The Photian schism. History and Legend

Francis Dvornik


Part I. History



I. Political Parties, Religious Problems and Opening Conflict  1

            Introduction: Photius’ case—Political and religious parties in Byzantium— Extremists and Moderates in Irene’s and Nicephorus’ reigns—Moderate policy of Methodius and the Studite Schism—Was Ignatius appointed or elected?—When and why Gregory Asbestas, leader of the Moderates, was condemned by Ignatius—Gregory’s appeal to Rome and the Holy See’s attitude—Extremist and Moderate intrigues.


II. Ignatius’ Resignation and Photius’ Canonical Election  39

            Nicetas’ testimony—Ignatius’ abdication confirmed by the Extremists’ reports—Photius’ canonical election—Asbestas and Photius’ consecration— Extremists’ revolt and its motives—Photius’ reaction—Repercussions of these conflicts among the episcopacy and the monastic world.


III. The Synod of 861  70

            Photius’ and Michael’s letters to Nicholas—Was the Pope in communion with Photius’ envoys?—Negotiations between the legates, the Emperor and the Patriarch before the synod—The Acts of the synod and accounts by Nicetas and Theognostos—Did Ignatius appeal to Rome?—Legates’ attitude during the synod.


IV. Nicholas, Photius and Boris  91

            Radoald and Zachary return to Rome—Nicholas’ policy and letters to the Emperor and the Patriarch—Theognostos and the Roman Synod of 863— Byzantine reaction in Bulgaria and its development in Rome—Nicholas’ fatal reply—Was the breach permanent?—Reaction in Byzantium—Boris’ volte-face; his influence on the growth of the conflict—The Byzantine Synod of 867—Did Photius challenge the Roman primacy?


V. Photius’ Downfall and the Council of 869-70  132

            Michael’s regime, Basil and the Extremists—Did Photius resign?—Basil’s embassy to Rome—Hadrian II’s reaction—The Council of 869-70—The Emperor and the legates’ uncompromising attitude—The Bulgarian incident —Was Ignatius’ recognition by the Pope conditional?


VI. Photius’ Rehabilitation and the Synod of 879-80  159

            Ignatius’ difficulties—Basil’s change of policy and his reconciliation with the Moderates and Photius—Ignatius and Photius on friendly terms—John VIII, Basil and Photius—Papal letters analysed—Pourparlers with the legates in Byzantium—The ‘Greek edition’ of the pontifical letters—The first five sessions of the Council—Authenticity of the sixth and seventh sessions— John VIII’s alleged letter on the Filioque—The legates and the primacy.


VII. The Second Schism of Photius, A Historical Mystification  202

            Photius’ letters to the Roman bishops—John VIII approves the Acts of the Council—Basis of the compromise concerning Bulgaria—Anti-Photian Collection and the legend of Photius’ second condemnation by John VIII—Photius, Marinus I and Hadrian III—Stephen V and Byzantium—Stephen’s letters on the Photian incident.


VIII. Photius, Leo VI and the Healing of the Extremists’ Schism  237

            Photius acknowledged by the Moderate Ignatians—Leo VI’s change of policy and Photius’ resignation—Leo, the ‘Little Church’ and the Moderates—Was there a schism under Formosus?—The ‘Little Church’s’ liquidation— A reunion synod in 899?—Authorship of the Anti-Photian Collection and date of composition of the Vita Ignatii—The Extremists and the Moderates in the tetragamy conflict.





Introduction: Photius’ case—Political and religious parties in Byzantium— Extremists and Moderates in Irene’s and Nicephorus’ reigns—Moderate policy of Methodius and the Studite Schism—Was Ignatius appointed or elected?—When and why Gregory Asbestas, leader of the Moderates, was condemned by Ignatius— Gregory’s appeal to Rome and the Holy See’s attitude—Extremist and Moderate intrigues.



Few names in the history of Christianity have inspired feelings so conflicting as that of the Greek Patriarch Photius. Saint and hero in the eyes of the Christian East, he is branded by the Christian West as the man who unbolted the safeguards of unity and let loose the disruptive forces of dissent and schism. Whilst the East invokes his name as one that carries weight with God, the West still quotes it as the symbol of pride and lust for ecclesiastical domination; hailed by all who ever claimed a larger share for nationalism in the life of the Church and a closer association between man and God, it is reprobated by others as the badge of disruption and an element destructive of Christian universality.


Photius is stated to have inspired Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon and other famous reformers in launching their campaigns against the Papacy and its authority; and yet, Orthodoxy disowned their main doctrines for being at variance with the tradition of the early Eastern Fathers, and to these Photius was the last living witness. For centuries he has stood as a sign of contradiction, a symbol of disunion, a challenge that still keeps apart the Western and Eastern fragments of Christendom.


But his influence and personality are not confined to the religious field, for since the Renaissance philosophers and philologists have venerated him as the genius who among others was instrumental in transmitting to later generations through the Byzantine period classical Greek and Hellenistic culture. A man of his stature deserves a study and the significance of his memory to the living minds of East and West makes such a study all the more timely and urgent.





The very discordance of the contradictory estimates of the character and activities of this enigmatic Greek would call for a revision of the judgement of history for, despite centuries of tradition, championship and abuse, both views cannot be right, however sincere they claim to be. It is then the historian’s duty to reopen the case, reduce the jarring verdicts to their just proportions, confront the witnesses, and if there has been miscarriage of justice, to rehabilitate the defendant in the eyes of posterity.


But before proceeding with the case, it will be necessary to state it, give a rough outline of the background of Photius’ life, and summarize the judgements pronounced so far on his activities and character. Only then can we call in the witnesses and examine their statements.



Photius’ name stands at the very centre of the history of the ninth century, one of the most brilliant periods in Byzantine records, when Byzantium stood at the close of a transformation inaugurated at the beginning of the eighth century by the Isaurian dynasty and characterized by the influx of oriental ideas. Of this transformation, iconoclasm was the most notorious symptom. The final restoration of ikon worship, which took place in 843, embodied the vigorous reaction of the Greek spirit against the invasion of novelties and the reaction achieved its object: the two elements that had been at variance for over a century, the Eastern and the Hellenic, at length brought together into common action the two main and equally important factors of Byzantine civilization. From that moment onward, their harmonious combination led to the happiest results : Byzantium knew a renaissance that spread from the intellectual to the political arena, and national sentiment sufficiently asserted itself to claim preponderance in Byzantium’s relations with other powers—the Mussulman and Latin worlds.


Of this intellectual renaissance, the central figure was incontestably the Patriarch Photius. The extent of his learning amazed his contemporaries and commanded the respect of his bitterest enemies. He was the scion of a noble Byzantine family of ancient Greek stock and related to the Macedonian dynasty. His father, who had suffered persecution for his fidelity to the cult of images, was held in great veneration among the faithful. A favourite at the imperial court, Photius commanded, if not the love, certainly the esteem of many rival personalities—the Empress Theodora, the Logothete Theoktistos, and the young Emperor’s uncle Bardas; and it was his scholarly reputation that raised to such a high standard the institute of learning in Constantinople which was





equivalent to a University. His literary salon, where classical literature, the Byzantines’ favourite study, supplied the most popular topics of debate, attracted everybody of note in the Byzantine intellectual world.


But Photius lived in too stormy a period to confine his activities to the literary field. Years of theological controversy had created an explosive atmosphere and driven sensitive minds to the borders of religious fanaticism, while the persecutions of the iconoclastic period had bitten deep into the Church’s soul. Memories were still fresh; the victors were still jubilant over the turn of events in their favour and the defeated iconoclasts bitter about their collapse and hoping against hope for better days. Two Patriarchs had already been dealing with a situation of the utmost delicacy, St Methodius (843-7) and St Ignatius, both remarkable men, who knew by experience what it meant to suffer for one’s beliefs. St Methodius was not very successful in steering clear of the shallows; a new schism arose out of the radical elements which claimed the monks of the monastery of Studion as their leaders, and the saintly Patriarch died without the satisfaction of healing the rift. His successor, the Patriarch Ignatius, whose personality appealed more to the radical monks, succeeded in healing the schism, but not without provoking a strong reaction among ideological opponents. Political intrigues stirred up dissension between the party of the Empress and that of her brother Bardas in league with the young Emperor Michael III and brought the Patriarch with his followers into sharp conflict with the government (858).


At this juncture, Photius, who at the time held the important office of President of the Imperial Chancellery, was selected to succeed Ignatius. Photius, following the example of his uncle Tarasius (784-806), who had similarly relinquished the same duties in the imperial service to devote his energies to the government of the Church, accepted the appointment. This opened the chapter in Eastern Church history which was to assume such disproportionate importance and is still read by many as the blackest in the annals of Christendom.


Photius’ patriarchal activities met with strong opposition and, his enemies had the advantage of painting him in such malevolent colours that they left him with a name blackened for centuries. In the picture painted by his enemies, he was unscrupulous and so covetous of patriarchal honours that he conspired with the government of Michael III and Bardas to overthrow Theodora; he offered himself as a tool for the riddance of the Patriarch Ignatius, whose sole fault had been to castigate Bardas for immoral conduct.





 When Ignatius refused to abdicate, Photius seized his throne and let loose upon the unfortunate Ignatius and his followers a merciless persecution.


Blinded (so it is alleged) by pride and lust for power, Photius tried to obtain recognition from Nicholas I by misrepresenting the circumstances of his installation in Constantinople, but the Pope, duly informed by Ignatius’ envoys of the true state of things, refused to recognize a Patriarch who had raised himself to the dignity in total disregard of canonical precedent. Photius, without taking any notice of the sentence, summoned a synod of the Eastern Church, deposed the Pope and created the ‘first great Schism’. Not until the pious Emperor Basil I had murdered the iniquitous Emperor Michael III, whose reign was execrated by the whole of Byzantium, did Photius receive his punishment; then he was dethroned and solemnly condemned by the Eighth Oecumenical Council (869-70), that favourite source in the medieval canonical legislation of the West. But Photius insinuated himself once more into the Emperor’s favour and, after Ignatius’ death, reoccupied the patriarchal throne; to make sure this time of papal approval, he deceived the Pope, who was willing on certain conditions to show leniency, by falsifying his letters and also those sent by the Pope to the Emperor and the Fathers of a Council summoned to examine his case. He bribed the legates sent by the Pope and tampered with the Acts of the Council. When John VIII learned that he had been hoodwinked by the astute Greek, he forthwith excommunicated him. Hence arose the second schism, which was to last till the end of the ninth century and to cast its shadow over the tenth; finally there came the great rupture of 1054 between East and West, the rift that has withstood all attempts at healing and has been such a disaster to Christendom.


This was the kind of picture which many of the contemporary sources drew of Photius’ ecclesiastical career and it is the picture that has generally been accepted as authentic in the West. So overwhelmingly did the evidence produced by those witnesses strike the imagination that even the easterners were impressed, and had it not been for the tradition of their Church which from the earliest beginning had venerated the memory of ‘the saintly Patriarch’ and uncompromisingly disowned the Eighth Council that had condemned him, they might have accepted the conclusions which the Western Church historians drew from documents whose authenticity seemed to be beyond dispute.


