The idea of apostolicity in Byzantium and the legend of the Apostle Andrew

Francis Dvornik



The Guiding Principle in the Evolution of Church Organization


The practice of the Apostles — The Council of Nicaea sanctions the adaptation of the ecclesiastical organization to the administrative division of the Empire — The bishop of Alexandria as supra-metropolitan ? — Position of Antioch — The rights of the bishops of Antioch compared with those of Rome and Alexandria — Ephesus, Caesarea, Heraclea as supra-metropolitan cities ? — The canons of the Council of Constantinople (381) compared with the Nicene decrees — The see of Jerusalem — Jerome’s testimony — Adaptation to the divisions of the Empire in the West: Rome, Italy, Illyricum — Africa and Spain — Gaul and Arles.  (Adaptation to the divisions of the Empire in the West:  (Rome, Italy)  23(Illyricum)  25(Africa)  39(Spain)  32)



The claims of the Roman bishops to primacy in the Church were based on the fact that they were successors of St. Peter, to whom Christ had entrusted the care of his Church. It is widely believed that, to counter these claims, the Byzantines invented a tradition of the apostolic foundation of the see of Byzantium by St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter. Because Andrew was the first apostle to whom the Lord had addressed his invitation to become his disciple (John 1:37-42), and because Andrew had introduced his brother to Christ, the Byzantines are said to have believed themselves entitled to regard their episcopal see as equal, if not superior, to that of Rome. The fact that St. Andrew's relics had found their last resting place in the church of the Holy Apostles in Byzantium served to strengthen this belief, which is claimed to have become firmly embedded in the minds of the Byzantines, and to have been regarded by them for centuries as a truth inferior only to a dogmatic definition. This conviction is thought to have greatly influenced the religious evolution of Byzantium, and to have sharply accentuated the antagonism between Old and New Rome.





In spite of its importance for the history of the relations between the Eastern and Western Churches, the question of the apostolic foundation of Byzantium has not yet been examined in all its complexities. It can be adequately treated only when studied in a broader context, and when the place of the general idea of apostolicity in Byzantium at different periods of its history has been determined.


First, in undertaking this study, the predominant position of the emperor in early Christian political philosophy must be borne in mind. The cardinal principle that the emperor was the representative of God on earth was rooted in Hellenistic political philosophy, and was accepted and adapted by Christian thinkers after the conversion of Constantine the Great. It was natural, especially in the East where Hellenism was very strong, that this principle should, for a long time, render the idea of apostolicity in Church organization relatively quiescent.


Second, the basis of the original organization of the Church before and after the Christianization of the Roman Empire must be considered. Here it must be stressed that the early Church found a model for its organization in the political organization of the Roman Empire rather than in the apostolic tradition.


There is no anomaly, no misconception or disparagement of the principle of apostolic tradition in this statement. On the contrary, this form of Church organization was initiated by the apostles themselves, who, for practical reasons, had to respect and to use the organization they found in the world in which they lived. They started their preaching in capitals or major cities of Roman provinces because there they found important Jewish communities, and from these centers Christianity spread through the provinces.


The apostles foreshadowed the intimate connection between the future organization of the Church and the administrative division of the Empire when they addressed their letters to the Christian communities of Roman provinces. [1]



1. For details see K. Lübeck, Reichseinteilung und kirchliche Hierarchie des Orients bis zum Ausgange des vierten Jahrhunderts, Kirchengeschichtliche Studien, published by Knöpfler, Schrörs, Sdralek, 5, Heft 4 (Münster i. W., 1901), pp. 7-17. Cf. also F. B. C. Maassen, Der Primat des Bischofs von Rom (Bonn, 1853), pp. 1-7.





Peter wrote to the communities of Galatia, Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and Paul to that of Galatia and to the communities of the capitals of political provinces: Rome (Italy), Ephesus (Asia), Corinth (Achaea), Thessalonica (Macedonia). As a passage in the second Epistle to the Corinthians (II Cor: 1,1) indicates, these letters were meant to be sent by the bishop of each capital to other cities of the province. The letter communicating the decision of the apostles with regard to the observation of Mosaic precepts was sent (Acts 15: 22,23) to the brethren in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Antioch was the capital of Syria, and Cilicia formed, at that time, a single administrative unit. It should be noted that St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was well aware of this because in one of his letters (to the Romans, 2:2) he calls himself, Bishop of Syria. This, of course, does not mean that the bishops of these cities received from the apostles a superior rank in the original Christian hierarchy. But the nature of Roman political and economic organization was such that all political and social life in the provinces centered in their capitals, and it was to the advantage of the first missionaries to use these centers for the dissemination of Christianity. So it happened that from the outset the Church was obliged, for reasons of practical expediency deriving from the political and economic conditions of the Roman Empire, to adapt its ecclesiastical organization, especially in the East, to the political division of the Empire.


The same factor influenced the further evolution of Church organization. The consideration of important problems arising from the spread of Christianity through the different provinces, and the development of doctrine forced the bishops, from the latter part of the second century onward, to call special councils. [2] The choice of meeting places again was dictated by administrative expediency rather than by the consideration that the see of any particular city had been founded by an apostle. It was more convenient to hold such gatherings in the political centers of the provinces where the imperial cult was focused and the provincial assemblies held,



2. See for details K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 32 seq., with numerous quotations from the sources. Cf. also C. J. Hefele, H. Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, i, pt. i (Paris, 1907), pp. 125 seq., and R. Sohm, Kirchenrecht (Munich, Leipzig, 1923), pp. 281-296.





and to leave to the local bishop the initiative of convoking the council and the privilege of presiding over its debates. This gave to the bishop of a provincial capital a kind of superiority over other bishops of the province. In only a few instances were such provincial centers at the same time apostolic foundations; for example Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia, Corinth, capital of Achaea, and Thessalonica, capital of Macedonia. Such was the origin of the metropolitan bishops, and of their rights in the election and supervision of the bishops in their provinces.



This administrative framework was formally sanctioned by the Council of Nicaea (325) whose fourth canon [3] decreed:


“A new bishop shall be installed by all bishops of the province [ἐπαρχία]. Should this, however, be difficult, either because of pressing necessity or because of great distances, at least three of them shall come together, and, with the written agreement of the others, shall perform the consecration [χειροτονία]. The confirmation of what has been done shall be given by the metropolitan of each province.'


There is no doubt about the meaning of the words ἐπαρχία and “metropolitan." The administrative unit was becoming also an ecclesiastical unit governed by the bishop of the metropolis or capital of the administrative unit. The signatures of the bishops present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 throw light on ecclesiastical organization in the eastern part of the Empire. A comparison with the political division of the eastern provinces [4] shows clearly that at the beginning of the fourth century the Church officially adopted the administrative division of the Empire as the basis for its own organization.


By approving their canon the Fathers condemned the actions of Meletius, Bishop of Lykopolis in the Thebaid who, contrary to the custom of that time,



3. Mansi, 2, col. 669:

Ἐπίσκοπον προήκει μάλιστα μὲν ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν ἐν τῇ ἐπαρχία καθίστασθαι. Εἰ δὲ δυσχερὲς εἴη τὸ τοιοῦτο, ἢ διὰ κατεπείγουσαν ἀνάγκην, ἢ διὰ μῆκος ὁδοῦ, ἐξ ἅπαντος τρεῖς ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ συναγομένους, συμψήφων γινομένων καὶ τῶν ἀπόντων, καὶ συντιθεμένων διὰ γραμμάτων, τότε τὴν χειροτονίαν ποιεῖσθαι. Τὸ δὲ κῦρος τῶν γενομένων διδόσθαι καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἐπαρχίαν τῷ μητροπολίτῃ.


4. For details see K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 73-98.





had ordained bishops in parts of the country which were under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Alexandria, and had, thereby, caused a local schism in Egypt. [5] To prevent such incidents, the Fathers, in canon four, sternly reminded all concerned that the established practice was in the future to be strictly observed: every administrative province was to form an ecclesiastical unit under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the metropolis, and the ordination of new bishops was to concern the bishops of the entire province acting in mutual agreement, subject to the approval of the metropolitan.


That such was the intention of the Nicene Fathers was confirmed in 341 by the provincial synod of Antioch which decreed by canon nine: [6]


“The bishops of every province shall know that the bishop who is at the head of the metropolis has the whole province under his care and supervision, for those who have business to conduct must converge from all directions on the metropolis. Hence it is decreed that he shall also be granted precedence in matters of rank, and that the other bishops shall undertake nothing of importance without consulting him, in accordance with the canon of our Fathers prevailing from old, except insofar as it concerned the paroikia [bishopric] of each one, and the lands which belonged to it.”


Then follows the definition of bishops' rights and duties in their bishoprics. The text illustrates also why the metropolitan bishops of the provinces gained such precedence over their colleagues: because all political and economic life in the provinces was concentrated in the capitals, and, therefore, “all who have business to conduct must converge from all directions on the metropolis.”


The principles laid down by the Nicene Fathers were further stressed by Pope Boniface (418-422), [7] who declared that in every province there should be only one metropolitan,



5. See B. J. Kidd, A History of the Church to A.D. 461, 2 (Oxford, 1922), pp. 41 seq. Cf. also H. Linck, Zur Übersetzung und Erläuterung der Kanones IV, VI, und VII des Konzils von Nicaea (Giessen, 1908), pp. 18-37, on the importance of the Meletius affair for the wording of the canons of Nicaea and of the synodal letter to the Church of Alexandria.


6. Mansi, 2, col. 1312. Cf. also canons thirteen, fifteen, nineteen, twenty, cols. 1313, 1316.


7. Mansi, 4, col. 396, PL, 20, Epist. 12, col. 773:

Nulli etenim videtur incognita synodi constitutio Nicaenae, quae ita praecipit, ut eadem proprie verba ponamus. Per unamquamque provinciam jus metrololitanos singulos habere debere, nec cuiquam duas esse subjectas.





and that no metropolitan should rule over two provinces. These principles were defended by Pope Innocent I (402-417) [8] and the Council of Chalcedon [9] against violations by either bishops or emperors.



