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The Church and the Empire by D. J. Medley

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Italy, at which Anselm of Canterbury, then in voluntary exile, was put
forward to propound the Roman view. In 1112 Peter Grosolanus the
defeated candidate for the archbishopric of Milan, as an emissary of
Pope Pascal II discussed the points at issue before the Emperor
Alexius Comnenus and was answered by Eustratius Archbishop of Nicaea.
Again in 1135 Lothair III had sent as ambassador to John Comnenus a
Premonstratensian Canon Anselm afterwards Bishop of Havelberg, who
held a debate with Nicetas Archbishop of Nicomedia. According to the
report which he subsequently drew up at the request of Eugenius III,
the points discussed were the procession of the Holy Ghost, the use of
unleavened bread and the claims of Rome. A generation later the
Emperor Manuel Comnenus held a conference at Constantinople (1170) for
the promotion of a union which he sincerely desired; while extant
letters of Eugenius III and Hadrian IV to ecclesiastics of the Eastern
Church show that the head of the Western Church did not ignore the
question of Christian unity. But there were too many political causes
of division. The success of the crusaders involved the establishment
of the Latin Church in lands claimed by the Eastern Empire. And this
affected not only the principalities of Syria, but also Cyprus which
Richard Coeur de Lion conquered and handed over to Guy of Lusignan in
compensation for his lost kingdom of Jerusalem; as a consequence of
which the Greek clergy and monks there were cruelly persecuted. The
aggression of the Latin Church was even more conspicuous when the
Normans conquered Thessalonica in 1186 and treated the Greek churches
and services with contumely, and when Innocent III took advantage of
the fact that the Bulgarian monarch had repudiated the suzerainty of
Constantinople, to reassert over the Bulgarian Church the supremacy of
Rome. The Greeks did not suffer without protest and the massacre of
the Latins of Constantinople under the usurper Andronicus (1183)
showed the depth as well as the impotence of the Greek hatred. The
climax of all previous acts of usurpation was reached in the capture
of Constantinople and the organisation of a Latin Church beside the
Latin empire. But the Greek Emperors who ruled at Nicaea found it
politic to pretend a desire for union of the Churches, and in 1233 and
again in 1234 negotiations were carried on between the Greek Patriarch
Germanus and some Dominican and Franciscan emissaries of Gregory IX.
But the bargaining was one-sided; for while with Rome Christian unity
never rose above an object to be kept in view, to the Greeks of the
East it presented itself as the only condition on which they could
claim the help which might save them from gradual extinction. And this
became even more apparent than hitherto after the reconquest of
Constantinople by the Greeks; for it seemed as if the prospect of a
peaceful reunion of the Churches alone might remove the pretext now
given to the princes of the West for a new crusade directed against
Constantinople. This was no imaginary danger; for Charles of Anjou and
Naples had made himself the champion of the dispossessed Latin Emperor
and was preparing to attack. So Michael Palaeologus who had rewon
Constantinople for the Greeks and himself, made overtures to Pope
Urban IV; and negotiations were thus begun which ended in the
appearance of Greek delegates at the second Council of Lyons in 1274.
These accepted, on behalf of the Greek Church and empire, the primacy
of Rome and the Latin Creed. In return, the Bulgarian Church was once
more restored to its own Metropolitan at Achrida. But all Michael's
coercive efforts failed to make the union acceptable to his own clergy
and people. It was so difficult to carry out the promised assimilation
of the Greek to the Latin forms that the Popes became impatient; and
when Nicholas III, the opponent of Charles of Sicily, was succeeded by
Martin IV, the tool of that ambitious monarch, the excommunication
launched by the new Pope against the Eastern Emperor was merely a
preliminary step to the general attack on the empire planned by
Charles. Michael's son and successor Andronicus entirely repudiated
the agreement made at Lyons; but the misfortunes of Charles in Sicily
removed the serious danger of invasion from the West. Overtures for
ecclesiastical union were not renewed until the conquests of the Turks
in the Balkan peninsula forced the Greeks to seek external aid.

[Sidenote: Internal condition of Church.]