Such is the position which faces every student of this fascinating and intricate period of Byzantine and ecclesiastical history.





Amid facts and valuations so perplexing, how is one to judge a man who is venerated as a saint by some, while others class him among the reprobates? It will thus be our task to unravel amongst those contradictory estimates what can be established as historical truth and to find out whether a legend did not grow round this great figure to mystify the Christian world and belittle a prelate who deserved a better memory. To this end, we cannot rest content with an examination of contemporary documents. We must follow up the tradition which, right through the Middle Ages down to modern times, has grown round the name of Photius in West and East; we must analyse the elements which in successive periods helped to obscure the facts as revealed by contemporary writings and to create the legend.


One problem directly concerns the history and legend of Photius. It is a serious matter that there should be a discrepancy in the computation of the first Oecumenical Councils which define the principles of the Christian faith, the Eastern Churches counting only seven Councils where the West numbers eight. The explanation will be found, once the Photian case has been settled, when we turn to a class of documents which historians have so far neglected, the Collections of Western canon law drawn up between the tenth and twelfth centuries, most of which are still unpublished.


The Photian case is not merely a matter of Byzantine interest. It concerns the history of Christianity and of the world, as the appraisement of Photius and his work lies at the core of the controversies that separate the Eastern and the Western Churches. We must therefore proceed warily and make sure of each step before we can fix the responsibility of circumstances and men concerned in the birth and growth of the Photian legend.



Anybody who takes the trouble to read the writings of Photius’ chief opponents, especially of the abbot Theognostos, the archbishops Stylianos and Metrophanes, the author of the Vita Ignatii., believed to be Nicetas of Paphlagonia, and the remarks of the anonymous author of the anti-Photian Collection, will be struck by the virulence of their tone, obviously inspired by hate, and unaccountable on the current assumption of purely religious fervour. Its political bias is only too evident under its thin camouflage of religious and moral considerations. These writings show all the characteristics of politico-religious pamphleteering and are the unmistakable product of the existence in Byzantium in Photius’ days of two powerful hostile clans which were





competing for supreme control over Church and State. [1] The existence of these two currents of opinion and temperament can no longer be denied. The whole of Byzantium was towards the end of the eighth century split into two great parties, whose constant rivalry enlivened their politics as well as their religion; each aspired to monopolize the management of the Church and the Empire.


This same antagonism was likewise a leading factor in the conflict between Ignatius and Photius and provides the key to the inner meaning of the fateful clash within the Byzantine Church and of the rupture between Eastern and Western Christendom at the period. But if we try to examine the original meaning of this division in Byzantine society, we are driven to the conclusion that the reason for its existence will not be found at this particular stage. Not even the iconoclastic interval could be selected as a possible starting-point of this evolution, since similar symptoms are discovered at earlier stages, when Byzantium was rent by clashes between orthodox and heretics. Party spirit runs through the whole skein of Byzantine history like a thread which should be followed up to the very dawn of the Empire, if one wishes to get at its true meaning and its many implications. It would steer us back to some venerable institutions of old Rome which were transferred to Byzantium, where in a Hellenistic atmosphere impregnated by Christian ideas they took shapes which citizens of the Roman Republic would never have recognized. We should then find that Byzantine partisanship grew out of the Old Roman Circus parties of the Blues, the Greens, the Reds and the Whites.


But such a study would lead us too far astray. [2] The part played by the Blues and the Greens in particular in Byzantine history from its earliest years till the reign of Heraclius is not yet fully known and many problems still await a solution; yet one thing is certain, the religious evolution of Byzantium and of the whole East is inseparably bound up



1. This fact has forcibly caught my attention ever since I started inquiring into the history of the ninth century; and on one occasion I labelled the two rival parties, strange as it may sound to some ears, as respectively Liberals or Moderates on the one hand, Reactionaries, Radicals and Die-hards on the other. Cf. my lecture ‘De Sancto Cyrillo et Methodio in Luce Historiae Byzantinae’, read in 1927 at the Fifth Congress for Church Union (Acta V. Conventus Unionistici Velehradensis (Olomouc, 1927), pp. 149 seq.).


2. I have summed up all that is known of the Byzantine partisanship that grew out of the Old Roman Circus parties in a short study, where the bibliography that matters will also be found—‘The Circus Parties in Byzantium, their Evolution and Suppression’, published in Byzantina-Metabyzantina, Symposium in honour of Prof. H. Grégoire and E. Honigmann (New York, 1946), vol. 1, pp. 119-33.





with the rivalry between the foremost Circus parties of the Greens and the Blues. They grew to be a factor of paramount importance in the political and religious life of the Empire.


The part they played in the theological discussions on the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity and on the nature of the Divine Saviour finds its explanation in the peculiar character of Eastern Church organization and mentality. Eastern Christianity was erected on a national basis, [1] which gave the average faithful active participation in the divine service and Church life and facilities to give their opinion on even the subtlest points of theology. Popular organizations such as the Blues and the Greens thus offered themselves as rallying centres for champions of doctrines true or false to help them in their respective activities. [2] Be it enough to observe here that in nearly every encounter they ranged themselves on opposite sides as a matter of course, the Greens mostly favouring the heretical tenets and the Blues championing Orthodoxy. This division was strongly marked in the Monophysite conflicts. [3]


It was Heraclius who put an end to activities that so often placed the Empire in the greatest peril. But even after his administrative reforms., the two currents—one more liberal and moderate, the other more conservative and reactionary—continued to run side by side. We can trace them in the history of the struggle for and against image worship. In the policy of the Emperors of the Isaurian dynasty who favoured iconoclasm and in the resistance offered by the orthodox there were



1. Cf. my booklet, National Churches and the Church Universal (London, 1944), pp. 5-18.


2. An interesting instance of Christian influence on the evolution of Byzantine political institutions. It is paralleled by a similar influence on the Byzantine senate which acquired more rights than it enjoyed in imperial Rome. This was due to the growing prestige of the Oecumenical Councils, which had been modelled on the Roman Senate. Cf. the author’s study, ‘ De Potestate Civili in Conciliis Oecumenicis, Acta VI Congressus pro Unione Ecclesiarum ’, in Academia Velehradensis (Olomouc, 1930), vol. x. An English translation of the lecture appeared in the review The Christian East (1932), vol. XIV, pp. 95-108. A masterly exposé of Byzantine political institutions will be found in N. Baynes’ book, The Byzantine Empire (London, 1925), especially on pp. 5 sq., 114 sq. Cf. also J. B. Bury’s The Constitution of the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge, 1910).


3. See the short account of the parties’ attitude in religious matters in my study, ’Circus Parties in Byzantium’, loc. cit., and in G. Manojlović’s study, re-edited with additions and corrections in a French translation by H. Grégoire under the title ‘Le Peuple de Constantinople’, in Byzantion (1936), vol. xi, pp. 655-65. A more detailed study is found in Gerazim Yared’s ‘Otzuivui sovremennikov o sv. Fotiye Patr. Konst. v svyazi s istorieyu politicheskikh Partii v imperii’, Khristyanskoe Chtenie (1872-3). This work has been overlooked by all those who have dealt with the problem.





features that recalled the conflict between the Monophysites and the champions of the traditional creed of the two natures in Christ.


Leaving aside the many problems [1] that still remain unsolved, we shall make it our task to show how, after the liquidation of iconoclasm, the old Byzantine spirit emerged again in another form, in the struggle between the partisans of ‘oeconomia’, the liberal policy of compromise in matters not concerning the fundamentals of the faith, and the intransigent ultra-conservatives, who held that Church prescriptions should be carried out in all circumstances and with the utmost rigour.


This new antagonism flared up immediately after the restoration of image worship by the Empress Irene. Fully aware that too rigid an application of ecclesiastical rules would only exasperate the iconoclasts returning to Orthodoxy and wreck the chances of a restoration, she selected and appointed to the patriarchal office Tarasius (784), a layman and a Moderate, President of the Imperial Chancellery, an expert in public affairs and unrivalled in the art of negotiating with recalcitrant opponents.


The Moderates also won the day at the Council of Nicaea (787), which, after defining image worship and condemning iconoclasm, allowed the iconoclastic bishops who abjured their heresy to continue to exercise their episcopal functions. Some intransigent monks, however, protested against the concession and advocated stronger measures against the former iconoclasts. No sooner was this trouble settled than another cropped up under the leadership of St Theodore of the monastery of Studios, he and his followers alleging that the punishment meted out by Tarasius to the simoniacal bishops was inadequate. [2]


These incidents only illustrate the new ferment that was stirring both



1. Some of these problems have been outlined by G. Ostrogorskii, Studien zur Geschichte des Byzant. Bilderstreites (Breslau, 1929), pp. 23 seq. Cf. also F. Dölger’s review of Ostrogorskii’s book in Göttinger Gelehrte Anzeigen (1929), vol. 191, pp. 352—72 and J. B. Bury, A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene (London, 1889), vol. II, pp. 429 seq. For the history of iconoclasm see E. J. Martin, A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy (London, 1932). I have summarized the history of Byzantine civilization, of which iconoclasm was a consequence, and of the Hellenic reaction in my study, ’Quomodo incrementum influxus Orientalis in Imperio Byzantino s. VII—IX dissensionem inter Ecclesiam Romanam et Orientalem promoverit’, Acta Conventus Pragensispro Studiis Orientalibus a. 1929 celebrati (Olomucii, 1930), pp. 159-72. There I emphasize the role of the European provinces in the restoration of Orthodoxy and at the Council of 787.


2. For further details, consult J. Hergenröther, Photius (Regensburg, 1867), vol. I, pp. 250 seq.





laity and clergy and throwing Byzantine society into rival camps—the Extremists and the Moderates. The Extremists were generally to be found among the monks, chiefly the reformed monks of the monastery of Studion, and their spiritual clients, the devout, the traditionalists and the ultra-conservatives, elements which in virtue of the norms that will prevail as long as there exist rich and poor, must necessarily preponderate among the leisured and bourgeois classes. The Moderates, on the other hand, belonged to classes more in touch with the humdrum of daily life and were for this reason more inclined to compromise. They also numbered many well-wishers among the secular clergy, who were in closer contact with the world than cloistered monks, and among higher clergy, who were conscious of heavier responsibilities. Intellectual circles were all the more in sympathy with the latter tendency as the Extremists persisted in their obstinate prejudices against all profane knowledge. Finally, iconoclasts who had returned to Orthodoxy with more or less sincerity, could not but support the Moderates in their own interest.