The Nicene Fathers went even further, and provided, consciously or unconsciously, a basis for the formation of a suprametropolitan body in the Church. This was again in conformity with the existing political division of the eastern parts of the Empire. In canon six they declared: [10]


"The old order shall continue to prevail in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis; namely that the Bishop of Alexandria shall exercise supreme power over all these places, as is also the case with the Bishop of Rome who has the same powers. In a similar way shall their rights be preserved with regard to the Church of Antioch and to the Churches in other eparchies."


The text of the canon again indicates that the Fathers intended to confirm something which had developed in earlier Church organization. With regard to Alexandria, the development is clear. As the political center of Ptolemaic Egypt, it became the city in which all the social and economic life of the Ptolemaic Empire was concentrated, and it retained this importance under Roman rule, for Octavian, after assuming the direct administration of Egypt in 27 b.c. did not incorporate it into other imperial provinces, [11] but reserved it for himself as an imperial “Hausgut” or patrimony, permitting the country its own organization, and retaining Alexandria as its capital. Not only was the imperial cult concentrated in this great city, [12] but the numerous Jewish settlements in the



8. PL, 20, Epist. 24, chap. 2, col. 548. Cf. K. Lübeck, op, cit., pp. 65 seq. for the explanation of this letter. Cf. infra p. 13.


9. Mansi, 7, col. 364, canon twelve.


10. Mansi, 2, cols. 669 seq.:

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω, τὰ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ καὶ Λιβύῃ καὶ Πενταπόλει, ὥστε τὸν Ἀλεξανδρειάς ἐπίσκοπον πάντων τούτων ἔχειν τὴν ἐξουσίαν, ἐπειδὴ καὶ τῷ ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἐπισκόπῳ τοῦτο συνύηθές ἐστιν· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ κατὰ τὴν Ἀντιόχειαν, καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἄλλαις ἐπαρχίαις, τὰ πρεσβεῖα σώζεσθαι ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις.

Cf. F. B. C. Maassen, op. cit., pp. 12-39.


11. Cf. Th. E. Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, 5 (Berlin, 1894), pp. 554 seq. A. Stein, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Verwaltung Aegyptens unter römischer Herrschaft (Stuttgart, 1915), pp. 35 seq., 79 seq.


12. A. Stein, ibid., pp. 31-33.





Egyptian provinces were also governed from this center by the chief of the Alexandrian Jews. [13] Christianity spread, of course, from Alexandria into the rest of the country, and its diffusion was directed by the bishop of the capital. All of this made it natural for Egyptian Christians to regard the bishops of Alexandria as their supreme pastors, and it was, therefore, easy for the latter to maintain their authority in all Egyptian provinces.


The authority of the Alexandrian bishops over the Egyptian provinces was so firmly established by the end of the third century that there the Nicene Fathers had to make an exception and to ignore the new division of the Empire decreed by Diocletian in 297. [14] This deprived Egypt of the special political status conferred by Augustus, and brought about its incorporation into the diocese [15] of the Orient, with its capital at Antioch. The rivalry between the Syrians and the Egyptians which so often in the past had flared into sharp political and national conflicts may have helped the Fathers to overlook this new situation. It could hardly be expected that the Egyptian Church would ever have submitted to that of Syria, but it must be borne in mind that in this case failure to adapt ecclesiastical organization to political changes was dictated by the previous political development of Egypt, and by the role that the city of Alexandria had played for centuries in the political, social, and economic life of that country.


Apparently, in the case of Alexandria, the Fathers had to make another exception to the general rule that was being adopted everywhere else in the Church, for the supreme authority of the Alexandrian bishops in Egypt was indicated by limiting to themselves the privilege of consecrating all bishops, even though the latter might have been elected by the communities and recommended to the bishop of Alexandria for approval and consecration.


The question of whether there were any metropolitan bishops in the Egyptian provinces at the beginning of the fourth century is still debated among specialists.



13. K. J. Marquardt, L’administration romaine, pt. 2. L’organisation de l'empire romain, 2 (French transl., Paris, 1892), p. 423.


14. See E .Kornemann, “Dioecesis", in Pauly-Wissowa, Realenzyclopädie, 5 (Stuttgart, 1905), cols. 727-734. On Diocletian’s administrative reforms see W. Seston, Diocletien et la tétrarchie (Paris, 1946), pp. 294-351. Cf. also E. Stein, Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches, 1 (Vienna, 1928), pp. 103 seq.


15. The word “diocese,” like “province,” is used here in the Roman administrative sense and not in the modern ecclesiastical sense.





R. Sohm [16] rejected the prevalent opinion that a metropolitan organization existed in Egypt at that time. He asserted that the bishop of Alexandria was the real bishop, and that the others acted only as his suffragans, dependent on him in every respect. Lübeck [17] presented strong arguments for the existence of metropolitans in Libya, Pentapolis, and Thebaid, prior to the Council of Nicaea. This view was opposed by K. Müller [18] whose reasoning deserves serious consideration. The wording of canon six seems to favor Müller’s interpretation in linking Alexandria with Rome. This is important, for if there were no metropolitans in the diocese of Italy at the time of the Council, all Italian bishops being subject directly to the Bishop of Rome, the same situation could be assumed to have existed in Egypt. The Fathers seem here to confirm a situation which had developed in Egypt, and which could be regarded as contrary to their decision, proclaimed in canon four, that there should be a metropolitan in every province.


If this interpretation is correct, it must be concluded that the bishops of Alexandria were officially given not only a metropolitan, but also a supra-metropolitan status, for their jurisdiction must then have extended over all the provinces of Egypt rather than merely over one province alone. In this way, perhaps, the controversial opinions concerning the status of Alexandria could be reconciled.


The wisdom of the Nicene Fathers' decision concerning the independence of Egypt is illustrated by the fact that even the political authorities soon came to the conclusion that Egypt should be given the status of a diocese. It was between the years 380 and 382 that Egypt became an independent diocese, exempt from the administrative authority of the comes Orientis, who had from 335, replaced the vicarius Orientis residing in Antioch. [19]



16. R. Sohm, op. cit., pp. 403 seq. Cf. also H. Linck, op. cit., pp. 31-37.


17. K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 116-134.


18. K. Müller, "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Verfassung der alten Kirche,” Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Klasse (Berlin, 1922), pp. 18 seq.


19. See on this minor point G. Downey, A Study of the Comites Orientis and the Consulares Syriae (Princeton, 1939), p. 9.





It is, therefore, almost certain that in 381, when the Council of Constantinople was in session, Egypt already existed as an administrative unit, independent of the diocese of the Orient. [20] The ecclesiastical organization was thus again in accord with the administrative division of the eastern part of the Empire.



Diocletian’s division of the Empire was, however, especially beneficial to Antioch. The rise of its bishops derived from apostolic times, though Antioch seems to have lost its leading position during the second century. Its bishops played no role in the controversy over the date for celebrating Easter, and none of the numerous synods during that controversy were held there. In spite of this, however, Serapion, the Bishop of Antioch (190-211) acted as arbiter in a religious quarrel troubling the Christians of Rhossos in Cilicia, [21] and he seems to have done so as if it had been his right. He is also said to have consecrated a bishop for Edessa, a city which had previously been in more intimate relationship with Jerusalem and Palestine. [22] The prestige of Antioch must thus have been maintained despite the inconspicuous role of its bishops in the religious life of the East during the second century and the first half of the third.


The situation changed, however, in the latter half of the third century. The bishops of Syria and Asia Minor assembled in Antioch three times between 263 and 268 to judge Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, who was arraigned because of his heretical views and wordly life. [23] These bishops acted as a group, conscious of the unity derived from their belonging to the same province, or from their being similarly attracted by the prestige of Antioch.



20. See Th. E. Mommsen “Verzeichnis der römischen Provinzen aufgesetzt um 297,” Abhandlungen der k. Preuss. Akad. der Wiss., Phil.-hist. Kl. 1862 (Berlin, 1863), pp. 494-496. Cf. K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 162 seq.


21. Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, 6, 12; PG, 20, col. 545; ed. E. Schwartz, Griechische Christliche Schriftsteller, 9, pp. 544 seq.


22. “The Doctrine of the Apostle Addaeus; Martyrdom of Barsamya,” ed. W. Cureton, Ancient Syriac Documents (London, 1864), pp. 23, 71. Cf. L. Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien (Paris, 1909), p. 19.


23. Mansi, 1, cols. 1031 ff., 1089 ff. For details and a complete bibliography on this subject consult H. de Riedmatten, Les Actes du procès de Paul de Samosate. Etude sur la christologie du IIIe au IVe siècle (Friebourg en Suisse, 1952).





At the synods of the bishops of Syria and Asia Minor at Ancyra (314) and Neocaesarea (315 or 320) [24] the bishops of Antioch presided as a matter of course.


The administrative reforms introduced by Diocletian stabilized this situation. The Emperor created the diocese of the Orient, administered by a vicarius, whose residence was Antioch, capital of Coele Syria. [25] His jurisdiction extended over all Roman provinces from Arabia to the boundary of Armenia, including Isauria and Cilicia in Asia Minor, as well as Egypt, and this situation was further consolidated by Constantine, who in 335, in order to check the danger from Persia, replaced the vicarius Orientis by a comes in whose hands administrative and military powers were concentrated. Thus, at the time of the Council of Nicaea, Antioch already occupied a privileged position in Church organization, similar to that of Alexandria.


The wording of canon six of the Council indicates clearly, however, that the rights claimed by the bishops of Antioch were not the same as those of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. Their claims are said to be not identical with, but only similar to, those of their two great colleagues, which indicates that the bishops of Antioch did not assume the right to ordain bishops for all Christian communities in the diocese of which Antioch was capital.



It is still a matter of debate whether the rights thus confirmed to the bishops of Antioch by the Fathers were those of an ordinary metropolitan or those of a supra-metropolitan. A clear explanation depends on the interpretation of the wording of canon six. K. Müller [26] thinks that the Fathers had in mind the tradional rights which had developed in some Mother Churches, and which sometimes conflicted with the new regulations contained in canon four. The bishops of many Mother Churches were accustomed to select bishops for the communities which their missionaries had converted,



24. Mansi, 2, cols. 513ff., 539. Cf. C. J. Hefele, H. Leclercq, op. cit., 1, pt. 1 pp. 298 ff., 326 ff. B. J. Kidd, op. cit., 1, pp. 543 ff.