The internal condition of the Eastern Church during these centuries
does not call for much detailed treatment. The end of the iconoclastic
quarrel had been followed by the development of great elaboration of
ceremonial in the services. It is true that learning was not dead and
that the Emperors of the Comnenan house distinctly encouraged it. But
the literature of ancient Greece and the theological works of the
Fathers of the early Church appeared to the writers of these centuries
to have exhausted all earthly possibilities in their respective
spheres. The writings of learned Christians did not rescue their
religion from pure formalism; while the study of the classics led them
to the ancient philosophers and landed many of the students in
paganism. Under the circumstances it is not perhaps wonderful that
there arose a sect called Gnosimachi who deprecated any attempt after
knowledge of the Scriptures on the ground that God demands good deeds
done in all simplicity. It is, however, among the monks, if anywhere,
that personal piety should have been retained. But such as existed,
was inclined to take fantastic forms; and we are told of those who
wrapped themselves round with the odour of sanctity by self-inflicted
tortures of a useless and meaningless kind. There was no foundation of
new monastic Orders in the East such as during these centuries led to
the maintenance of the missionary spirit in the West. But it was from
the monastic bodies alone that any opposition was offered to the
actions of the Emperor. The most noteworthy case was that of the Abbot
Nicephorus Blemmydes whose attempts to promote an understanding
between the Eastern and Western Churches (1245) were foiled, because
he had the temerity to deal harshly with the mistress of the Emperor
John Dukas. Indeed the imperial authority was an influence stronger
than any other, with the possible exception of hatred of the Latin
Church. Such dogmatic discussions as occasionally arose, were
concerned with unimportant points: but the participation of the
Emperor did not necessarily tend to either truth or peace. Manuel I
not only intervened in such disputes, but even started them himself
and enforced his view by punishing those who took the opposite side.

[Sidenote: Heresies.]

The Eastern Church, like that of the West, had to deal with heretical
sects. The Paulicians who in the ninth century had formed a
politico-religious community on the confines of the empire, were
deprived of their political power by Basil I in 872; while in 969 John
Tzimisces transferred a portion of them from their settlements in Asia
Minor to the district of Philippopolis in Thrace. Here they throve,
until their desertion of the Emperor Alexius in his war against Robert
Guiscard and the Normans ended the toleration hitherto extended to the
exercise of their religion, and the "thirteenth apostle," as his
literary daughter Anna Comnena styles him, entered on a plan of
forcible conversion. Alexius also dealt severely with another body of
heretics. The Bogomiles were perhaps a revival of the earlier sect of
the Euchites or Messalians who are mentioned by writers of the fourth
century. The origin of the name is obscure, but it is said to mean
"Friends of God." Their tenets resembled those of the Cathari with
whom they were most probably connected. Alexius by pretending sympathy
got from their leader an avowal of his doctrines and then had him
burnt (1116). But in neither of these cases did violent suppression
achieve its purpose. Despite the foundation of the orthodox city of
Alexiopolis in the neighbourhood, the Paulicians still continued about
Philippopolis, where they were secretly strengthened in their
particularist attitude by the continued presence of the remnants of
the Bogomiles. Even a century later the Patriarch Germanus (1230)
attacks the latter on the plea that they are still secretly making

[Sidenote: Other Eastern Churches.]

Of the other Christian Churches of the East we have seen that the
Nestorians were very active among the Tartars throughout Asia. They
and their Syrian neighbours but dogmatic opponents, the Jacobites, a
monophysite body, adopted a conciliatory disposition towards the
crusaders. In 1237 the prior of the Dominicans in Jerusalem reported
to Gregory IX that the Maphrian of the Jacobites, a kind of lesser
patriarch, had acknowledged the supremacy of Rome; but a submission
given from stress of circumstances carried no permanent weight; and
subsequent correspondence between Innocent IV and officials of both
churches seems to have been wilfully misunderstood at Rome. There were
two other Christian churches whose conduct was guided by proximity to
the Mohammedans. The small body of the Maronites on Mount Lebanon kept
their ancient customs but attached themselves to the Roman Church in
1182 and remained faithful to her. The more important Armenian Church
wavered between Rome and Constantinople. Manuel Comnenus made
overtures to the Patriarch or Catholicos, which were prevented from
coming to any result by the emperor's death. Shortly afterwards Leo
the Great of Armenia was recognised as King by the Emperor Henry VI
and was crowned by the Archbishop of Mainz; and in return he and his
Catholicos recognised the supremacy of Rome. In 1240 the Greek
patriarch tried to win over the Catholicos to the Eastern Church. In
1292 the Armenian King Haiton II, who became a Franciscan friar,
persuaded his church to accept the Roman customs: but despite this
nominal subjection to Rome, the obstinacy of the people prevented any
real change in either doctrine or organisation.

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