Its framework thus recast, the Byzantine population found itself back to the old politico-religious factions of Greens and Blues ; and the way questions of ecclesiastical policy which roused the new party spirit were being exploited by both sides for political purposes only deepened the similarity. When in 790 Irene had to hand over the government to her son Constantine VI, who had come of age, the first thing he did was to divorce Mary, whom his mother had forced on him as a wife, and to wed the court lady Theodota. For fear the impetuous young Emperor should turn iconoclast if pressed too hard, the Patriarch limited his intervention to a protest against this violation of a Church law, and refrained from taking any ecclesiastical proceedings against abbot Joseph, who had blessed the union.


The Extremists, led by abbot Plato and his nephew Theodore, disagreed and insisted on a strict application of ecclesiastical measures against the imperial delinquent. But some of them went further and took action. When Constantine recalled his mother to share in the government, the Logothete Stauracius, her trusted confidant, was the first to realize the value of the Extremists’ party for furthering Irene’s ambition to rule alone. He was aware of her popularity among the traditionalists who first and foremost venerated in her the pious restorer of image worship. Constantine was hopelessly compromised in their estimation as a result of his divorce and second marriage.





This left that party as the mainstay for Irene and Stauracius to count upon, for the success of their plot for removing Constantine from government. Visionaries, always so plentiful among enthusiastic devotees, undertook to lend the plan a religious consecration and declared in their ‘prophecies’ that Irene, notwithstanding Constantine’s coming of age, [1] had been elected by God to carry on the regency; and trusting in such backing, she felt herself in a position to undermine her son’s influence and hold the reins of government alone. What greatly assisted the Extremists in their venture was Constantine VI’s evident incapacity, his peculiar treatment [2] of the Armeniae Theme, once so loyal to him under Irene’s first regency, and his failure to rally the opposition party to his defence. By his mother’s orders, his eyes were gouged out (797) in the very room in which she gave him birth, and Constantine VI sank back into dark oblivion to meditate upon his past mistakes. The Extremists had won the day, but not for long.


A counter-plot by the patriots who considered that the Empire would never be safe as long as a woman sat on the throne of the Roman autocrats ended in the proclamation of Nicephorus as Emperor (October 802) [3] and deprived the Extremists of their political and religious ascendancy in State affairs. They then relieved their disappointment by heaping insults on the Patriarch Tarasius for the part he had played, probably with a light heart, at the coronation ceremony of the new Emperor. After Tarasius’ death, they vainly tried to put forward their own candidate for the office, Plato apparently proposing his nephew Theodore,4 but the Emperor was on the Moderate side and selected Nicephorus, a lay monk and once President of the Imperial Chancellery. The Extremists treated the appointment as irregular, and lost all restraint when the two Xicephori rehabilitated abbot Joseph, who had been placed under discipline after the fall of Constantine VI.


The Emperor’s moderate policy, without ceasing to favour image worship, did not display any particular fervour against iconoclasm. This was enough to prompt some impatient zealots to use weapons other than spiritual against a regime they judged to be mischievous. One plot by the partisans of Irene against Nicephorus immediately after his



1. Theophanes (Bonn), vol. 1, p. 719; (de Boor), vol. 1, p. 464.


2. Theophanes (Bonn), vol. 1, pp. 721-6; (de Boor), vol. 1, pp. 465-8.


3. For further details, consult J. B. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire, from the fall of Irene to the accession of Basil I (London, 1912), pp. 1—8.


4. For details, see my book, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle (Paris, 1926), pp. 125 seq.





ascent to the throne is reported by two Syriac writers. [1] This was followed later by another plot in which, according to the chronicler Theophanes, [2] many ‘saintly bishops and monks, including the synkellos, the sakellarios and the chartophylax of the great Church, all men eminent and worthy of every consideration’, were implicated. Both plots were evidently engineered by the Extremists, a curious illustration of what lengths the fanatics of this party were ready to go to in support of their opinions.


The Extremists also had their share in blackening Nicephorus’ reputation by branding him as a hypocrite, a miscreant and a tyrant, and by picturing his government as extremely disastrous for the Empire. In such colours did Theophanes hand down Nicephorus’ testimonials to posterity in his chronicle, and it was only recently that historical criticism began retouching the Emperor’s portrait. [3] Nicephorus was indeed a capable administrator, an efficient financier and no mean statesman. He was, it is true, no expert in military science, but his sad end was no justification for the treatment he received at the hands of our pious Theophanes. [4] If it be remembered that this writer did not belong to the die-hards of the Extremist party ; that, as the son of a civil servant who was at least familiar with current affairs, he made no secret of his friendly feelings for the Patriarchs Tarasius and Nicephorus, and that he did not invariably approve the radicalism of St Theodore of the monastery of Studion, [5] one can easily imagine what others must have thought of Nicephorus.


It is well to remember the treatment he received at the hands of the Extremists, as we shall find that a similar fate befell the Emperor Michael III and his uncle Bardas who had so much to do with Photius’ elevation to the patriarchal throne. One should also bear in mind that the Extremists’ tactics were anything but ideal for dealing with a heresy such as iconoclasm.



1. Gregorii Abulpharagii Chronicon Syriacum (ed. Bruns and Kirsch; Leipzig, 1789), vol. ii, p. 137; Michael Syrus, Chronicon (ed. J. B. Chabot; Paris, 1905-6), vol. iii, pp. 12 seq.


2. Theophanes (Bonn), vol. 1, pp. 750 sq.; (de Boor), vol. 1, p. 483.


3. Cf. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire. . ., pp. 8 seq.


4. Not all contemporaries agreed with Theophanes’ opinion on the unfortunate Emperor. The monk Theosterikos, author of the Life of St Nicetas of Medikeion, calls him ‘very pious and a friend to poor and monks’, A.S. 3 April, t. 1, p. 261.


3. Theodore even classes him in one of his letters among the ‘moechians’, P.G. vol. 99, ii, ep. 31, col. 1204. In one place he uses an even harsher word. Theophanes (Bonn), vol. 1, p. 775 ; (de Boor), vol. 1, pp. 497-8. Cf. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire. . ., pp. 38, 181; Gelzer, ‘Das Verhältnis von Staat und Kirche in Byzanz’, Ausgew. Kleine Schriften (Leipzig, 1907), p. in.





This is what happened. When Nicephorus perished in the Bulgarian campaign and his son Stauracius was dying of wounds received in battle (811), the Extremists had the satisfaction of finding in Michael I, Stauracius’ brother-in-law, an emperor after their own hearts. The Studites were recalled from exile to take an active share in the councils of State, the unfortunate abbot Joseph was again suspended and the most drastic measures were enforced against the iconoclasts. But the monks’ inexperience only precipitated the military disaster in Bulgaria and their radicalism provoked the iconoclastic reaction under Leo V (813-20).


Common danger brought the two parties again together, when the Patriarch Nicephorus and the abbot Theodore, the representatives of the clashing tendencies, made peace in exile. Nevertheless, the mistakes committed by the Extremists in the reign of Michael I so strengthened the position of the iconoclastic party that Byzantium had to wait another thirty years for the restoration of image worship. Neither Michael II (820-9) nor Theophilus (829-42) was impressed by the arguments of the image worshippers. Their turn came under Theophilus’ widow, the Empress Theodora.



The final restoration of image worship by Theodora in 843 opened a new phase in the growth of the two parties and the split that had featured the first restoration in the time of Irene occurred again. The prestige of the die-hards of the Extremist party, the monks, had risen considerably after the persecution they had suffered under the iconoclastic emperors; but by the same token, the former iconoclasts of a milder type than their last Patriarch John the Grammarian, had swelled the ranks of the Moderates and the partisans of ‘oeconomia’. Among them were many scholars, or at least men of culture, the product of the reign of the last iconoclastic Emperor Theophilus, who with the aid of John the Grammarian and Leo the Philosopher had liberally encouraged the cultivation of sciences and letters.


The interest which the last iconoclastic emperors evinced in the renaissance of classical studies deserves emphasis, for it explains among other things why the die-hards, the monks especially, professed to be the determined foes of such studies, [1] which they considered pagan— not merely as reviving the writings and doctrines of the Greek pagan philosophers,



1. About the monks’ opposition, often violent, to classical studies, see what I wrote in my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode vues de Byzance, Byzantino-Slavica, Supplementa (Prague, 1933), pp. 27-31.





but because they were patronized by the iconoclasts, who in their eyes were little better than pagans. It also explains why they so frankly detested the intellectuals of the Moderate party, frequently going so far as to suspect the orthodoxy of their former allies in the fight against iconoclasm.


By her personal inclinations, the Empress Theodora felt drawn towards the Extremists, though she was intelligent enough to see that the interests of the dynasty called for discretion. One is surprised to learn from the accounts of the chroniclers that she all but opposed the official restoration of image worship, and that none but the arguments of Theoktistos and of his relative, Magister Sergius, [1] finally succeeded in convincing her. At first, the government of her Minister Theoktistos encouraged liberal views : the new Patriarch was selected, not from the Extremists, though they had presented their own candidates—Athanasius of Saccudion, Naukratios of the monastery of Studion, archbishop Katasambas of Nicomedia and the metropolitan of Cyzicus—but from the partisans of a more liberal policy. [2] This was Methodius, a Sicilian monk, reputed not only for his zeal for image worship, but also for his learning, his friendship with the Emperor Theophilus, as well as for his liberal views. Theoktistos carried on his master’s programme in other fields with equal vigour, and the present writer has elsewhere explained his share in the reorganization of higher education in Byzantium. [3] His was the nomination of Leo the Philosopher and of Photius as professors at the University of Constantinople; [4] his, too, the promotion of Photius to the presidentship of the Imperial Chancellery and the appointment of Constantine the Philosopher as University professor. These men belonged to the circle of intellectuals who formed the backbone of the Moderate party.


Anxious to preserve peace in the Church and to forestall the possibility of a revival of heresy, Methodius studiously avoided appointing partisans of Extremist views to any vacant see and chose the candidates exclusively from among the partisans of the Moderate party. And recent experience justified his policy.


It was only to be expected that Methodius’ policy would provoke criticism. The Extremists found it unjust to the men who had suffered most for the faith and resented it as a compromise.



1. Consult with reference to this personality the important and discerning study by H. Grégoire, ‘Études sur le IXe siècle’, Byzantion (1933), vol. viii, pp. 517 seq.


2. See my book, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle, pp. 128 seq.


3. Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 39 seq.


4. If we may so designate the Constantinople High School.





Witness the story told by Genesios [1] and the Continuator of Theophanes, [2] who stated that Methodius had been accused by his enemies of indecent assault on a woman, alleged to be the mother of Metrophanes, the future archbishop of Smyrna. And the story goes that Methodius gave an ocular demonstration before an amazed crowd of his innocence, or rather of his physical inability to commit such a crime.


The story has a strong legendary flavour, though there may be some truth at the bottom of it. The implication of Metrophanes’ mother is characteristic. Metrophanes, as will be seen later, was no admirer of Methodius and was subsequently to join the partisans of Ignatius. This raises the suspicion that the campaign against Methodius originated from the circle that bred the enemies of Photius. The anecdote also shows that the Extremists did not shrink from vulgar calumny. [3] This for further reference.