25. On the political development of Syria under Roman rule, see K. J. Marquardt, op. cit., 2, pp. 331-384.


26. Ibid., pp. 22-27. Cf. R. Sohm, op. cit., pp. 398 seq., and K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 134-140.





and it was the wish of the Fathers that these established rights in Alexandria, Antioch, and other eparchies be preserved.


Even if this interpretation is accepted, it must be admitted that, in the case of Antioch, these rights were greater than those of a metropolitan in a province of which his see was the capital. Such rights were guaranteed to every metropolitan by canon four. Antioch must have acquired, before the Council of Nicaea, direct jurisdiction over an area wider than a province.


In the case of Antioch, less documentary evidence survives than in the case of Alexandria, and it is difficult to say whether the Fathers acknowledged the authority of the bishop of Antioch over the metropolitans of all the provinces of the diocese of the Orient, or only his right to ordain bishops in some areas outside the province of Syria over which he had direct jurisdiction as metropolitan.


A passage from the letter sent by Pope Innocent I (402-417) to Bishop Alexander of Antioch suggests that at the time of the Nicene Council Antioch enjoyed direct jurisdiction extending beyond the limits of its province. After confirming Alexander's interpretation of the Nicene decision as extending his jurisdiction over the whole diocese, the Pope indicates how Alexander should proceed in the ordination of bishops: [27]


"Therefore we think, most beloved brother, that, as you ordain the metropolitans according to your special powers, so you should not allow other bishops to be ordained without your knowledge and permission. In this the proper procedure would be to allow, through written consent, the bishops in distant places to be ordained by those who do so now according to their own judgment only. If you so wish, you should summon the candidates of the neighboring sees to present themselves for ordination by your grace."


It is true that the text is not very clear, but it can be supposed that the neighboring bishops, whose ordination by the bishop of Antioch is mentioned in the letters,



27. Epistola XXIV, P. Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum, i, (Paris, 1721), cols. 851 seq.; PL, 20, chap. i, col. 548:

Itaque arbitramur frater carissime, ut sicut metropolitanos auctoritate ordinas singulari, sic et ceteros non sine permissu conscientiaque tua sinas episcopos procreari. In quibus hunc modum recte servabis, ut longe positos litteris datis ordinari censeas ab his qui nunc eos suo tantum ordinant arbitratu : vicinos autem si aestimas, ad manus impostionem tuae gratiae statuas pervenire.





are not only those of the province of Syria. These bishops regarded him in any event as their metropolitan, and it would have been superfluous to stress Alexander’s right to ordain them. This distinction between the neighboring and distant sees of the diocese becomes more logical if the neighboring sees are assumed to mean those belonging to provinces other than Syria.


Of course in the same letter the Pope speaks about the jurisdiction of the bishop of Antioch over the whole diocese of the Orient. [28] It is perfectly reasonable to refuse to see in this statement any proof that, at the time of the Nicene Council, Antioch exercised jurisdiction over the entire diocese. The Pope’s words show, however, that by the beginning of the fifth century Antioch had become a supra-metropolis with jurisdiction over all of the diocese of the Orient. [29] This is the final stage of an evolution which started at the beginning of the fourth century, and which found a juridical basis in canon six of the Nicene Council giving greater rights to the bishops of Antioch than an ordinary metropolitan could claim.


It therefore cannot be said that the bishop of Antioch was promoted by the Fathers of Nicaea to a position of supra-metropolitan with authority over the whole diocese of the Orient except Egypt, though it must be admitted that the judgment given by the Fathers enabled the bishops of Antioch easily to extend their jurisdiction over the whole of the diocese, and in this respect they may have interpreted the sixth Nicene canon in a light favorable to their ambitions. The letter addressed by Alexander to Innocent I reveals that the process of Antiochene expansion met with some opposition from the metropolitans of the provinces.


Innocent I says in his reply [30] that this honor was accorded to Antioch by the Nicene Fathers not so much because of the importance of the city itself,



28. P. Coustant, ibid., col. 851; PL, 20, col. 517:

Revolventes itaque auctoritatem Nicaenae synodi, quae una omnium per orbem terrarum mentem explicat sacerdotum, quae censuit de Antiochena ecclesia cunctis fidelibus, ne dixerim sacerdotibus, esse necessarium custodire, qua super dioecesim suam praedictam ecclesiam non super aliquam provinciam recognoscimus constitutam.


29. Jerome’s outburst against John, Bishop of Jerusalem (see the quotation infra, p. 22. PL, 23, col. 407), can also be accepted only as proof that in Jerome’s time Antioch exercised its jurisdiction over all of the diocese of the Orient.


30. P. Coustant, op. cit., col. 851, PL, 20, col. 517.





but because it had been honored by the presence of St. Peter; and that it was inferior to Rome only because the apostle had made a temporary stay within its walls, whereas he had made Rome his permanent see and had died there.


This papal interpretation reveals to what extent the idea of apostolicity was appreciated in Rome at the beginning of the fifth century. [31] The Nicene Fathers were undoubtedly aware of Peter’s stay in Antioch, but this was not their reason for confirming the city’s privileges.


How slight a role the idea of apostolicity had played in the rise of Antioch to such ecclesiastical prominence is illustrated by the fact that the Antiochenes did not consider the Apostle Peter to have been their first bishop though such a claim might have seemed quite natural in view of the fact that Peter stayed in Antioch, and that he was the chief of the apostles. Thus it was that Eusebius, [32] who had read the catalogue of the bishops of Antioch, quoted Euodius as the first bishop and St. Ignatius as his successor. In this respect the Antiochenes followed the old Christian tradition which regarded the apostles as teachers of the whole world and was reluctant to call them bishops of particular cities. We shall see that this tradition had prevailed also in Rome up to the beginning of the fourth century. [33]


What is the meaning of the last part of the canon that speaks of the rights of Churches in other eparchies ? Ought it to be interpreted as a measure to protect the rights of the Mother Churches, whose bishops sometimes exercised jurisdiction over Churches outside their provinces ? [34] This is possible, but, if so, why did the Fathers add the injunction that should a bishop be ordained without the consent of a metropolitan,



31. Cf. infra, pp. 70 seq.


32. Hist. eccles., 3, 22; PG, 20, col. 256; ed. Schwartz, p. 236. The tradition attributing to St. Peter seven years of episcopal activity in Antioch seems to have originated at the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) and to have been of Roman origin. Cf. Gregory’s Epistola ad Eulogium Alexandrinum, 7, Epist. 40; PL, 77, col. 899.


33. See infra, pp. 40 seq.


34. K. Müller, “Beiträge,” op. cit., pp. 25-27.





he should not be allowed to exercise his functions ? [35] If the Fathers intended to protect the established rights of Mother Churches, this limitation nullified their concession, for, if a bishop of such a Church were to appoint a bishop to another Church outside or inside his province, he had to do so with the permission of the metropolitan. This implies a cancellation of the established rights of Mother Churches.


However, E. Schwarz [36] succeeded in determining the original wording of this part of the canon, and his discovery gives a new meaning to the passage. The wording of canon six, quoted above, [36a] is taken from the collection of the Nomocanon of Fourteen Titles, based on the sixth-century canonical collection composed by John Scholasticus. [37] The oldest Latin translation of the Nicene canons gives, however, a different reading of this passage: [38] Similiter autem et qui in Antiochia constitutus est : et in ceteris provinciis primatus habeant ecclesiae civitatum ampliorum. The civitates ampliores is an old Latin translation of the Greek word metropolis with which the Latins were not familiar at the beginning of the fourth century.


This oldest Roman version is similar to the translation of this canon which was read in 418 at the Synod of Carthage: [39] Nec non et apud Antiochiam itaque et in aliis provinciis propria iura serventur metropolitanis ecclesiis. This translation was made from a copy of the canons brought from Nicaea in 325 by Caecilian, Bishop of Carthage, who attended the Council. The Council of Carthage decided to request the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople to send to Carthage an authentic text of the Nicene canons.



35. Mansi, 2, col. 672, canon six:

καθόλου δὲ πρόδηλον ἐκεῖνο, ὅτι εἴτις χωρὶς γνώμης τοῦ μητροπολίτου γένοιτο ἐπίσκοπος, τὸν τοιοῦτον ἡ μεγάλη σύνοδος ὥρισε μὴ δεῖν εἶναι ἐπίσκοπον· ἐὰν μέντοι τῇ κοινῇ πάντων ψήφῳ εὐλόγῳ οὔσῃ καὶ κατὰ κανόνα ἐκκλησιαστικόν, δύο ἢ τρεῖς δι᾿ οἰκείαν φιλονεικίαν ἀντιλέγωσι, κρατείτω ἡ τῶν πλειόνων ψῆφος.


36. “Der sechste nicänische Kanon auf der Synode von Chalkedon,” Sitzungsberichte der Preuss. Akad. der Wiss., Phil.-hist. Kl., 27 (1930), pp. 633-640.


36a. P. 8.


37. V. N. Beneševič, “Ioannis Scholastici Syntagma L Titulorum,” Abhandlungen der Bayrischen Akad. der Wiss., Phil.-hist. Kl., N. F., Heft 14 (1937), P. 32. Syntagma Canonum XIV titulorum. PG, 104, col. 468 (tit. I, chap. V).


38. C. H. Turner, Ecclesiae occidentalis Monumenta iuris antiquissima, i (Oxford, 1899), p. 121 (Codex Ingilrami).


39. Ibid., p. 120 (I). Cf. ibid., p. 581.





Atticus of Constantinople sent the Greek text to Carthage and added a Latin translation made in Constantinople. This material later reached Pope Boniface in Rome. Atticus' translation of the passage in question reads thus : [40] Similiter autem et circa Antiochiam et in ceteris provinciis privilegia propria reserventur metropolitans ecclesiis. The same version is also to be found in the Prisca, [41] the oldest collection of Roman canon law, which is based on the tradition preserved in the manuscript of Chieti and in the translation sent by Atticus.


Thus it appears, that the primitive text of the sixth canon contained the words ταῖς τῶν μητροπόλεων ἐκχλησίαις, and that the words τῶν μητροπόλεων were dropped in the early collection of canon law which originated, as E. Schwartz [42] has convincingly shown, in Antioch. The altered text was used by the bishops of that city in their struggle for power against the metropolitans of the diocese of the Orient who opposed Antioch's pretensions. This version was also introduced in Rome, probably from Antioch, and can even be found in the translation of Nicene canons made under Pope Innocent I.


