beyond Arabia in the 7th century, first clashing with the Roman Empire in 634. That empire and the Sassanid Persian Empire were at that time crippled by decades of war between them. By the late 8th century the Umayyad caliphate had conquered all of Persia and much of the Byzantine territory including Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.

Suddenly much of the Christian world was under Muslim rule. Over the coming centuries the successive Muslim states became some of the most powerful in the Mediterranean world.

Though the Byzantine church claimed religious authority over Christians in Egypt and the Levant, in reality the majority of Christians in these regions were by then miaphysites and members of other sects. The new Muslim rulers, in contrast, offered religious tolerance to Christians of all sects. Additionally subjects of the Muslim Empire could be accepted as Muslims simply by declaring a belief in a single deity and reverence for Muhammad (see shahada). As a result, the peoples of Egypt, Palestine and Syria largely accepted their new rulers and many declared themselves Muslims within a few generations. Muslim incursions later found success in parts of Europe, particularly Spain (see Al-Andalus). [59]

Expansion of Christianity in Europe

The spread of Christianity in Europe by 325 AD (dark blue) and 600 AD (light blue). Spread of Christianity to AD 600 (1).png
The spread of Christianity in Europe by 325 AD (dark blue) and 600 AD (light blue).

During the 9th century, the Emperor in Constantinople encouraged missionary expeditions to nearby nations including the Muslim caliphate, and the Turkic Khazars.[ citation needed ] In 862 he sent Saints Cyril and Methodius to Slavic Great Moravia. By then most of the Slavic population of Bulgaria was Christian and Tsar Boris I himself was baptized in 864. Serbia was accounted Christian by about 870. [60] In early 867 Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople wrote that Christianity was accepted by the Kievan Rus', which however was definitively Christianized only at the close of the following century.

The spread of Christianity in Europe by 1000. Droysens-23a.jpg
The spread of Christianity in Europe by 1000.

Of these, the Church in Great Moravia chose immediately to link with Rome, not Constantinople: the missionaries sent there sided with the Pope during the Photian Schism (863–867). [61] After decisive victories over the Byzantines at Acheloos and Katasyrtai, Bulgaria declared its Church autocephalous and elevated it to the rank of Patriarchate, an autonomy recognized in 927 by Constantinople, [62] [63] but abolished by Emperor Basil II Bulgaroktonos (the Bulgar-Slayer) after his 1018 conquest of Bulgaria.

In Serbia, which became an independent kingdom in the early 13th century, Stephen Uroš IV Dušan, after conquering a large part of Byzantine territory in Europe and assuming the title of Tsar, raised the Serbian archbishop to the rank of patriarch in 1346, a rank maintained until after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Turks. No Byzantine emperor ever ruled Russian Christianity.

Expansion of the Church in western and northern Europe began much earlier, with the conversion of the Irish in the 5th century, the Franks at the end of the same century, the Arian Visigoths in Spain soon afterwards, and the English at the end of the 6th century. By the time the Byzantine missions to central and eastern Europe began, Christian western Europe, in spite of losing most of Spain to Islam, encompassed Germany and part of Scandinavia, and, apart from the south of Italy, was independent of the Byzantine Empire and had been almost entirely so for centuries.

This situation fostered the idea of a universal church linked to no one particular state. [11] Long before the Byzantine Empire came to an end, Poland also, Hungary and other central European peoples were part of a Church that in no way saw itself as the empire's church and that, with the East-West Schism, had even ceased to be in communion with it.

East–West Schism (1054)

The coronation of Charlemagne as emperor. Karelbig leo3.jpg
The coronation of Charlemagne as emperor.

With the defeat and death in 751 of the last Exarch of Ravenna and the end of the Exarchate, Rome ceased to be part of the Byzantine Empire. Forced to seek protection elsewhere, [64] the Popes turned to the Franks and, with the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800, transferred their political allegiance to a rival Roman Emperor. Disputes between the see of Rome, which claimed authority over all other sees, and that of Constantinople, which was now without rival in the empire, culminated perhaps inevitably [65] in mutual excommunications in 1054.

Communion with Constantinople was broken off by European Christians with the exception of those ruled by the empire (including the Bulgarians and Serbs) and of the fledgling Kievan or Russian Church, then a metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople. This church became independent only in 1448, just five years before the extinction of the empire, [66] after which the Turkish authorities included all their Orthodox Christian subjects of whatever ethnicity in a single millet headed by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Westerners who set up Crusader states in Greece and the Middle East appointed Latin (Western) patriarchs and other hierarchs, thus giving concrete reality and permanence to the schism. [67] [68] [69] Efforts were made in 1274 (Second Council of Lyon) and 1439 (Council of Florence) to restore communion between East and West, but the agreements reached by the participating eastern delegations and by the Emperor were rejected by the vast majority of Byzantine Christians.

In the East, the idea that the Byzantine emperor was the head of Christians everywhere persisted among churchmen as long as the empire existed, even when its actual territory was reduced to very little. In 1393, only 60 years before the fall of the capital, Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople wrote to Basil I of Muscovy defending the liturgical commemoration in Russian churches of the Byzantine emperor on the grounds that he was "emperor (βασιλεύς) and autokrator of the Romans, that is of all Christians". [70] According to Patriarch Antony, "it is not possible among Christians to have a Church and not to have an emperor. For the empire and the Church have great unity and commonality, and it is not possible to separate them", [71] [72] [73] and "the holy emperor is not like the rulers and governors of other regions". [73] [74]

Legacy

Emblem of the Patriarch of Constantinople, based on the imperial symbol adopted in the 11th century Byzantine eagle.JPG
Emblem of the Patriarch of Constantinople, based on the imperial symbol adopted in the 11th century

Following the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, various emperors sought at times but without success to reunite the Church, invoking the notion of Christian unity between East and West in an attempt to obtain assistance from the Pope and Western Europe against the Muslims who were gradually conquering the empire's territory. But the period of the Western Crusades against the Muslims had passed before even the first of the two reunion councils was held.

Even when persecuted by the emperor, the Eastern Church, George Pachymeres said, "counted the days until they should be rid not of their emperor (for they could no more live without an emperor than a body without a heart), but of their current misfortunes". [75] The church had come to merge psychologically in the minds of the Eastern bishops with the empire to such an extent that they had difficulty in thinking of Christianity without an emperor. [12]

In Western Europe, on the other hand, the idea of a universal church linked to the Emperor of Constantinople was replaced by that in which the Roman see was supreme. [76] "Membership in a universal church replaced citizenship in a universal empire. Across Europe, from Italy to Ireland, a new society centered on Christianity was forming." [77]

The Western Church came to emphasize the term Catholic in its identity, an assertion of universality, while the Eastern Church came to emphasize the term Orthodox in its identity, an assertion of holding to the true teachings of Jesus. Both churches claim to be the unique continuation of the previously united Chalcedonian Church, whose core doctrinal formulations have been retained also by many of the churches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Christianity in the 9th century Christianity-related events during the 9th century

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Christianity in the 11th century Christianity-related events during the 11th century

Christianity in the 11th century is marked primarily by the Great Schism of the Church, which formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches.

Christianity in late antiquity

Christianity in late antiquity traces Christianity during the Christian Roman Empire – the period from the rise of Christianity under Emperor Constantine, until the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The end-date of this period varies because the transition to the sub-Roman period occurred gradually and at different times in different areas. One may generally date late ancient Christianity as lasting to the late 6th century and the re-conquests under Justinian of the Byzantine Empire, though a more traditional end-date is 476, the year in which Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus, traditionally considered the last western emperor.

History of Eastern Orthodox theology

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Literature