The monastery of Studion was another hot-bed of rebellion against Methodius. Since the time of Plato and Theodore, the Studites had been the foremost champions of rigidity. To fill vacancies and to stabilize his Church policy, the Patriarch admitted to ordination candidates who failed to satisfy all the requirements of canon law, directly they gave evidence of their orthodoxy during the iconoclastic persecution, provided they did not belong to the die-hard and rigorist wing. Of this irregularity the Studites duly made capital, and posing as the champions of Church canons, they turned on the Patriarch and severely criticized his procedure. The conflict ended in tragedy and landed the Byzantine Church in a grave internal schism. Exasperated by this ceaseless and malevolent bickering, St Methodius felt driven to excommunicate the more radical elements of the Extremist party—Studites, partisans and all. I have on two different occasions recalled the facts of this conflict. [4] Methodius apparently had the whole-hearted backing of the Olympian monks, the hermits and the hesychasts, who were jealous of their



1. (Bonn), pp. 83 seq.            2. (Bonn), pp. 157seq.


3. Cf. F. Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien (Leipzig, 1876), p. 154; and J. B. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire. . ., p. 151.


4. Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle, pp. 128 seq.; Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 123 seq. Attention is called to a notice on this schism which may be read in the anti-Photianist collection (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 444): ἐὰν ἐπὶ τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου Μεθοδίου, διὰ τὸ παραβῆναι ἕν ἰδιόχειρον, τινὲς καθῃρέθησαν· οὐ μόνον οὗτοι, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ συλλειτουργήσαντες τούτου· πόσῳ μᾶλλον οἱ νῦν ἐπίορκοι οὐχ ἅπαξ, ἀλλὰ πολλάκις, οἳ δὲ καθ’ ἑαυτῶν αὐτοὶ καὶ ψῆφον ἐπήνεγκαν, ἀναθεματίσαντες ἑαυτούς, εἰ παραβαῖεν. This reference to the schism under Methodius is characteristic and has escaped the historians’ attention.





reformed confrères of the monastery of Studion. The wording of the sentence of excommunication may well warrant the inference that by their opposition and by overstepping the rights accorded to humble monks to criticize the regularly established hierarchy, [1] the Studites made themselves responsible for regrettable dissensions within the Church. They had no doubt grounds for irritation: this was their second rebuff since the restoration of Orthodoxy, which they had so gallantly defended, but it was important to underline the incident, were it but to demonstrate to what lengths the over-zealous members of the Extremist party were ready to go. [2]


The quarrel must have lasted till the death of Methodius, and it is just possible that the Patriarch made the first move towards reconciliation; at any rate, we find in the fragment of his will quoted by John Chilas at the end of the thirteenth century [3] one reference to the Studites, when the Patriarch wrote : ‘ Receive to communion with honour those willing to do penance, provided they disown with anathema their father’s [St Theodore Studite’s] writings against the saintly Patriarchs Tarasius and Nicephorus; those who with sincere hearts return to the Church, fully reinstate them in the dignity of the priestly order.’ These words suggest that the Patriarch was only too anxious for a reconciliation, but that it never took place, since he left instructions on the way to deal with excommunicated and repentant monks. On the other hand, the biographer of St Methodius mentions the incident as though the parties had come to terms before his hero’s death. [4] According to this account, Methodius would have granted pardon on his death-bed to those who had offended him personally and have imposed penances on those who had rebelled against patriarchal authority; but the reference is not clear enough to invalidate the statement in the first document, though



1. St Methodius reminded the Studites of the place occupied in the Church by the humble monk: ‘Narratio de Beads Patriarchis Tarasio et Nicephoro’, P.G. vol. 99, col. 1853.


2. Cf. Th. Uspenski, Ocherki po istorii Viz. obrazovannosti (St Petersburg, 1892), pp. 84seq.; von Dobschütz, ‘Methodios und die Studiten’, in Byzant. Zeitschrift (1909), vol. XVIII. V. Grumel returned to the subject in ‘La Politique Religieuse du Patriarche St Méthode’, in Échos d'Orient (1935), vol. xxxiv, pp. 385-401, where he makes it clear that Methodius agreed with the Studites on the attitude adopted towards repentant iconoclasts, by admitting only those who had been ordained by Tarasius and Nicephorus. I accept his conclusions all the more readily, as they substantially confirm what I wrote in my two works already quoted, concerning Methodius’ ‘oeconomia’ policy.


3. Pitra, Juris Ecclesiastici Graecorum Historia et Monumenta (Rome, 1864-8), vol. ii, p. 362.


4. P.G. vol. 100, cols. 1257, 1260.





one can sympathize with the biographer’s desire to place his hero in the best possible light and earn for him the goodwill of monastic circles— so particular and sensitive on this point—to which he probably belonged himself. Again, he was writing at the time the incident was definitely closed, when it was only to be expected that he should not wish to insist on an occurrence which the admirers of Methodius, and chiefly the Studites, always a powerful element in the Church, were only too glad to forget. One only regrets not to be able to collate this biographer’s account with what a fellow-countryman of Methodius, Gregory Asbestas, [1] wrote on this incident. The fact that the Life of Methodius by the bishop of Syracuse was probably destroyed later by the Ignatians would suggest that it contained information particularly unpalatable to the enemies of Methodius.



The incident we have just related was more momentous than it has been till recently realized, for the Studite schism, whose rise and growth remained so long unsuspected, [2] was to cast its deep shadows over the religious evolution of the whole subsequent period. It is extremely difficult to find a key to the vicissitudes through which the Byzantine Church had to struggle after the death of Methodius. The position, anyhow, seems to have been critical. When some of the monks passed over to the schism, the government took alarm; and though it had approved the deceased Patriarch’s religious tactics, it was none the less taken by surprise at the Studites’ attitude. It had never occurred to the government that the opposition would prove so obstinate, nor that the Patriarch would put so much energy into the defence of his authority. The Empress Theodora, whose personal inclinations lay with the extremist monks, must have felt particularly sorry, in view of this pious woman’s touching efforts with certain eminent members of the party to rehabilitate her husband’s memory. [3] So anxious was she to prevent the heroes of her faith, whom she held in the highest esteem, from condemning the memory of one she had loved so dearly, that she did not even shrink from a pious lie, when she asserted that her husband



1. According to a marginal note in the Vatican MS. (Leo Allatius, Diatriba de Methodiis, P.G. vol. ioo, cols. 1233-4), Gregory wrote a Life of St Methodius. This biography must have disappeared, since no copy of it has been found.


2 Hergenröther, Photius (Regensburg, 1867), vol. 1, pp. 354 seq., is very brief and hazy on this point, though he admits some connection between these troubles and the Photian imbroglio.


3. Cf. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire. . ., p. 149; Dvornik, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle, p. 127.





had repented on his death-bed. If Methodius showed a desire to settle this business amicably, he probably did so to meet the Empress’ wishes and it is not unthinkable that the monks, even after the incident, tried their utmost to curry favour with Theodora, encouraged, no doubt, by the gradual recasting of the political groups in Byzantium. In the first years of the regency, Bardas, the Empress’ brother, had been completely left out in the cold. Since, relegated to his villa, he cannot have been content with the pleasures the countryside had to offer, it is from this period of inactivity that we should date his interest in learning. As a reigning Empress’ brother and conscious of his ability, it must have galled him to be asked to yield his rightful place to Theoktistos, an eunuch! As. Bardas made many friends among the intellectuals and made no secret of his progress in liberal circles, Theoktistos, suspecting a possible rival, must have been only too glad to welcome the Extremists’ overtures, which, moreover, came from a quarter where the pious Theodora—that second Irene—enjoyed enormous prestige.


The choice of the new Patriarch gave the two parties a chance to measure their strength, and the struggle seems to have been a bitter one. Nicetas himself [1] mentions several candidates who had been eliminated for various reasons, and among them Genesios names two sons of the former iconoclastic Emperor Leo V, Basil and Gregory. [2] Outstanding among them all was the archbishop of Syracuse, Gregory Asbestas, Methodius’ countryman and leader of the partisans of his religious policy, of whose activities under Methodius and after the latter’s death we shall learn more presently.


Under the circumstances, one can understand that the government had to intervene for fear a clash between the two opinions should, on the pretext of the new Patriarch’s appointment, make irreparable mischief in Church and State. Probably prompted by her Minister Theoktistos, the Empress decided on the choice of a monk, Ignatius, the son of the late Emperor Michael I. But how was the appointment made? Did Theodora first summon a synod or did she dispense with the canonical routine? There is no direct evidence for or against either election or nomination, but contemporary sources may guide us to an answer.


Nicetas, in mentioning the consent of the episcopacy, insinuates that the Empress played a leading part in Ignatius’ elevation; [3] and it is significant that he is silent about a canonical election in accordance with



1. Vita Ignatii, P.G. vol. 105, cols. 500 seq.

2. Genesios (Bonn), p. 99.

3. Vita Ignatii, P.G. vol. 105, col. 501.





Byzantine tradition, knowing full well that the attacks of Ignatius’ opponents had fastened on this particular grievance. [1] He also affirms that Ignatius had been recommended to Theodora by St Joannikios, the famous ascete of Mount Olympus and a keen supporter of Methodius. There is no truth in this statement, since Joannikios died on 4 November 846, [2] after the Patriarch Methodius had visited him on 1 November of the same year; [3] so that no one at that moment could have foreseen Methodius’ death, and Theodora could not possibly have given thought to his successor’s appointment. Nicetas only meant to show by this deliberate fabrication how groundless were the criticisms of Ignatius’ adversaries about his alleged hostility to Methodius’ religious policy.


We learn nothing more definite from other sources. [4] Everything then points to the fact that in her anxiety to avoid aggravating existing troubles, the Empress did without the usual procedure and omitted to convoke the synod that should have selected the candidates for presentation to government; and after consultation with a few influential bishops, without any further ado, she appointed as Patriarch Ignatius. The irregularity of this procedure was later to be cast up against Ignatius, but exceptional circumstances—a schism within the Byzantine Church—may be enough to explain why Theodora deemed herself justified in dispensing with a few formalities.


Ignatius’ accession to the patriarchal throne had all the semblance of a victory for the Extremists, but as he had not been involved directly in the differences that set Methodius and the Studites by the ears, the followers of Methodius could not refuse him obedience. That is how the whole episcopate agreed to the elevation, as was evidenced by the readiness with which Gregory Asbestas and his friends paid their homage at the Patriarch’s enthronement. But the new prelate’s behaviour towards Gregory Asbestas also proves that Methodius’ successor was in agreement with the Extremists’ game. According to Nicetas, [5] Ignatius bluntly signified to Gregory that since his case had not been cleared up, he (Ignatius) did not wish to see him at the ceremony. Thereupon, the fiery Sicilian made a scene, flung down the candle he



1. See infra, p. 81.


2. A.S. Nov. t. 11, p. 318.


3. Loc. cit.; in the biography written by Sabas, p. 382; the one written by Peter, p. 432.


4. The other writers are also very brief on the subject of Ignatius’ nomination and wander off into vague generalities; for instance, the Contin. of Theophanes (Bonn), p. 193; Pseudo-Simeon (Bonn), p. 657. Zonaras (Bonn), vol. II, p. 403 (lib. xvi, 4), however, attributes the appointment of Ignatius directly to Theodora.