This passage of the canon simply confirms, therefore, all the prerogatives that the metropolitan bishops had gradually acquired over the provincial bishops. Further confirmation is found in the ensuing canon regulating the election of bishops, which states that no bishop may be ordained without the consent of the metropolitan.


This interpretation contradicts the opinion of many scholars [43] who think that in this passage the Fathers had in mind the bishops of the other three main cities of the East—Ephesus, Caesarea, and Heracleia—which had begun to claim jurisdiction over the dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace in conformity with the new organization of the Empire. Those who oppose this interpretation rightly point out that, if the Fathers had been thinking of these three capitals of Eastern dioceses, they would have inserted the names of the capitals in the canon,



40. Ibid., pp. 611 seq. (Atticus’ letter), 120 (canon six in Atticus’ version).


41. Ibid., p. 121 (III).


42. Op. cit., pp. 635-640.


43. See K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 140-148, where numerous bibliographical indications will be found.





as they had inserted those of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.


However, although this passage of the canon cannot be quoted as proof that the Fathers intended to introduce a supra-metropolitan organization in the Church, it does not exclude the possibility that the other diocesan capitals were trying to extend their jurisdiction over bishoprics beyond their own provinces. The fact that the Fathers felt obliged to stress in canons four and six the rights of the metropolitans in their provinces indicates that there were some attempts to disregard those rights. Such attempts might have come from the bishops of the diocesan capitals, acting in imitation of the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch whose direct jurisdiction extended beyond their respective ecclesiastical provinces. The Fathers were ready to give full approval of the practice for only Rome and Alexandria, and more limited approval for Antioch. They discouraged its spread to other dioceses, and protected the rights of the metropolitans.


(Implications of the canon six of the First Council of Nicaea)


Canon six cannot therefore be interpreted as the magna charta of a supra-metropolitan organization, accomodated to the division of the Empire into dioceses. Nevertheless, there are strong indications that the whole development of Church organization was moving in that direction, and that this evolution was somewhat accelerated by the stipulations of the canon. This impression seems strengthened by the wording of canon two, voted by the Fathers of the Second Oecumenical Council which met in Constantinople only fifty-six years after the Council of Nicaea. It reads as follows: [44]


“According to the canons, the bishop of Alexandria should limit himself to the administration of Egypt, the bishops of the Orient should administer only the Orient, provided that the rights of the Church of Antioch described in the canons of Nicaea be respected, the bishops of the dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace, respectively, should administer the affairs of only those dioceses."



44. Mansi, 3, col. 560:

ἀλλὰ κατὰ τοῦς κανόνας, τὸν μὲν Ἀλεξανδρείας ἐπίσκοπον τὰ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ μόνον οἰκονομεῖν· τοὺς δὲ τῆς Ἀνατολῆς ἐπισκόπους τὴν ἀνατολὴν μόνην διοικεῖν· φυλαττομένων τῶν ἐν τοῖς κανόσι τοῖς κατὰ Νικαίαν πρεσβειών τῇ Ἀντιοχέων ἐκκλησίᾳ· καὶ τοὺς τῆς Ἀσιανῆς διοικήσεως ἐπισκόπους τὰ κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν μόνην οἰκονομεῖν· καὶ τοὺς τῆς Ποντικῆς, τὰ τῆς Ποντικῆς μόνον· καὶ τοὺς τῆς Θρᾴκης, τὰ τῆς Θρᾳκικῆς μόνον οἰκονομεῖν.





It is evident from this canon that the Fathers were anxious to keep the organization of the Church in strict conformity with the framework of the political divisions of the Empire. The wording of the canon shows, moreover, that such was the intention also of the Fathers of Nicaea, or, at least, that the decisions were interpreted in that sense. The new ordinance was intended only to reinforce a prescription issued by the First Oecumenical Council. The canons invoked at the beginning of this injunction can only be those of Nicaea. Regarding the rights of the bishops of Antioch guaranteed at Nicaea, it may be that these were questioned by the metropolitans of the provinces for whose communities the bishop of Antioch claimed the privilege of episcopal ordination. The Council therefore once again confirmed these rights.


The sixth canon, attributed to the Second Oecumenical Council, but voted most probably by the Council which assembled in Constantinople in 382, [45] confirms the impression that Church organization was progressing along the lines of the political division of the Empire toward the formation of supra-metropolitan units corresponding to imperial dioceses. The canon establishes that complaints against a bishop had first to be examined by the provincial synod. The plaintiff could appeal the judgment of the provincial synod to a larger synod of bishops from the civil diocese. [46]


Even if the most cautious interpretation of this canon [47] were accepted—namely, that it was not the intention of the Fathers to assemble a synod of the whole diocese, and that the larger synod was to be convoked by the same metropolitan who had presided over the first synod—it must be admitted that there was an unmistakable tendency to create a supra-metropolitan organism as a second means of appeal.


Because the canon speaks of dioceses in general, its meaning could not have been restricted to the dioceses of Egypt and the Orient only.



45. Cf. C. J. Hefele, H. Leclercq, op. cit., 2, pt. 1 (Paris, 1908), pp. 18 seq.


46. Mansi, 3, col. 561D:

εἰ δὲ συμβαίη ἀδυνατῆσαι τοὺς ἐπαρχιώτας πρὸς διόρθωσιν τῶν ἐπιφερομένων ἐγκλημάτων τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ τότε αὐτοὺς προσιέναι μείζονι συνόδῳ τῶν τῆς διοικήσεως ἐπισκόπων ἐκείνης, ὑπὲρ τῆς αἰτίας ταύτης συγκαλουμένων.


47. Proposed by Κ. Müller, “Kanon 2 und 6 von Konstantinopel 381 und 382,” in Festgabe für A. Jülicher (Tübingen, 1937), pp. 190-202.





It was to be applied to all civil dioceses of the eastern part of the Empire, including the minor dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace. Even if it be supposed that the larger council could have been convoked by the metropolitan of the province where the first synod had met, the logical development would have been for the bishops of the diocesan capitals to play the principal role in such cases. Thus the impartiality of the second tribunal—the larger synod—would have been more strongly guaranteed.


Actually, this tendency appears in the ordinance issued July 30, 381, by which the Emperor Theodosius I confirmed the decisions of the Council. [48] After declaring that the Churches were to be administered by bishops professing the Nicene Creed, the Emperor orders the bishops to establish unity of belief in all dioceses. He mentions the names of the prelates of proved orthodoxy in every diocese with whom the bishops should be in communion in order to obtain possession of the churches from the magistrates. The first listed is Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, then follow, for the diocese of Egypt, Timothy of Alexandria, and for that of the Orient, Pelagius of Laodicaea and Diodorus of Tarsus. Antioch is not mentioned because the see was still vacant. For the diocese of Asia, Amphilochius of Iconium and Optimus of Antioch in Pisidia, are named, but Ephesus is omitted because the see was occupied by a heretic. For the diocese of Pontus, Helladius of Caesarea, Otreius of Melitene, Gregory of Nyssa, Terennius of Scythia, and Marmarius of Marcianopolis are listed. The diocese of Thrace is not mentioned, and it is justifiable to suppose that the Bishop of Constantinople was regarded as the most competent authority in that diocese.


The principle of adaption to the administrative organization of the Empire is here fully applied, and it can rightly be assumed that the bishops of the diocesan capitals soon became the most prominent leaders. In point of fact, the bishops of Caesarea, Ephesus, and Heracleia are fisted at the head of the Klesis of 218 as metropolitans of the three minor dioceses which,



48. Codex Theodosianus, 16, 1, 3; ed. P. Krueger, Th. E. Mommsen (Berlin, 1905), p. 834.





according to E. Gerland, [49] were formed at the end of the fourth century. Their prominence is indicated, too, by the circumstance that each of them bore the title of exarch, a title found also in the signatures of the Council of 680. [50] Exarchs are mentioned in canon nine of the Council of Chalcedon, and it would be logical to surmise that these were the three bishops meant. [51]


The canons of the Council of Constantinople are, unfortunately, couched in very general terms, and for lack of other documentary evidence the growth of Eastern Church organization is unlikely ever to be clearly traced. According to the canon, the division of the whole Eastern Church into bodies whose territories coincided with the boundaries of the civil dioceses indicates clearly that supra-metropolitan organisms were being formed in the East, and from other evidence given above, it is clear that the bishops of the diocesan capitals were gradually becoming supra-metropolitans.


This development is important. Canon six of the Council of Nicaea and canon two of the Council of Constantinople laid the foundation for the further development of Church organization and for its division into patriarchates. From this it may be concluded that Ephesus, Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Heracleia in Thrace were also destined to develop into autonomous patriarchates because they were capitals of political dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace, but this evolution was disturbed by the rise of Constantinople which assumed supreme jurisdiction over the three dioceses.


There is yet another Nicene canon which illustrates the reluctance of the Fathers to grant an exception to the general rule of adaptation to the administrative division of the Empire. The bishops of Jerusalem were eager to obtain a status more commensurate in importance with the holiness of their city and with the growing veneration of the faithful for the Holy Places,



49. E. Gerland, Die Genesis der Notitia, episcopatuum, in Corpus notitiarum episcopatuum Ecclesiae Orientalis Graecae, 1 (Kadiköy, 1931), p. 8.


50. Mansi, ii, cols. 688, 689:

Φιλαλήθης, ἀνάξιος ἐπίσκοπος τῆς Καισαρέων μητροπόλεως, καὶ ἔξαρχος τῆς Ποντικῆς διοικήσεως ... Θεόδωρος ... ἔξαρχος τῆς Ἀσιανῶν διοικήσεως.

But Sisinnius of Heracleia is called only Bishop τῆς Ἡρακλεοτῶν μητροπόλεως τῆς Εὐρωπαίων ἐπαρχίας.


51. Cf. Ε. Honigmann, “Le ‘Corpus notitiarum episcopatuum,' ” Byzantion ii (1936), pp. 346 seq. Cf. infra, p. 92.





for this new city of Aelia Capitolina, which had risen on the ruins of Jerusalem, had always been subject in ecclesiastical matters to Caesarea, the new metropolis of Palestine.


The Fathers shared the veneration of other Christians for the Holy Places, but were not yet prepared to disregard the existing situation created by the principle of adaptation to previous administrative divisions. Therefore, they granted the bishop of Jerusalem the honorary status of only a metropolitan, leaving him under the jurisdiction of Caesarea and Antioch. This is the meaning of canon seven, voted by the Council: [52]


“Because it is an established custom and an old tradition that the Bishop of Aelia should be treated with special honor, he shall thus enjoy precedence of honor, but in such a way that the metropolis shall preserve the dignity which is its right."


There does not seem to be any evidence that the see of Jerusalem, because it was founded by an apostle, was regarded as more venerable than other sees. Clement of Alexandria's report on the election of James as Bishop of Jerusalem—a report preserved by Eusebius [53] — indicates that Jerusalem was regarded as the most venerable see because Christ preached and died there, but in spite of this, says Clement, the three most distinguished apostles—Peter, John, and James—did not quarrel over the honor of becoming bishop of the sacred city, but elected James to the office.


The supra-metropolitan organization, founded on the political division of the Empire into dioceses, for which the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople laid the basis, was accepted as a matter of course in the East. That it was in full operation toward the end of the fourth century is illustrated by Jerome's letter— of 396 or 397—to Pammachius concerning John, Bishop of Jerusalem, who asked Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, to act as an intermediary in his controversy with Bishop Epiphanius of Cyprus and the monks of Bethlehem. [54]



52. Mansi, 2, col. 672. Cf. S. Vailhé, "Formation de patriarcat de Jérusalem,” Echos d’Orient, 13 (1910), pp. 325—336.


53. Hist. eccles., 2, i; PG, 20, col. 136; ed. E. Schwartz, p. 104. Cf. K. Lübeck, op. cit., pp. 157 seq.


54. S. Hieronymus, Liber ad Pammachium contra Joannem Hierosolymitanum chap. 37, PL, 23, col. 407A:

Tu qui regulas quaeris ecclesiasticas, et Nicaeni concilii canonibus uteris, et alienos clericos, et cum suis episcopis commorantes tibi niteris usurpare, responde mihi, ad Alexandrinum episcopum Palaestina quid pertinet ? Ni fallor, hoc ibi decernitur, ut Palaestinae metropolis Caesaria sit, et totius Orientis Antiochia. Aut igitur ad Caesariensem episcopum referre debueras, cui, spreta communione tua, communicare nos noveras ; aut si procul expetendum judicium erat, Antiochiam potius litterae dirigendae. Sed novi cur Caesariam, cur Antiochiam nolueris mittere. Sciebas quid fugeres, quid vitares. Maluisti occupatis auribus molestiam facere, quam debitum metropolitano tuo honorem reddere.





Jerome rebuked John of Jerusalem very severely, and from his outburst it may be concluded that the sixth canon of Nicaea was interpreted as having introduced the status of supra-metropolitan into Church organization. Jerome invokes ecclesiastical rules and uses the canons of the Council of Nicaea when he writes


“You, who try to usurp foreign clerics who are in communion with their own bishop, answer me—what has Palestine to do with the Bishop of Alexandria? If I am not mistaken, it is decreed there, that the metropolis of Palestine should be Caesarea, and the metropolis of all the Orient should be Antioch. You should thus apply either to the Bishop of Caesarea... or, if you wish to seek another judgment, you should write to Antioch....”


The meaning of Jerome's words is clear. The bishops must first seek the advice or judgment of their metropolitans, and if they are not satisfied, they then have the right of appeal to the suprametropolitan, but Jerome will not tolerate having a bishop disregard his own metropolitan or supra-metropolitan, and invoke the intervention of the supra-metropolitan of another diocese, and he speaks of this procedure as of something generally known and accepted, and traces it back to the canons of Nicaea.



Adaptation to the divisions of the Empire in the West:

(Rome, Italy)


Canon six of the Council of Nicaea also acknowledges the rights of the Roman see over the whole of Italy, and suggests, moreover, that the exercise of these rights by the bishop of Rome was a precedent that served as a good example for the bishop of Alexandria. [55]



55. G. Roethe (“Zur Geschichte der röm. Synoden im 3. und 4. Jahrhundert,“ in Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Geistesgesch., 11 [Geistige Grundlagen röm. Kirchenpolitik, Stuttgart, 1932], p. 7) is inclined to think the first known bishop of Alexandria (about 187-230), when instituting bishops in Egyptian localities, simply imitated a practice introduced in Rome by his contemporary, Pope Victor. Cf. also G. La Piana, “The Roman Church at the End of the Second Century,“ Harvard Theological Review, 18 (1925), p. 233.





Although the idea of apostolicity was cultivated in Rome from the very beginning of its Christian history, and although it enhanced the prestige of the bishops as successors of St. Peter, the fact that the political situation existing in Italy also helped considerably to foster their influence and prestige should not be overlooked. The inhabitants of Italy were Roman citizens of the last period of the Republic, and Italian towns were Roman municipia. What, therefore, could have been more natural for the Christians of the Italian towns than that they should regard themselves as members of the Christian community of Rome? It is no wonder that the bishop of Rome was the metropolitan of the hundred bishops who existed in Italy about the year 250.


But again, it was the practice of adaptation to the political structure of the Empire that brought about the limitation of the rights of Roman bishops. Under Maximian Milan became an imperial residence, and thus rose to great prominence. As a consequence of Diocletian's administrative reforms, the city became the capital of the diocese of Italy (Italia Annonaria), a development which was confirmed by Constantine the Great in 323. No direct indication is extant as to when the bishop of Milan assumed jurisdiction over the North of Italy, but it must certainly have happened before St. Ambrose became Bishop of Milan, and it is safe to suppose that it happened when the administrative changes took place. [56]


From that time on, the bishop of Milan obtained jurisdiction over the provinces administered by the vicarius Italiae, [57] — Liguria, Emilia, Venetia, and Flaminia. The direct jurisdiction of the Roman bishop was, thenceforward, limited to the provinces called suburbicariae [58] placed under the vicarius Urbis—Toscana,



56. Cf. F. Lanzoni, “Le diocesi d’Italia dalle origini al principio del secolo VII (an. 604),“ Studi e Testi, 35 (1927), pp. 1016 seq.

“S’inclina a credere che la chiesa di Milano entrasse in possesso di questo diritto allorchè divenne capitale effectiva dell’ impero e residenza ordinaria dell’ imperatore Massimiano, e quando, nel 297, Diocleziano divise l’Italia in due diocesi cioè nella diocesi di Roma e nella diocesi di Milano ; divisione confermata da Costantino nel 323.”

Cf. also F. Savio, Gli antichi vescovi d'ltalia, dalle origini al 1300 descritti per regioni, 1 (Florence, 1913), La Lombardia, Milano, pp. 104-108.


57. Cf. P. Batiffol, Cathedra Petri, études d'histoire ancienne de l'Eglise (Paris, 1938), p. 43.


58. This interpretation of the sixth Nicene canon is to be found in later Latin translations. See C. H. Turner, op. cit., 1, pp. 120 (Caecilianus), 121 (interpret. Prisca), 150, 197 (Rufinus).





Ombria, Campania, Lucania-Bruttium, Apulia-Calabria, Samnium, Flaminia-Picenum, Valeria, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica.


There is no trace of a protest by the bishop of Rome against this partition, and apparently Rome did nothing to hasten the creation of further metropolitan sees in northern Italy—Aquileia and Ravenna [59]—in order to diminish a possible danger from the great metropolis of Milan. The new situation was accepted because it fostered the propagation of the faith in northern Italy, and because it corresponded to the established practice of adapting the ecclesiastical to the political division of the Empire.




Another case which may be cited was the effort of the bishops of Rome to adapt themselves, at least partially, to a new situation in civil administration. In 379 the Emperor Gratian [60] detached two dioceses, Macedonia and Dacia, which formed the eastern part of Illyricum, from his part of the Empire, and ceded them to the Emperor Theodosius. This measure was only provisional, because in 380 the eastern part of Illyricum was already reunited with the western part, and so again formed a part of the Empire of the West. A period of fluctuation followed from 380 to 395 during which Illyricum was more often governed by the Emperor of the East than by the Emperor of the West, but in 395 the division of Illyricum into an eastern part, comprising the dioceses of Macedonia and Dacia, and a western part, comprising the dioceses of Pannonia and Rhaetia, became definitive. [61]



59. On the promotion of Aquileia (about 400) and Ravenna (between 426 and 431) to a metropolitan status, see F. Savio, op. cit., pp. 152, 168, 179.


60. Sozomenos, Hist. eccles., 7, 4; PG, 67, col. 1421.


61. See, on this complicated history,

·       E. Stein, “Untersuchungen zur spätrömischen Verwaltungsgeschichte," Rheinisches Museum, 74 (1925), pp. 347 seq.;

·       E. Demougeot, “A propos des partages de l'Illyricum en 386-395," Actes du VIe congrès international d'études byzantines, I (Paris, 1950), pp. 87-92;

·       Cf. also her work, De l'unité à la division de l'empire romain (Paris, 1951), pp. 143 seq.

·       J. R. Palanque, “La préfecture du Prétoire de rillyricum au IVe siècle," Byzantion, 21 (1951), pp. 5-14.

Numerous bibliographical notices will be found in the detailed but less clear study by

·       V. Grumel, “L'Illyricum de la mort de Valentinien Ier (375) à la mort de Stilicon (408)," Revue des études byzantines, 9 (1951), pp. 5-46.

The most complete bibliography on Illyricum will be found in

·       Μ. V. Anastos' study “The Transfer of Illyricum to the Jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 732-733," “Silloge Bizantina" in onore di Silvio Giuseppe Mercati (Rome, 1957), pp. 15, 16.





This splitting up endangered the maintenance of papal jurisdiction over the whole of Illyricum,—a danger which was accentuated by the rise of Constantinople—and this development was further illustrated by the decisions in its favor made by the Council of Constantinople in 381. In order to avert the danger, the Roman bishops felt obliged to create a new ecclesiastical dignity—a vicar of the Roman see; so the dioceses of Macedonia and Dacia were placed under the surveillance of this vicar, who was the metropolitan of Thessalonica, the city which was the residence of the praefectus praetorio Illyrici.