5. Vita Ignatii, P.G. vol. 105, col. 512.





was holding and exclaimed that instead of being blessed with a pastor, the Church had been handed over to a wolf. He then swept out, followed by a number of ecclesiastics, chief of whom were Peter, bishop of Sardis, and Eulampius, bishop of Apamea.



The incident was ominous. Nicetas himself, though he defends Ignatius, acknowledges that his conduct raised many criticisms, and once for all prevented Ignatius, had he so desired, acting as intermediary between the two parties at loggerheads in Byzantium. Henceforth he would be classed for good, with no alternative left but to follow die-hard tactics and rely exclusively on the Extremists’ favour.


It is generally supposed that Ignatius took action against Gregory immediately after the incident and this with energy, since his patriarchal authority was at stake. He convoked, it is stated, a local synod, which duly judged, excommunicated and suspended Gregory with all his partisans. It is also imagined that the ground for this condemnation was the complaint Ignatius made against Asbestas at the time of his consecration. Meanwhile Gregory appealed to Pope Leo IV. The Holy See’s attitude has generally been regarded as somewhat strange, since the case was left to drag on throughout the whole of Ignatius’ first patriarchate, only to be settled—so it is believed—by Leo’s successor, Benedict III.


Let us now examine how far an opinion so generally accepted is exact. Asbestas’ appeal to Rome, together with other circumstances, is known to us from a letter addressed by Leo IV to the Patriarch and, according to this document, Ignatius’ performance seemed to the Pope1 to have been contrary to custom as observed by his predecessors on the throne of Constantinople, who in similar cases invariably first applied to Rome for advice. By convoking a synod and condemning the said bishops without the approval of the Church of Rome, Ignatius had exceeded his powers. Unfortunately, the letter bears no date. It was certainly dispatched before 855, the year of Leo’s death; but as Benedict III, his successor, had to deal with the case, the letter must have been written towards the end of Leo’s pontificate. Jaffé dates it 853, and this calls for a few remarks.


We owe it to the famous canonical Collection called Britannica, in the possession of the British Museum, [2] that the extract from the letter in



1. Ph. Jaffé-P. Ewald, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum (Lipsiae, 1885-8), vol. 1, no. 2629; M.G.H. Ep. v, p. 589.


2. On this Collection see pp. 296, 303 seq., 324 seq.





question has been preserved (Add. MS. no. 8873, ff. 162, 162 a). By mischance, the copyist has omitted to follow the chronological order. He has also copied as mall fragment from another letter addressed by Leo IV to Ignatius, in which the Pope refused to accept the pallium sent by the Patriarch. The Church of Rome, ‘magistra et caput omnium ecclesiarum’, cannot accept the pallium from another Church, since it is hers to distribute it ‘per totam Europam ad quod delegatum est’. The refusal is courteous, the Pope apologizing twice, but the tone of the letter is none the less firm. Now Jaffé also dates this letter about 853. [1] It may be questioned whether it bears any reference to Gregory Asbestas’ case and whether it may be thus dated.


It rather looks at first sight as though this fragment had been extracted from the Pope’s reply to the Patriarch’s synodical letter, since it used to be on such occasions that mutual presents were sent. It should therefore be dated 848 or 849, even 850. There exists but scant information on the dispatch of synodical letters, which perhaps were not always sent immediately after a Patriarch’s accession. P. Ewald [2] also is of opinion that the letter relating to the pallium had been dispatched previous to the letter concerning Gregory Asbestas, and he surmises that the copyist contented himself with copying a few fragments from the register of the last five years of Leo IV (850-5), a hypothesis which seems well founded. If such be the case, the condemnation of Gregory Asbestas and his friends could not have taken place till some time after Ignatius’ accession. Though 853 might be retained, 854 seems the likelier date; for one cannot admit such a protracted interval between the appeal to Leo IV and the second move with Benedict III.


It is clear from the foregoing that the writer of the letter knew only of one synodical condemnation of Gregory and his friends, though its exact date cannot be given, since the letter in question bears no date. Owing to the traffic difficulties between the two cities, we are left to



1. Regesta, no. 2647, MS. f. 170 a; M.G.H. Ep. v, p. 607.


2. ‘Die Papstbriefe der Britischen Sammlung’, in Neues Archiv (1890), vol. v, p. 396. Cf. the two letters, ibid. pp. 379, 392. We must take into account the traffic difficulties between Rome and Constantinople (see pp. 139, 171). Ignatius became Patriarch in June 847. As he had first to settle the S tudite Schism and as the disagreement with Asbestas had caused a stir in the ecclesiastical circles of Byzantium, it took some time for the situation to return to normal. Traffic between the two cities being suspended from October till March, he could scarcely have sent a legate to Rome before the spring or the summer of 848. Normally, the Pope would have answered his letter only in 849. Any delay in the dispatch of legates by either the Patriarch or the Pope would have deferred the papal reply till 850.





guess that the synod had taken place the year previous to the dispatch of the Pope’s letter in 852 or 853. It also follows that the charges brought in 847 against Gregory must have been pretty feeble for his condemnation to be held over for five years and one may reasonably wonder if Ignatius was not somewhat rash in provoking the painful scene at St Sophia on his enthronement day. But this incident had nothing to do with Asbestas’ condemnation and the true motive must be sought elsewhere.


Let us see now if the conclusions derived from Leo IV’s letters find confirmation in other sources that bear on Asbestas’ case. It is alleged by Pseudo-Simeon [1] that Asbestas committed a breach of canon law by consecrating the priest Zacharias to the bishopric of Taormina. It should, however, be remembered that this same priest, again according to the same quotation from Pseudo-Simeon, had been sent to Rome by his fellow-countryman Methodius and was the Patriarch’s trusted confidant. There would then have been no difficulty for Asbestas in obtaining a dispensation in favour of one whom the Patriarch held in such high esteem. Pseudo-Simeon’s allegation is therefore suspect. This same writer further pretends that the bishop of Syracuse had been suspended by Methodius on the ground of this same ordination, a statement which is patently false and puts the witness out of court.


The most important document on the Greek side is the letter of Stylianos of Neocaesarea to Stephen V. After stating that the Devil had prompted Asbestas and his two companions to alienate the faithful from Ignatius, Stylianos writes:


The Patriarch tried to save them from falling a prey to the unclean spirit by their severance from the Church of God : he repeatedly summoned them before a synod, treated them kindly, but could not save them ; and eventually deposed and anathematized them. They however sent messengers and letters to the most holy Pope of Rome at that time, the blessed Leo, and asked him for protection, as though they had been the victims of injustice. The Pope wrote to Ignatius, asking him to send a representative to the older Rome so that he might learn from him how matters stood with those schismatics. Without unnecessary delay, the Patriarch sent the monk and confessor Lazarus with letters, as he was well acquainted with the affair. Lazarus told the Pope everything; and the Pope judged and condemned them as schismatics as Ignatius had done. When the blessed Pope Leo died, they again molested Benedict, the Pope of Rome, and his successor with the same complaints.



1. (Bonn), p. 671.





But after careful examination, the most holy Benedict pronounced against them the same sentence as Ignatius.


Stylianos then goes on to state that the condemned schismatics used the influence of Photius—then a high functionary at court and also a schismatic—on Bardas, the Emperor’s uncle, who resented the Patriarch’s accusation of incest. After charging the Patriarch Ignatius with many crimes, they forcibly deprived him of his throne. The Emperor then expelled him and placed Photius on the patriarchal throne. He was the schismatics’ candidate for the honour.


Stylianos’ statement only confirms my inference from the Pope’s letter, i.e. that there was only one condemnation of Asbestas and his friends, and that this had nothing to do with the St Sophia incident. Stylianos postulates a long interval between the incident and the actual condemnation, when the Patriarch tried to make up for the bad impression the incident had caused and to treat Asbestas and his followers with every kindness. This reveals a sympathetic side of the Patriarch’s character: he was certainly not as stubborn and as touchy about his dignity as most historians have pictured him, but ready to acknowledge his mistakes and to mend matters. We may further conclude from Stylianos’ account that the true ground for the condemnation was the Asbestas party’s systematic opposition to the Patriarch’s ecclesiastical policy.


Nicetas in his ‘biography’ of Ignatius [1] is not as accurate as Stylianos. He attributes all Ignatius’ misfortunes to Asbestas, ‘who is stated to have been some time ago bishop of Syracuse and to have been summoned to Byzantium over some accusations and to have already been condemned by the Roman Church for acting uncanonically’. He then relates the notorious incident ‘ for which act committed at the beginning [of his career], however justifiable, many have blamed the Patriarch’. ‘Throughout the eleven years of his first patriarchate, Ignatius was unable, for all his kindness in word and deed, to appease his [Asbestas’] malevolence. He used to call on influential people, reviling him [Ignatius] everywhere and ridiculing him in sheer malice, refusing even to call the holy man a Christian. This accursed one!’


Though silent about the date, Nicetas agrees that the synodical condemnation did not happen immediately after Ignatius’ accession. He also confirms Stylianos’ statement that Ignatius tried to pacify Asbestas by kindness.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 232; P.G. vol. 105, col. 512.





But he is more explicit about the nature of Asbestas’ anti-Ignatian bias: calling upon the aristocracy to ridicule and revile Ignatius points to a deliberate campaign against his religious policy.


Our third informant is Anastasius the Librarian. He had his information from the Ignatians, when he was in Constantinople in 870. He first states [1] that the accession of Ignatius provoked discontent among some bishops, one of whom was Gregory of Syracuse, for the following reason : ’Because he declared with due restraint and in accordance with the canons that he could not receive them—owing to a judgement pronounced on them over some well known and public transgression in their priestly life—before this judgement were reversed. For this reason and for their failure to make due satisfaction, they were justly condemned later (postmodum) by himself and by a synod.’


The words, though lacking Stylianos’ precision, indicate at least that the synodal condemnation by Ignatius took place after he had been Patriarch for some time. Unlike Stylianos, Anastasius generalizes and includes Gregory’s associates in the condemnation which, according to him, had been pronounced before Ignatius’ patriarchate. This statement is suspect, and the way Anastasius refers to the opposition of Gregory’s party to Ignatius’ accession only intensifies our suspicion. We know that Gregory and his friends accepted Ignatius, since they were present at the ceremony of his enthronement, and that it was Ignatius who objected to the presence of Gregory. This calls for caution and his statement on a previous condemnation of Gregory and his friends for some unnamed transgression may be questioned. As he was not well acquainted with the circumstances and had got his information from the Ignatians, the words possibly convey his own reading of their feelings. A Roman mind, trained on juridical lines and unfamiliar with the motives that stirred the partisanship of the Greeks, could not have read the events or sifted his information in any other way: the bishops must have been guilty of some serious breach of canon law, for which they were condemned by the Church authorities before Ignatius’ accession. But such premises are worthless.