The establishment of the vicariate of Thessalonica seems to have gone through an evolution similar to that of the political situation in Illyricum. A letter of Pope Innocent I [62] shows that the new vicariate was instituted by Damasus (336-384), possibly in 379, when the changes in Illyricum began. But, doubtless because of the unstable political situation in that part of the Empire, the vicariate seems to have become secure only under Damasus' successor Siricius (384-398). Pope Leo's letter to Anastasius of Thessalonica [63] shows that Siricius delegated special powers to Anysius, Anastasius' predecessor. This could be interpreted as a confirmation of Damasus' initiative, but the problem needs more thorough examination.


Pope Innocent I (402-417), when writing to Anysius of Thessalonica about his elevation to the see of Rome, declared [64] that he followed the example of his predecessors Damasus, Siricius, and Anastasius, who were in the habit of communicating to the bishop of Thessalonica all important events in Rome. This letter shows, at least, that the bishops of Thessalonica were regarded as the most prominent prelates in Illyricum, with whom the bishops of Rome, from Damasus on, had entered into an especially intimate relationship.



62. Letter to Anysius of Thessalonica, Mansi, 8, col. 750, PL, 20, cols. 4630.


63. PL, 54, Epist. 6, col. 617.


64. Mansi, 8 cols. 750 seq. The letters concerning the rights of Thessalonica over Illyricum, the so-called Collectio Thessalonicensis, are preserved in the Acts of the Roman Synod of 531, and were published, in 1662, by Holstes.

E. Schwartz, in his study “Die sogenannte Sammlung der Kirche von Thessalonich” (Festschrift für R. Reitzenstein [Leipzig, Berlin, 1931], pp. 137-159), corrected the many mistakes of Holstes’ edition reprinted in Mansi. Schwartz’s remarks are of great importance for the study of the position of Thessalonica in Illyricum. Another edition of the Collection was made by C. v. Silva-Tarouca in Textus et Documenta, series theologica, 23 (Rome. 1937).





A letter of Siricius (384-398) to Anysius [65] gives us, fortunately, more explicit details about this kind of relationship. The Pope, in order to prevent irregularities in elevations of bishops in Illyricum, repeated what he had already made known to Siricius in another letter: that no-one would be permitted to ordain a bishop in Illyricum without the consent of the bishop of Thessalonica.


In a letter to Anysius' successor, Rufus, Innocent discussed more specifically the position of the bishop of Thessalonica in Illyricum, whom he designated expressly as vicar of the Pope, and enumerated the provinces that were placed under the bishop's jurisdiction. They corresponded to the provinces of the two dioceses—Macedonia (Achaea, Thessalia, Epirus Vetus, Epirus Nova, Crete) and Dacia (Dacia Mediterranea, Dacia Ripensis, Moesia, Dardania, Praevalitana). The rights accorded by the Pope to his vicar were considerable. The vicar was to represent the Pope in Eastern Illyricum, to confirm the elections of bishops and to consecrate them, to preside over the local synod of the whole territory, and to act as judge in all difficulties that might arise among the bishops of his vicariate. Only major cases or appeals against the vicar's decisions were reserved to the Pope's judgment.


The Pope explicitly pointed out that he was not introducing anything new into the relationship between Rome and Thessalonica, but that he was continuing the practice of his predecessors, who had given such rights to Acholius and Anysius. [66] All of this permits us to assume that Pope Damasus must already have conceived the idea of giving to the bishops of Thessalonica a privileged position in Illyricum. The terminus a quo of Damasus' initiative could have been the year 379 when the changes in Illyricum had started. Actually Damasus was in continuous contact with Acholius of Thessalonica, who acted, as the Pope's trustee in Constantinople, against both the candidature of the Philosopher Maximus to the bishopric of that city, and against the candidature of Gregory of Nazianzus. [67]



65. Mansi, 8, col. 751.


66. Ibid., cols. 751 seq. : non primitus haec ita statuentes sed praecessores nostros apostolicos imitati qui beatissimis A cholio et Any sio injungi pro eorum meritis ita voluerant .... Arripe itaque, dilectissime frater, nostra vice per suprascriptas ecclesias, salvo eorum primatu, curam....





Unfortunately we have no other documentary evidence concerning Damasus' plans for Illyricum, but we have no reason to doubt Innocent's repeated statements that his predecessors— Damasus is also expressly mentioned—had already conferred rights, similar to those he had so fully specified in 415 in his letter to Rufus, on the bishops of Thessalonica. [68]


The letter of Siricius to Anysius reveals the second phase of the growth of an idea which was only vaguely conceived by Damasus. The fluctuating political status of Illyricum from 380 to 395 may have induced Siricius to strengthen, with the help of the Bishop of Thessalonica, the bonds tying Illyricum to Rome. The letter may be taken as an indication that Anysius, discharging the function which Damasus had entrusted to him, had complained to the Pope about irregularities that had occurred recently in Illyricum. In order to prevent a repetition of these, the metropolitan of Thessalonica was charged in future to supervise personally, or by delegating another bishop, all episcopal elections in Eastern Illyricum, so that they might be carried out according to the statutes of the Nicene Council and of the Roman Church. It can be assumed that the disorders in question were, at least in part, a consequence of the unstable political conditions in Eastern Illyricum.


Innocent's letter quoted above reveals that the privilege given by Siricius to the metropolitan of Thessalonica was confirmed by Siricius' successor Anastasius (398-402). The establishment of a vicariate in Thessalonica was a very prudent move, and, by thus accommodating themselves to the new administrative change, the Popes preserved their jurisdiction over Illyricum for a long time to come.



67. Mansi, 8, col. 750. Cf. E. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttums, 1 (Tübingen, 1930), pp. 235 seq.


68. Η. Fuhrmann, in his study “Studien zur Geschichte mittelalterlicher Patriarchate," Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung, 70, Kanon. Abt., 39 (1953), p. 173, is too rigid when he dated the establishment of the vicariate from only 415. Cf. also J. Haller, Das Papsttum, 1 (2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1950), pp. 511-514. However, it should be admitted that the idea of the vicariat grew slowly under Damasus, Siricius and Anastasius, and found its full development only under Innocent. J. Langen (Geschichte der römischen Kirche, I, bis zum Pontifikate Leos I [Bonn, 1881], p. 668) admitted that Anastasius might already have given to the bishop of Thessalonica the privilege of being supreme judge in Illyricum. According to Langen, Innocent went too far when he dated the establishment of the vicariate from Damasus in order to create an older tradition.





When, in 421, the Emperor Theodosius II [69] attempted to bring Illyricum under the bishop of Constantinople, Pope Boniface (418-422) asked the Emperor of the West, Honorius, to help him defend the rights of the Roman Church. Honorius sent a letter to Theodosius II, [70] and this document marks, for the first time in the history of the Roman see, the invocation by Boniface of canon six of the Council of Nicaea to protect his rights. Honorius likewise stressed the prominent position of Rome in the Empire, and appealed to Theodosius II not to permit “the Roman Church to lose under Christian emperors what it had not lost under other rulers."


Theodosius II promptly acceded to Honorius' request. His letter [71] shows that he had acted on suggestions made by some Illyrian bishops. But, after receiving Honorius' letter, he immediately informed the praefectus praetorio Illyrici that his rescript should not be put into practice. Boniface then solemnly confirmed the dignity of a vicar to Rufus, Metropolitan of Thessalonica, and in his letters to the bishops of Thessaly and all Eastern Illyricum he once more reiterated very outspokenly the rights of the see of Peter in Illyricum. [72]



69. P. Constant, Epist. Rom. Pontificum I, col. 1029. Cod. Theod., 16, 2, 45; cd. P. Krueger, Th. E. Mommsen p. 852. PL, 20, col. 769.


70. P. Coustant, ibid., cols. 1029, 1030:

Omnibus quidem causis, in quibus nostrum postulatur auxilium, intercessionem apud aures tuae clementiae negare non possumus; sed his majorem necessario curam studiumque debemus quibus sanctae sedis apostolicae desideria continentur. Nam cum favore divino nostrum semper gubernetur imperium, procul dubio ilius urbis ecclesia speciali nobis cultu veneranda est, ex qua et Romanum principatum accepimus, et principium sacerdotium .... Petit enim, ut haec privilegia, quae dudum a patribus constituta usque ad tempora nostra servata, inconcussa perdurent. In qua parte respicit serenitas tua, nihil vetustis decretis, si quae canonum conscripta sunt regulis, penitus derogandum....

See also PL, 20, cols. 769 seq.


71. P. Coustant, ibid., cols. 1030, 1031. PL, 20, cols. 770 seq.


72. P. Coustant, ibid., cols. 1034 seq. PL, 20, Epist. 13, 14, 15, cols. 774-784. See also the whole papal correspondence concerning Illyricum in Mansi, 8, cols. 749 seq., in the Acts of the Roman Council from 531.

For details see

·       P. Batiffol, Le siège apostolique (Paris, 1924), pp. 245-265.

·       J. Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l’Empire romain (Paris 1918), pp. 365 seq.

·       Cf. also F. Dvornik, Les légendes de Constantin et de Méthode vues de Byzance (Prague, 1933), pp. 248 seq.


Recently R. Honig, Beiträge zur Entwicklung des Kirchenrechts (Göttinger Rechtswissenschaftliche Studien, Heft 12 [1954]), pp. 30-45, declared that Theodosius’ letters to Honorius and the three letters by Boniface (PL, 20, cols. 774—786, Epist. 12, 14, 15) had been interpolated after the year 534, and dated the erection of the Illyrian vicariate no earlier than 535 after the promotion of Justiniana prima to an archbishopric by Justinian I. Thus Honig renewed the objections to the authenticity of the documents raised by Friedrich in his study, “Über die Sammlung der Kirche in Thessalonich und das päpstliche Vikariat für Illyricum," Sitzungsber. Philos. Phil.-hist. Kl. der Academie (Munich, 1891), pp. 771 seq.


Friedrich’s objections were refuted by L. Duchesne in his study “L’lllyricum ecclésiastique,” BZ, i (1892), pp. 531-550, and by Leporski in Istorija Fessaalonikskago ekzarchata (St. Petersburg, 1901), which I am unable to obtain. Duchesne’s argument was approved by J. Haller also (Das Papsttum, op. cit., p. 511), and is still generally accepted.


Honig goes further than Friedrich in thinking that Illyricum was an independent Church unit; a kind of partriarchate directing its own affairs through its own councils. Theodosius’ decree confirmed this status for Illyricum and stipulated only that the patriarch of Constantinople should be consulted before a conciliar decision was made. Honig’s interpretation of the decree, contrary to opinions held until now, excludes any possibility of a submission by Illyricum to Constantinople. According to him, also, the papal letters concerning Illyricum, written before 535, which he regards as genuine, respect the autonomous status of Illyricum in conformity to Theodosius’ decree. This interesting, though too bold, interpretation, does not seem sufficiently substantiated. In any case, even Honig’s interpretation confirms the general principle revealed here, namely, that until the sixth century the popes respected the political division of the Empire, and adapted their ecclesiastical policies to it.





In the western provinces outside Italy also the tradition of conforming to the political division of the Empire was applied, although sometimes only in a general way.




Africa was divided under Diocletian into nine provinces which were attached to three dioceses. Libya superior and Libya inferior formed a part of the diocese of Egypt, and Mauretania Tingitana that of the diocese of Spain. The diocese of Africa comprised the provinces of Tripolitana, Valeria Byzacena, Proconsularis Zeugitana, Numidia Curtensis, Mauretania Sitifensis, and Mauretania Caesariensis. This new division finally replaced the old administrative partition of three provinces: Africa proconsularis, comprising the Tripolitana and the Byzacena, Numidia, and Mauretania. [73] Carthage, in frequent contact with Rome, the administrative and religious center of the Empire, exercised, from the beginning, an irresistible attraction for all Christain communities in Africa. St. Cyprian, with his genius for organization, firmly established the supremacy of his see over the whole of third-century Africa. In one of his letters he declares openly that from the ecclesiastical point of view there was only one province in Africa, uniting all three administrative units. [74]



73. For details see K. J. Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, i (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1881), pp. 464-488.


74. Cyprianus, Epist. 48, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, 3, ed. G. Hartei, i, p. 607, PL, 3, cols. 732 seq.





The predominant position of Carthage remained untouched even after the new administrative division was introduced by Diocletian. Toward the end of the fourth century the adaptation of the African Church to the new political status was completed, and the metropolitans of the six provinces of the African diocese resided in the provincial capitals; the metropolitan of Africa proconsularis in Carthage, of Valeria Byzacena in Hadrametum, of Numidia in Cirta, of Tripolitana in Tripolis, of Mauretania Sitifensis in Setif, of Mauretania Caesariensis in Caesarea. Only Mauretania Tingitana was not attached ecclesiastically to the diocese of Spain, to which it belonged politically, but remained attached to Mauretania Caesariensis. [75]


In one respect, however, the Church organization of Africa differed from that of the other Churches. The bishops of the provinces together formed a synodal unity, but when they convened in synods the chairmanship was reserved not to the bishops of the provincial capitals, but to the oldest bishops. The provincial assemblies were, however, very much overshadowed by the universal synods of the whole African Church, which were convoked and directed by the bishop of Carthage. Although his jurisdiction over the entire African Church was absolute, extending over all bishoprics, he had to content himself with the modest title of primae sedis episcopus. [76]


Although in constant contact with Rome, the Church of Africa spiritedly defended its autonomous status, as shown by Cyprian's attitude regarding the question of the Christians who during Decius' persecution had denied their faith, and particularly by the decision of the African Synod of 418 forbidding any appeal to




·       Schwartze, “Nordafrikanische Kirche," in Herzog-Hauck Realenzyklopädie für protestantische Theologie u. Kirche, 14 (3rd ed., 1904), pp. 160 seq.

·       H. Leclercq, L’Afrique chrétienne, I (Paris, 1904), pp. 63 seq.

·       Η. Leclercq, “Afrique,” in F. Cabrol, Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne, 1 (Paris, 1904), cols. 576-775.

·       L. Duchesne, op. cit., pp. 17 seq.

·       Idem., Histoire ancienne de l’Eglise, 1 (3rd ed., Paris, 1923), pp. 388-452.

·       G. Metzger, Die Afrikanische Kirche (Dissertation, Tübingen, 1934).

·       E. Buonaiuti, Il Cristianesimo nell’ Africa (Bari, 1928).

·       R. Höslinger, Die alte afrikanische Kirche (Vienna, 1935).

·       Cf. also F. Heiler, Altkirchliche Autonomie und päpstlicher Zentralismus (Munich, 1941), pp. 3-51.


76. Mansi, 3, col. 884 (canon 26 of the third Carthaginian synod).





Rome from the judgment of African bishops, [77] a canon which was strongly reaffirmed in a synodal letter of 426 in which the Council of Carthage forbade any further Roman intervention in African ecclesiastical matters. [78] In this the Church of Africa had adopted an attitude similar to that of the Eastern Churches; indeed, it went even further than did the Eastern Fathers, for we can find in the decisions of eastern synods hardly a canon to match that which was voted in 418 by the Synod of Carthage.


Cyprian's letters not only give us very useful information on the growth of the ecclesiastical organization of Africa, but also show that in their synods the African prelates imitated the procedure governing the meetings of the Roman Senate, [79] thus providing another instance of the extent to which the Church adapted itself to Roman political divisions and customs.




Spain was divided, beginning with the time of Augustus, into three provinces: Tarraconensis, in the north and northwest parts of the peninsula, Lusitania, roughly modern Portugal, and Boětica in the south. Two more provinces were formed in the imperial period from the territory of Tarraconensis: Carthageniensis and Gallaecia. [80] There is no reason to suppose that the ecclesiastical organization of Spain did not follow the administrative division of the peninsula. At least, at the synod of Elvira (Illiberis-Granada), which was held soon after 300, all five provinces were represented by their bishops. [81] The creation of metropolitan sees in Spain seems, however, to have come about more slowly than in other parts of the Empire. The famous fifty-eighth canon voted by the synod of Elvira is generally invoked as a proof that the metropolitan organization had by then already been introduced into the Church of Spain.



77. Ibid., col. 822 (canon 125).


78. Ibid., 4, cols. 515 seq. E. Caspar (op. cit., p. 372) calls this letter to Pope Celestin “der Schwanengesang und ein testamentarisches Vermächtnis der cyprianischen Kirchenidee von der unitas ecclesiae an spätere geistige Strömungen im Schosse der Kirche, welche den ‘Episkopalismus’, gegen den ‘Papalismus’ auf den Schild zu heben versuchten."


79. See F. Dvornik, “Emperors, Popes, and General Councils,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 6 (Cambridge, Mass., 1951), pp. 1-23.


80. K. J. Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, 1, pp. 251-260.


81. Mansi, 2, cols. 2-20.





The canon orders a strict inspection of letters of recommendation presented by peregrinating Christians, “in all places, and especially where the first see of the bishopric is erected.” [82]


The wording of the canon is, however, not clear enough to permit, with certainty, this interpretation, because, in addition to nineteen bishops present at the synod, twenty-four priests attended and signed the Acts, and the words ubique et maxime eo loco, in quo prima cathedra constituta est episcopatus could, therefore, have been addressed to the priests and to the bishop of the dioceses. [83] The letters of recommendation should be examined carefully wherever a priest is established, but especially wherever a bishop resides. In this instance we can invoke this canon only as proof that at least the diocesan organization was well established in Spain about the year 300.


The fact that Bishop Felix of Acci (Quadix) was the first to sign the Acts seems to indicate that the Church of Spain followed the example of the Church of Africa, with which it kept in constant touch, in assigning first place to the oldest bishop of the provinces. [84] Thus, at least, did the Spanish ecclesiastical organization evolve. In the fourth century the Church of Spain had a firm metropolitan organization, and in each metropolis the oldest bishop held the primacy. [85]



82. Ibid., col. 15:

De his, qui communicatorias liter as portant, ut de fide interrogentur. Placuit ubique et maxime in eo loco, in quo prima cathedra constituta est episcopatus, ut interrogentur hi qui communicatorias liter as tradunt, an omnia recte habeant suo testimonio comprobata.

On the synod cf. C. J. Hefele, H. Leclercq, Hist. des Conciles, 1, pt. 1, pp. 212-264. See also, H. Leclercq, L’Espagne chrétienne (Paris, 1906), pp. 59-77, and Zacharias Garcia Villada, Historia ecclesiastica de Espana, 1, pt. 1 (Madrid, 1929), pp. 301-325.


83. Cf. A Eitel, “Die spanische Kirche in vorgermanischer Zeit," Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der mittleren und neueren Geschichte und ihrer Hilfswissenschaften. Eine Festgabe zum 70. Geburtstag Prof. H. Finke (Münster i.W., 1925), p. 5, fn. 7. P. Batiffol, in his Cathedra Petri (Paris, 1938), pp. 105-121, thinks that the prima cathedra episcopatus is the see of Rome. This interpretation cannot, however, be accepted. The synod dealt exclusively with matters concerning Spanish affairs.


84. P. B. Gams (Die Kirchengeschichte Spaniens, 2, pt. 1 [Regensburg, 1864-1876], pp. 173-189) tried to show that the bishops signed according to the dates of the founding of their bishoprics. The bishopric of Acci was the oldest in Spain.


85. Cf. F. Heiler, op. cit., pp. 51 seq. Garcia Villada, op. cit., pp. 195-213.





All metropolitans, however, were subject to the metropolitan of Tarragona, [86] the capital of the greatest province of Spain. The five metropoles (Tarragona, Sevilla, Toledo, Braga, Merida) were established in the prominent cities of the five provinces, in complete accommodation to the political division of the country. [87]


This situation was further consolidated when, under King Rekkared (586-601), the old Latin Church of Spain was united with the National Church of the new rulers—the Visigoths—who had abandoned the Arian Creed. The authority of the metropolitans was thus even further strengthened. They were the highest judges in the ecclesiastical affairs of the provinces, and presided at the provincial synods, but the supreme authority for the whole Church of Spain rested in the national synods of all the bishops, convoked by the king and directed by the metropolitan of Toledo, then the capital of the kingdom. [88]


It should be noted that the idea of apostolicity had not played a prominent role in the ecclesiastical organization of Africa and Spain in spite of the fact that both countries derived their Christianity from apostolic times. Roman missionaries must have been quite active in Africa at a very early period, and, although Pope Innocent I seems to have attributed the Christianization of Carthage to Rome alone, [89] it is now agreed that Christianity had penetrated into Carthage and into northern Africa generally, directly from Asia, before the Roman missionaries started their work there. [90] This may have given birth to local popular tales attributing the origin of African Christianity to St. Peter and his disciple Crescentius



86. S. Himerius, Bishop of Tarragona, seems to have acted as Spain’s primate when addressing to Pope Damasus a letter on the religious situation in Spain. The letter was answered by Damasus’ successor Siricius (PL, 13, cols. 1131-1147).