Further in his statement, Anastasius is more exact on the sort of trouble Gregory and his group were making. He blunders of course in selecting Photius as the main opponent, but that was the Roman way of looking at it. The Ignatians’ hostility to Photius was not understandable to a Roman, unless Photius was identified with Gregory and his schismatic circle. As to the nature of the opposition, Ignatius was blamed for dishonouring St Methodius’ memory and on that ground



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 2, 3.





was called a parricide. As Anastasius emphatically denies the accusation, since Ignatius paid due homage to his predecessor’s memory and celebrated the anniversary of his death, he can only mean that Ignatius was criticized by Asbestas’ group for deviating from his predecessor’s conciliatory policy or the policy of ‘oeconomia’. This was the old antagonism between the partisans of rigorous measures in ecclesiastical policy and the champions of more conciliatory tactics, wherever the essentials of doctrine were not involved. It was the story all over again of the breach between Theodore of the monastery of Studion and the Patriarch Nicephorus in the divorce and marriage affair of Constantine VI and of the clash between the Studites and Methodius which led to the Studite schism. Under Ignatius, the rigorists took possession of the patriarcheion, but were crossed by the champions of Methodius. Foremost among these were Asbestas and his two friends. The result was another schism ending in a synodical condemnation of Asbestas and his party, most probably in 853.


Since there is no evidence of any serious canonical lapse (in this case Ignatius was to pass sentence immediately after his installation at the patriarcheion), we must assume that he merely objected to the policy of oeconomia as practised by Methodius and championed by Asbestas. Already under Methodius, the rigorists must have fastened their criticisms on Gregory who as Methodius’ countryman (both were Sicilians) had great influence on him. He probably had also had a hand in the condemnation of the Studites. They therefore naturally looked upon him as their worst enemy and were responsible for the accusations mentioned by Stylianos.


Ignatius knew all this. But the new Patriarch had not had time to examine the Studite case and the accusations. He could not reconcile the Studites to the Church till after his enthronement. Hence, to avoid any appearance of partiality, he ordered Asbestas, the man responsible for the condemnation of the Studites by Methodius, to keep away from the ceremony of enthronement. Asbestas of course resented this as a slight on the memory of Methodius and as favouritism for the men he had condemned. This would best explain the St Sophia incident.



We are also told that Gregory and his friends appealed from the synodical condemnation to Pope Leo IV. This must have happened in 853, or better, in 854. Let us now examine the attitude of the Roman See. Stylianos’ assertion that Leo, after hearing Ignatius’ envoy Lazarus, confirmed the Patriarch’s sentence and that his successor Benedict did the same,





 is flatly contradicted by Pope Nicholas I, who stated in his letter to Michael III: [1]


But my predecessors of blessed memory Leo and Benedict refused in accordance with the rules of the Apostolic See to listen to one party to the prejudice of the other, for it is not the mediator for one side only. That is why his [Gregory’s] deposition has in the meantime remained invalid for lack of sanction from the Holy See. And although the same Gregory admitted through the delegate of his party called Zachary that the Apostolic See had in no way consented to his deposition, he never thanked. . . .


The statement is clear. Further in the letter, the same Pope adds that if Gregory and his friends had committed against Ignatius, in the reigns of Leo IV and Benedict III, the same offence as they perpetrated by deposing him and crowning Photius, and had thus taxed the patience and clemency of the Holy See, those two Pontiffs would to a certainty have unhesitatingly condemned them. [2] This can only mean that Nicholas was quite aware that those two Pontiffs had condemned neither Gregory nor his companions. Besides, according to the Liber Pontificalis, [3] Lazarus did not reach Rome till after the death of Leo IV which occurred on 17 July 855. In that case, Leo could neither hear him nor consider Ignatius’ sentence.


The letter sent to Ignatius, probably in 854, severely rebukes the Patriarch for abusing his powers in condemning bishops without consulting the Holy See; and we must presume that it also contained an invitation to send representatives to Rome to answer the charges made by bishop Zachary, Asbestas’ envoy. The copyist of the Britannica quotes from the papal letter only the passage on the rights of the Roman See, but omits the Pope’s request for the dispatch of a special envoy. There is nothing in the letter to indicate any move on the part of Ignatius before the summons from the Papal Chancellery. [4] It is difficult to state with any precision when Lazarus arrived in Rome. It may have been in the second half of 855, or in 856. The Liber Pontificalis, it is true, mentions Lazarus’ arrival at the end of the sketch of Benedict’s life; but this is not conclusive, since the writer prefaces his account of



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 500; cf. ibid. p. 527.            2. Ibid. pp. 501, 528; cf. also p. 511.


3. Ed. L. Duchesne (Paris, 1886, 1892), vol. II, pp. 147, 150.


4. The wording ’vos autem praedictorum, ut fertis, virorum’ does not imply that the Pope is here hinting at a letter sent by the Patriarch. The meaning is: ‘you, however, who pretend to be the successor of those men [Patriarchs of Constantinople] mentioned before.’





Lazarus’ visit with the non-committal ‘huius [Benedicti] temporibus Michael. . . imperator. . . misit. . . ’.


The letters sent in 865 and 866 by Nicholas I, the successor of Benedict III, to Michael III give us information about the answer to Leo IV’s request brought by Lazarus. It is to the effect that the Patriarch sent to the Roman Pontiff the Acts of the synod which condemned Asbestas’ group, and from these Acts Nicholas learnt that the Patriarch had not attended that synod. [1] But Ignatius’ absence was quite in order. The Gregorian party’s attacks being personal and aimed at the Patriarch’s religious policy, he preferred to stay away to allow the bishops perfect freedom to discuss him. It did the saintly man credit and was moreover true to custom in Constantinople. We shall presently see that neither did Photius attend the sessions of the synod of 861, which examined Ignatius’ case.


According to the same document, the Acts were endorsed with a letter from Theodora on behalf of the Emperor Michael III. It was the imperial decree confirming the decision of the synod. The Patriarch, in his letter, requested the Pope to confirm by his authority the synod’s sentence and his own. [2] The document illustrates the procedure followed whenever an appeal from the Patriarch’s decision was lodged in the papal court. As Nicholas I states in his letter to Photius written in 866, Zachary, when appealing in the name of the bishops condemned by a synodical and patriarchal sentence, quoted in his support the canon of Sardica which gave everyone such a right. [3]


How did Benedict III (855-8) deal with Gregory’s case? The writer of Benedict’s Vita in the Liber Pontificalis was deeply impressed by the presents which Theodora sent to the Pope: and yet, the Pope did not confirm Ignatius’ sentence. This we learn on the authority of Nicholas’ letter to Michael III, written in 866 and quoted above; and it gives the lie to Stylianos’ statement. The document relating to the case which Nicholas I found in the Archives in Benedict’s file must have been so favourable to Gregory and his friends as to prove embarrassing to



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 478: ’Ecce enim scripta vestra missa ad antecessorem nostrum, quae penes nos recondita servantur, quosdam partis Gregorii Syracusani congregatis episcopis etiam absente fratre nostro Ignatio vos anathematizasse testantur.’


2. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 500.


3. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 537: ‘Zacharius, qui se pretendebat episcopum, ex parte Syracusani Gregorii et collegarum eius apostolicam sedem adiit eorum deposcens renovari iudicium, hos se in appellatione canones [i.e. canon 3 of the Council of Sardica, Mansi, vol. iii, col. 23] et eos, a quibus missus extiterat, fuisse secutus aiebat.’





Nicholas, and he is obviously at pains to explain his predecessors’ attitude. [1]


The Acts of the fourth session of the Council of 869-70 supply some more detailed information on the intervention of Pope Benedict III. [2] After the Fathers had listened to the Photianist bishops Zachary and Theophilus, the Patrician Baanes, who was in the chair and directed the debate, declared: ‘We never called for Zachary’s case, for he admitted yesterday that he had been ordered by Pope Benedict not to perform any pontifical function until he appeared again and went to Rome, with all those who had fallen away from the saintly Patriarch Ignatius, for his trial: this he never did and he never went there.’ These words make it clear that Benedict III never confirmed Ignatius’ verdict; he only reminded Zachary that he and his friends should suspend their ministry as long as judgement remained pending. The same is hinted at by Pope Nicholas I in chapters I, II and II of the decrees of the Roman synod concerning the Photian case; [3] so that the observation made by Benedict III was quite in order, for whoever is condemned in the first instance is naturally expected to abstain from any functions whilst his case is under consideration in a higher court. Zachary duly notified Gregory Asbestas of this injunction, as is evidenced in the ‘Libellus’ written by Theognostos and presented to Nicholas I. [4]


But the passage quoted above also shows that Benedict’s verdict was not final. The Pope evidently was not satisfied with Ignatius’ reasons for such a grave decision against bishops. But he did not annul the Patriarch’s sentence, apparently waiting for further information. Both parties were then summoned to appear again before his tribunal.


Benedict Ill’s action has surprised many a historian.3 Being in possession of the Acts of the synod and in a position to gather the necessary information from the monk Lazarus, having moreover free



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 500, 501.


2. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 74.


3. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 519: ‘A Gregorio, Syracusano dudum episcopo a synodo damnato et ab apostolica sede vincto.’ P. 521: ’Gregorius... a decessore meo sanctae memoriae papa Benedicto obligatus.’ And further down: ’A decessore vere sanctae memoriae Benedicto papa obligatis hominibus.’ Cf. the circular letter to the oriental bishops, ibid. pp. 557, 558, 559.


4. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 300.


5. Cardinal Hergenröther conjectures for instance (Photius, vol. 1, p. 361) that the Holy See’s dilatory attitude to the Asbestas case only encouraged his partisans to intensify their attacks on Ignatius and that as a result Theodora convoked the synod which Ignatius did not attend. This second synod would have excommunicated Gregory’s schismatic party and sent the monk Lazarus to take the Acts to Rome. This speculation is unwarranted. We have seen that there is evidence only of one synod, that of 853, and that it was the only one to pass sentence on Asbestas.





access to the defendant’s file, since Zachary must have stayed in Rome waiting for the arrival of the Patriarch’s envoy, he considered it premature to decide the case. Instead, he gave the instructions we know.


It is clear from the documents that there was no final verdict and that the affair must have dragged on from 856 till 858, a long time in a matter considered to be so urgent. Before trying to find out what happened to cause the delay, let us first examine the Acts of the synod of 861 summoned to judge Ignatius, and where his attitude to Asbestas was explained.