87. Only Toledo was not also the administrative capital of its province, the Carthageniensis. The promotion of this city to a metropolis shows that the strategical and geographical position of Toledo gave it pre-eminence over Valencia in every respect.


88. Garcia Villada, op. cit., 2, pt. 1, pp. 17-43, 79-130 Cf. also A. K. Ziegler, Church and State in Visigothic Spain (Washington, 1930), and E. Magnin, L’Eglise visigothique au VIIe siècle (Paris, 1912).


89. Innocentius, Epistolae, PL, 20, Epist. 25, 2, col. 552.


90. Cf. P. Monceaux, Histoire littéraire de l’Afrique chrétienne, 1 (Paris, 1901), pp. 4 seq. and R. Höslinger, op. cit., pp. 10 seq. On the penetration of Christianity into Africa in apostolic times see P. J. Mesnage, Le Christianisme en Afrique, origines, développements, extension (Paris, 1914), pp. 2 seq., 58-79.





(allegedly ordained Bishop of Carthage by Peter), [91] or to Simon the Cananean and Jude, [92] or to St. Mark. [93]


These tales must have started to circulate quite early, although Tertullian and Cyprian appear not to have known them. From a letter of Pope Gregory the Great we learn, however, that the bishops of Numidia asked him for permission to retain the customs and traditions which had endured in Africa from the time that the Apostle Peter had preached there. [94] In the fifth century the belief that Peter had evangelized Carthage seems to have been widespread. This is attested by Salvian [95] and, to a certain extent, by Augustine, although the latter is rather vague and seems to link the origins of African Christianity only very generally to the apostolic age. [96] Thus this legend [97] did not become widely accepted in Africa until later, when the Church organization, based on the political division of the country, had been completely realized. The invasion of the Vandals had brought to a halt in Africa any further development of the apostolic tradition.


Spain can also claim the honor of having been evangelized by the Apostle Paul, who, according to the testimony of St. Clement (I Ep. 5) and the Canon of Muratori, [98] had been able to carry out his plan, revealed in his letter to the Romans (chap. 15: 24-28), to visit Spain.



91. Annonymus Graecus De SS. Petro et Paulo, chap. 3, Acta Sanctorum (June 29), 3d ed., 7, p. 379.

L. N. de Tillemont (Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique, i [Paris, 1693-1738], pp. 548 seq.) has already shown the legendary character of this tradition. Flavius Lucius Dexter Barcinonensis, Chronicon omnimodae historiae, PL, 31, col. 163, ad an. 50.


92. Nicephorus Callistas Xanthopoulos, Historia ecclesiastica, bk. 2, chap. 40; PG, 145, col. 864.


93. Ibid., bk. 2, chap. 43, col. 876.


94. Gregorius Magnus, Epistolae, i, Epist. 77, PL, 77, col. 531.


95. Salvianus, De gubernatione Dei, 7, chap. 18, PL, 53, col. 146; CSEL, 8, ed. F. Pauly, no. 79, p. 181, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi, 1, ed. K. Halm, col. 98.


96. S. Augustinus Hipponensis, De Unitate Ecclesiae, chap. 15, no. 37, PL, 43, col. 419 Enarrationes in Psalmos, 49: 3, PL, 36, col. 566. Gesta Collationis Carthagine habitae inter Catholicas et Donatistas Cognit. 3, 230, Mansi, 4, col. 229. Enarr. in Ps. 44:23, PL. ibid., col. 508. Epist. 43, chap. 7, PL, 33, col. 163; CSEL, 34, ed. A. Goldbacher, p. 90.


97. P. J. Mesnage (op. cit., pp. 43-79) accepted this tradition. It was, however, disproved by J. Gagé, “Nouveaux aspects de l'Afrique chrétienne," Annales de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes de Gand, 1 (1937), pp. 183-188, and by J. Ferron and G. Lapeyre (“Carthage," in Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, 11 [1939], cols. 1178 seq.).


98. Lines 38 seq. G. Kuhn, Das muratorische Fragment über die Bücher des Neuen Testaments (Zürich, 1892), p. 12. E. Dubowy, “Klemens von Rom über die Reise Pauli nach Spanien," Biblische Studien, 19 (1914). More recently, however, K. Heussi (Die römische Petrustradition in kritischer Sicht [Tübingen, 1955], pp. 62-68) rejects this interpretation of Clement's word. According to him Clement had in mind not Spain, but Rome.





The tradition of the activity of the Apostle James in Spain is legendary, and started to spread only in the seventh century. Another tradition—that Spain was evangelized by seven disciples of the apostles— cannot be altogether rejected. [99] In spite of all these connections of Spanish Christianity to apostolic times, the idea of apostolicity played such a minor role in the organization of the early Spanish Church that even the activity of St. Paul in that country cannot be ascertained through any local documentary evidence.



In Gaul there are no traces of a metropolitan organization before the fourth century, for the bishop of Rome stood at the head of the hierarchy. He owed his dominant position in Gaul, and in the West generally, not only to the prestige of St. Peter, the first of the apostles, whose successor he was, but also to the fact that Rome was the capital of the Empire. [100]


Lyons enjoyed prominence in Gaul for some time, owing to the prestige of its Bishop St. Irenaeus. Arles, however, became important when Constantine the Great chose it as his residence and it claimed the honor of being a metropolis, though before that it had been a simple provincial city. When, however, after 392, the prefect of the diocese of Gallia had to abandon his residence at Trêves, and take refuge in Arles, the bishops of that city started to extend their jurisdiction over the bishops of three provinces: Viennensis, Narbonensis Prima and Secunda. These encroachments provoked sharp protests from the bishops of Vienne, the capital of the civil province of Viennensis.


The synod of Turin, [101] which attempted in its second canon to settle this rivalry,



99. All documentary evidence on the legendary preaching of St. James in Spain and the activity of the “seven men" in that country is to be found in Garcia Villada's Hist. eccles. de España, 1, pt. 1, pp. 27—104, 147—168.


100. However, after Milan became a metropolitan see, the bishops of Gaul, when in difficulty, addressed themselves to its bishop. Cf. L. Duchesne, Origines, pp. 32 seq., 84-89.


101. Mansi, 3, cols. 860 seq. See the voluminous bibliography concerning the dating of this synod, and its importance, in C. J. Hefele, H. Leclercq, op. cit., 2, pt. i, pp. 129-133, 134 (bibliography on canon two).





declared officially that the principle of adaptation to the civil organization should prevail also in Gaul, and that the bishop who proved his city to be the metropolis of a province, should be recognized as first bishop of the whole province. In spite of this decision, Arles retained its position, and Pope Zosimus I (417-418), in confirming its privileges over the province of Vienne and both provinces of Narbonensis, made its metropolitans special representatives of Rome in Gallia. [102]


Pope Boniface I (418-422), however, did not support the pretensions of Arles, and in his letter to Hilarius of Narbonne he disapproved of an ordination made by the Bishop of Arles in the province of Narbonne. This same letter contains also Boniface's interpretation of canon four, voted by the Council of Nicaea, to the effect that in each province there should be only one metropolitan. [103]


The conflict between Arles and Vienne flared up anew under the reign of Pope Leo the Great (404-461). Hilarius of Arles was deprived of his metropolitan dignity because he used his power without discretion. [104] After his death the bishops of Arles, by quoting the legendary tradition that the first bishop of Arles—Trophimus—was ordained by St. Peter, claimed that the see of Arles should exercise the same principate over all Gaul as the see of Rome, founded by St. Peter, exercised over the whole Church. [105]


This request and its wording betray a curious blending of two ideas ; the adaptation of ecclesiastical to political organization, and the idea of apostolicity.


Leo the Great found himself in a difficult position.



102. PL, 20, cols. 642-645, Mansi, 4, cols. 359 seq. Cf. F. Dvornik, Légendes, p. 253.


103. See supra, p. 7.


104. PL, 54, cols. 628-636.


105. PL, 54, col. 881 :

credentes plenum esse rationis atque justitiae, ut sicut per beatissimum Petrum apostolorum principem sacrosancta Ecclesia Romana teneret supra omnes totius mundi Ecclesias principatum, ita etiam intra Gallias Arelatensis Ecclesia, quae sanctum Trophimum ab apostolis missum sacerdotem habere meruisset, ordinandi pontificium vindicaret.

Cf. P. Batiffol, op. cit., pp. 85 seq. Patroclus’ exaggeration concerning Trophimus may, however, rest on some historical basis. It is quite possible that Trophimus was sent by Rome to Arles, though not until the third century. Cf. L. Duchesne, Fastes épiscopaux de Vancienne Gaule, 1 (2nd ed., Paris, 1907), p. 103, and K. Müller, "Beiträge,” op. cit., p. 30.





In order to settle the quarrel between Vienne and Arles he was forced to disregard Boniface's interpretation of the Nicene decision, and to divide the civil province of Vienne into two metropolitan sees, [106] although no change was effected in the civil administration of the province. He was not willing, however, to recognize explicitly the primacy of Arles in Gaul, although he continued to transmit his messages to the bishops of Gaul through the intermediary of the metropolitan of Arles. [107]



106. PL, 54, cols. 884-885.


107. Ibid., cols. 886 seq. On the primacy of Arles see L. Duchesne, op. cit., I, chap. 2, pp. 86-146, and H. Leclercq, “Gallicane (Eglise),” Dict. d’archéol. chrét., 6 (Paris, 1929), cols. 395-403, where more bibliographical indications will be found. For more recent bibliography see H. Fuhrmann, “Studien zur Geschichte mittelalterlicher Patriarchate," Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung, 70, Kanon. Abt., 39 (1953), pp. 147-176.


[Previous] [Next]

[Back to Index]