An extract from the Acts of this synod has been preserved in the famous canonical Collection of Cardinal Deusdedit and the problems raised by this Collection will be discussed presently. [1] The story of Gregory’s condemnation and of the Pontiff’s intervention could have been reconstructed in the light of these Acts, but since their authenticity has been questioned, we preferred first to examine the information supplied by documents whose authenticity is undisputed. In any case, the evidence of the Acts is exactly identical with that of other sources. In these we find that in the course of the first session the legates of Pope Nicholas I—Radoald, bishop of Porto, and Zachary, bishop of Agnani —addressed Ignatius in the following words: [2]



1. See below, pp. 297-308.


2. Wolf von Glanvell, Die Kanonensammlung des Kardinals Deusdedit (Paderborn, 1905), p. 604. Owing to its importance we give here the text in full, though its Latin would have broken Cicero’s heart:


‘Hoc malum tibi est, quia cum accusatoris est Romae, scripsit tibi Benedictus Papa, ut responderes. Tu neque per te ipsum neque per alium dignatus es respondere. Venimus ergo perscrutari causam tuam juxta traditionem sanctorum patrum et canonum. . . . Cum irate reclamavit Romae Zacharias episcopus et Benedictus papa misit tibi epistolam, ut imperator [imperando, ut?] condicto mitteres apocrisiarios ad apostolicam sedem et rursum veniet idem Zacharias episcopus cum aliis quibusdam, ut utriusque partis in conspectu papae ventilaretur negotium; et hic quidem venit, tu vero nequaquam misisti. Ignatius dixit: Et quo mense recepi epistolam papae? Responderunt: Nescimus. Ignatius dixit: Julio mense recepi epistolam; post VIIII aut X dies eiectus sum et quando habui mittere?. . . Nosti [loc. cit. pp. 607-8] quod tempore Benedicti papae venerunt episcopi Romam reclamantes contra te multa et gravia et misit apostolicus epistolam tibi, ut de parte tua mitteres aliquos, et non fecisti. Ignatius dixit: Quod videtis, contigit mihi: ideo non potui mittere. . . .Dixit Ignatius: non iudicor, quia iudices missi non estis a magno iudice papa Romano. Item non misit iste Lazarum Romanum [Romam] ut dispositionem [depositionem?] quam injuste fecerat confirmaret? In illo iudicem recepit Romanam ecclesiam et modo non recepit. . . . Quare non recipis nos, cum miseris ad Benedictum papam requirens Romanum iudicium?. . .Ego veni Romam et reclamavi apud sanctitatem papae, quod Ignatius sine electione intravit in ecclesiam et ejecit episcopum Syracusanum et alios duos fecit pro eo. Synodus dixit: Omnes novimus, quoniam sine causa eiecit episcopos istos Ignatius et alios fecit in locis eorum.’





‘There is this against you, that as you were accused in Rome, Pope Benedict wrote to you expecting an answer; yet you did not deign to reply either personally or by proxy. So we have come to examine your case according to the tradition of the holy Fathers and the Canons.’ Later they said: ’As bishop Zachary had lodged an indignant complaint at Rome, and Pope Benedict sent you a letter requesting you to send at once your representatives to the Apostolic See, and as the same bishop Zachary with some others again would come so that both parties should explain themselves in the presence of the Pope, he did come, but you sent nobody.’ Ignatius: ‘Which month did I receive the Pope’s letter?’ They answered: ‘We do not know.’ Ignatius said: ‘I received the letter in the month of July and I was expelled nine or ten days later: where was the time to answer?’ During the third session the apocrisiaries declared: ‘You know that at the time of Pope Benedict bishops came to Rome with many and grave complaints against you and the Apostolic See sent you a letter asking you to send your representatives and you did not comply.’ Ignatius said: ‘You see what happened to me; so, I could not send them.’ The protospathar John then pointed out: ‘Ignatius has said: “lam not being judged, for you have not been sent as judges by the great judge, the Pope of Rome.” And yet, did he not send Lazarus to Rome on a similar occasion to ask for confirmation of a deposition which he had unjustly ordered? He accepted the Roman Church as the judge then, but does not do so now!’ Then the apocrisiaries: ‘Why do you not receive us, since you wrote to Pope Benedict asking for a Roman judgement? ’ Lastly, bishop Zachary declared at the fourth session: ‘I went to Rome and complained to the Holy Father that Ignatius had entered the Church without an election, ejected the Bishop of Syracuse and replaced him by two others.’ The synod said: ‘We all know that Ignatius deposed those bishops without any reason and put others in their place.’


The comparison of these documents is significant, since they all complement each other. Whatever is said on the subject by the Acts of the synod of 861, whose extracts have survived only in Latin in the canonical Collection of the eleventh century, is confirmed from other sources. This is important, for the Acts supply on the Ignatian case other details which we shall have occasion to examine. All one can say at present is that these are important witnesses it seems difficult to set aside.


One thing seems certain: invited by Benedict III to send representatives to Rome to explain matters, Ignatius did not comply. By his own





declaration, he received a letter with the injunction in July 858, nine or ten days before his expulsion from the patriarcheion. This letter must have been sent from Rome in the early spring of 858. Even assuming that Lazarus arrived in Rome only in 856, it seems hardly possible that the Pope should have waited till 858 to ask Ignatius for additional information. Even if the Pope wished to put off the decision, the aggrieved bishops were not likely to be so patient.


We read in the extract from the Acts that Zachary went to Rome. This was first stated by the papal legates at the first session and repeated by Ignatius’ accusers at the third : [1] ‘ The apocrisiaries addressed Ignatius’ accusers: “Some of your men went to Rome to complain against Ignatius.“ The accusers said : “Yes, and at the time they were poor and harassed men. But he, with his influence and power, why did he not send [any]? You know how Zachary did go.“ ’ Both apocrisiaries and complainants here seemed to have in mind, not the first, but a second journey of Zachary to Rome. The extract is not clear, but the context in both passages seems to suggest it.


But there is a passage in a letter of Hadrian II, also written to Ignatius in 869, stating that Ignatius failed to comply with the Pope’s request, not in 858, before his ejection, but much earlier. The Pope writes: [2] ‘Among the false charges made against you, your enemies have tried to incriminate you, saying that, as though scorning Pope Benedict of venerable memory, you had contemptuously refused, like Dioscorus mentioned above, to receive his letter.’ If there is any substance in this statement, it cannot refer to the letter which Ignatius received some days before his fall. There was no necessity then for Ignatius’ enemies to spread rumours of a refusal to receive papal letters, since at that time his position was already seriously undermined. But there was point in the accusation, if made in 856 or in 857. It follows that Ignatius ignored the Pope’s request then, and that only Zachary returned to Rome in 857. But as the Pope could not pass sentence in the defendant’s absence, he reiterated his request in the spring of 858. To this of course Ignatius could not reply, since he was expelled from his office. He was only referring to this second letter in his defence at the synod, and wisely ignored the first. His tactics were legally correct, since none could tell how he would have dealt with the second letter, if given freedom of action. In any case, the Pope overlooked Ignatius’ disobedience to the first summons and merely repeated his citation.


There is one difficulty. How are we to reconcile the statement contained



1. W. von Glanvell, loc. cit. p. 607.

2. M.G.H. Ep. v, p. 753.





in the Acts of the synod of 861 to the effect that Zachary went to Rome for the second time, with the Patrician Baanes’ denial at the fourth session of the Council of 869-70 that Zachary ever went to Rome ‘for his trial’? But the contradiction is only apparent. Baanes referred to the actual trial and so far was right, as Zachary and his friends never went to Rome for it. Whilst their case was pending before the court of appeal, they omitted, after Ignatius’ expulsion, to press for a decision in Rome and contented themselves, as we shall see presently, with the satisfaction which the synod of 861 gave them. The undertaking they had signed in Rome, as stated by the papal legates in the same passage, that they would ‘in all things follow the judgement of the Holy Roman Church’, did not trouble them.


One more detail that might explain Ignatius’ omission to send explanations to Benedict III. According to a statement made by Zachary at the synod of 861, the aggrieved bishops, besides complaining in their appeal to Rome of their unfair deposition, also questioned the legitimacy of Ignatius’ office on the ground that instead of being elected by a local synod and confirmed by the Emperor, he had straightaway been appointed Patriarch by the Empress Theodora, then the Regent, in contravention of local canonical custom. It appears that it was this particular charge which the Pope wished especially to investigate, since Lazarus, the Patriarch’s first envoy, could neither deny the fact nor give any satisfactory explanation. One can understand the Patriarch’s dismay and that of his followers on learning that both his verdict and the legitimacy of his office had been taken exception to. Rome’s intention even to consider such a charge must have looked to many Ignatians like taking sides with the Patriarch’s enemies, and this at a time when, after the elimination of the Empress’s Minister Theoktistos, Theodora’s power seemed to slip into the hands of the Gregorian party. Little wonder that Ignatius felt reluctant to submit to such an inquiry. This frame of mind would be more consistent with the attitude he adopted at the synod of 861, as we shall see in the next chapter.


The facts as explained allow us to draw a few conclusions. First of all, the incident under discussion was far more serious than has generally been supposed, although the Holy See’s hesitation, and chiefly Pope Benedict’s attitude, would lead one to think that the reasons for Gregory’s and the two bishops’ deposition were trivial and open to discussion. It is also important to underline the fact that Gregory’s co-defendants appealed to Rome as to a higher court, on the strength, as explained, of the canons of the Sardican synod.





Let us also note that Gregory’s faction, for all its anti-papal reputation, actually chose to fight Ignatius by spreading the rumour that he had refused to acknowledge the Pope’s letter. These facts cast a curious light on the mentality of the Byzantines in the ninth century and on their respect for the See of Rome. To be noted also is that Ignatius, at least at that time, was not sufficiently aware of the importance of that See and its claims on the universal Church, as was evidenced by his first official contact with the Pope. Ignorance of usage on similar occasions in presenting the Pope among other things with a pallium and drawing on himself a categorical refusal illustrates Ignatius’ simplicity, though the way he dealt with Asbestas’ appeal to Rome proves that he protected none the less jealously the rights of the Patriarchs of the second Rome and did not like the Roman See’s intervention in the affairs of his patriarchate. Nevertheless, he did not deny the rights of that See, though it is also true to say that he could not have done so without provoking his enemies’ legitimate criticism for disregarding the canons of Sardica.



So far, we have only considered the ecclesiastical aspect of the conflict. There is not much information to give us a glimpse of what took place behind the scenes. Gregory’s associates were apparently not very numerous, for the synod of 853 only prosecuted those who had been loudest in their criticisms of the Patriarch’s policy; but few as they were, they raised many sympathies among the clergy and other quarters.


The intellectuals, who usually ranged themselves on the Moderate side, were naturally partial to Gregory. Remember that Ignatius, as even Anastasius the Librarian acknowledges in his preface to the Acts of the Eighth Council, [1] treated profane learning with the utmost contempt, sharing in this respect the feelings of the die-hard monks and zealots in painful contrast to the long line of men of learning who had sat on the patriarchal throne of Byzantium. The names of the Patriarchs Tarasius, Nicephorus, John the Grammarian and Methodius had set a high tradition; and it was only human that the intellectuals should closely watch the Patriarch’s doings and feel supercilious. But the radical elements of the liberal party did not stop there and went even so far as to sneer publicly at the Patriarch’s ignorance in matters philosophical and theological. Anastasius tells us in the preface quoted that Photius, then professor at the University of Constantinople, later, president of the Imperial Chancellery and future Patriarch, was one of those who ridiculed poor Ignatius. He is even supposed to have concocted a sham



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 6: ‘Qui scilicet viros exterioris sapientiae repulisset.’





heretical doctrine on the two souls, and explained to his intimate friend Constantine the Philosopher, future apostle of the Slavs, who upbraided him for it, that he only wanted to see what the Patriarch, ignorant of syllogisms and contemptuous of philosophy, was going to do about it, were a heresy suddenly to burst at his feet.


This anecdote sounds suspect. Even Hergenröther [1] refused to take it literally, and attributed the heresy in question to some of Photius’ students deliberately exaggerating certain of their master’s sayings in order to bait the unlettered Patriarch. But the Acts find nothing to say about it. As the Eighth Council voted a canon—the tenth in the Greek summary and the eleventh in the translation by Anastasius [2]—which condemned a similar heresy, it must have been preached in Byzantium by somebody, but its author was certainly not Photius, nor one of his students. The Fathers of the Eighth Council, who collected whatever they could lay hands upon in order to convict Photius, would certainly not have overlooked a heresy propagated either by him or by one of his students. The condemnatory canon mentions neither, and Photius’ bitterest enemies, bishop Stylianos, Theognostos and Nicetas, knew nothing about it. Only one single writer, Simeon Magister, [3] fathers the heresy on Photius, with this important difference between him and Anastasius, that according to Simeon, Photius, as a Patriarch, openly preached the said doctrine from the ambo of St Sophia. But his story betrays signs of fantastic romancing and should be classed with the mendacious fabrications scattered over Byzantium by Photius’ worst enemies, bent on rousing the populace against him. It is not the only fairy tale in Simeon’s collection. There is, besides him, the compiler of the anti-Photian Collection, [4] to be discussed later, who also attributes to Photius the doctrine of the two souls, but we shall find that this writer does not always deserve the credit he claims.


As regards Anastasius, he picked up his anecdote in Constantinople, in ultra-Ignatian circles, which he frequented at the time. In his letter to Gauderich of Velletri, [5] a letter intended to preface his translation of Constantine’s work on the recovery of St Clement’s relics, he confesses having had in Constantinople interviews with Metrophanes of Smyrna, one of the most devoted partisans of Ignatius and who happened to be an exile in Cherson at the time of the alleged recovery of the relics; [6]



1. Photius, vol. iii, pp. 444-6.

2. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 404, 166.

3. (Bonn), p. 673.

4. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 456.

5. M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 437.

6. Consult on this subject my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 190-7.





and it had been Anastasius’ intention to collect in the Byzantine capital all the information he could about his friend Constantine. The Ignatians, aware of the Roman librarian’s interests and of the prestige this young Greek scholar commanded in Rome, naturally endeavoured to associate the reputation of such a notability with their own cause; but being unable to present Anastasius with more forcible evidence of Constantine’s friendliness to their cause, they forged the story of a quarrel between the two friends, a tale which Anastasius faithfully copied, but most certainly did not gather from Constantine. The latter’s alleged reply is too obviously inspired by the Ignatians’ hatred for Photius to have come from Constantine’s own lips, for he was, on the Ignatians’ own showing, his best friend; for he attributes to Photius nothing less than hatred for Ignatius and greed, i.e. the very character traits which the Ignatians fastened on him to bolster up the belief that he desired at all costs to take possession of the patriarchal throne. Anastasius was then no longer in a position to verify their statements, since Constantine had died in Rome in 869, [1] perhaps even before Anastasius had left for Byzantium. It is only right to add that Photius’ writings do not permit one to suppose that he was the author of the doctrine of the two souls: whatever he wrote on the existence of the human soul was perfectly orthodox, [2] and the sceptical comments on this anecdote by E. Amann are more than justified. [3] From all this we may gather one thing, that the intellectuals were in sympathy with Gregory’s party and that its radical elements ridiculed Ignatius’ ignorance.


These people seem to have indulged in other exaggerations in their campaign against Ignatius. Canon XVI of the Eighth Council [4] severely forbids parodies of the sacred liturgy, as organized by ‘certain laymen of senatorial rank in the reign of the late Emperor’ (Michael III). Nicetas also mentions these parodies; [5] and the Continuator of Theophanes describes them very picturesquely, often in a manner scarcely dignified.



1. Cf. Laehr, ’Briefe und Prologe des Bibl. Anastasius’, in Neues Archiv, vol. xlvii, p. 429.


2. See for instance Photius’ homilies, Aristarchos, Φωτίου λόγοι καὶ ὁμιλίαι (Constantinople, 1900), vol. I, pp. 339 seq., 358 (hom. ΜΓ), p. 423 (hom. ME); P.G. vol. 102, cols. 85 seq., 101, 156; Aristarchos, loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 81, 130 (hom. ΜΘ). See also Photius’ sayings which Aristarchos takes for the Patriarch’s lectures on philosophy, ibid. vol. 1, pp. 62, 63, 90-5, 110-13, 218, 220.


3. E. Amann, ‘Photius’, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. xii, col. 1560: ‘Quant à l’histoire racontée par Anastase sur l’hérésie des deux âmes, ballon d’essai lancé par Photius pour démontrer l’incapacité théologique d’Ignace, on aimerait à en avoir de plus sérieux garants.’


4. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 169.


5. P.G. vol. 105, col. 528.





According to him, their author was no less a man than Michael III himself. [1] But he should be read with caution, since his work was intended to glorify Basil, founder of the new dynasty and murderer of Michael III. All the writings issuing from the Constantine Porphyrogennetos circle were directed to the one object of painting Michael III in the most unfavourable colours so that his murder by Basil might emerge as a just retribution by Providence and a meritorious deed. Whatever therefore Theophanes’ Continuator has to say on the point that interests us originates from a legend invented in Byzantium to the detriment of Michael III at the instigation of the Ignatians and Basil’s panegyrists.


But whilst refusing to take literally what the Ignatian writers tell us about Michael in this matter, one can hardly deny the fact that Michael was actually an active party to these travesties. The spathars, when cross-questioned on the subject by the legates in the course of the ninth session of the Council of 869-70, [2] definitely confessed that they had been forced by the young Emperor to take part in these parodies. It is surprising to note that after such a charge the legates should have let off the late Emperor so lightly. Whether they wished to spare Basil’s feelings, who in deference to his young friend probably attended this kind of entertainment, or whether Michael was only indirectly responsible for it, is not clear: in any case, the same passage of the Acts seems to prove that these spectacles were pointedly aimed at Ignatius and his party and that directly Photius became Patriarch they stopped. The legates failed to make Photius liable for these incidents, though not for want of trying.


And yet, the mere fact that Michael III should have been directly mixed up with these incidents by writers of a later period points to another finding: the fellowship uniting young Michael and his uncle Bardas with Gregory’s followers. Here we come up against the political side of the wrangle. We have seen already that the condemnation of Asbestas and his friends had been confirmed by Theodora, to whose government Pope Nicholas attributed a leading initiative in convoking the synod that indicted Gregory, so that by 853, the time when the breach between Gregory and Ignatius occurred, people in Byzantium had taken their stand and chosen their sides on the political platform. Theodora and Theoktistos counted on the Extremists and supported Ignatius to the utmost: Bardas with Michael relied on the Moderates; whereas the attitude of the Roman See in the clash between Ignatius



1. (Bonn), pp. 244-7.

2. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 153-5.





and the bishop of Syracuse no doubt enhanced the Moderate party’s prestige.


The political rivalry that smouldered between Theoktistos and Bardas exploded in 856, the year of the young Michael’s coming of age. We cannot but remember what happened under Irene, when her son attained his majority. It would have been an easy matter for Bardas, by recalling the past, to convince his young nephew of Theoktistos’ ambition to become a second Stauracius arid to eliminate the young Emperor from government once for all. Theodora was no Irene ; but the idea of handing over the reins of government to her son did not appeal to her and still less to Theoktistos. Both knew perfectly well that the transfer would lead to a complete change of political orientation, for Bardas, the patron of the Moderates, was holding himself ready in the background.


A decision according to Byzantine usage was therefore imperative: either the one or the other leader of the rival forces had to disappear. Theoktistos would not have hesitated, at a pinch, to get rid of Bardas by force, but Bardas happened to be more wide-awake and less scrupulous than his rival; and so, at the beginning of 856, with the complicity of Michael, [1] he assassinated Theoktistos. Deprived of his support, Theodora found it impossible to hold her own against the Moderate party and its leaders, Bardas and the young Emperor Michael. But the Extremists refused to disarm, remaining hopeful so long as Theodora succeeded in staying at the imperial palace. They therefore concentrated all their venom on Bardas, the man to be removed at all cost. For the purpose of discrediting him in the eyes of the public, rumours were set going about his immoral conduct and his incest with his daughter-inlaw; [2] and taking advantage of Ignatius’ honesty and zeal, the Extremists planned to cause a breach between the highest religious authority and the political powers. Given Byzantine mentality, the coup was astute and well aimed; for, with Bardas and Michael disgraced in public estimation, it would have been an easy matter to undermine their influence in the imperial palace and restore Theodora and her Extremists to power.


Their machinations were partly successful: Ignatius allowed himself to be won over and the congregation at St Sophia had the thrill of witnessing a sensational scene, when the Patriarch refused communion to the man who then represented in Byzantium supreme political power.



1. For details, cf. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire. . ., pp. 157 seq.


2. On these rumours and Ignatius’ line of conduct consult my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 139 seq.





The new regime had little reputation left; but on the face of it, Ignatius seems to have carried his zeal too far. There is a simple and natural explanation for Bardas’ affection for his daughter-in-law: after losing a son he loved dearly, he transferred his paternal affection to the son’s wife, who in her bereavement needed it. Such cases are fairly common. All the chroniclers who mention the accusation, including Nicetas the Paphlagonian, Ignatius’ 'biographer’, only refer to rumours current in Byzantium and reported to the Patriarch; [1] and they would have spoken in different terms had there been any serious evidence of Bardas’ immorality. St Tarasius, St Nicephorus and St Methodius would in similar circumstances have acted with greater circumspection than did St Ignatius. It is not here suggested that Ignatius was in any way implicated in this political plot; for we are more and more convinced that he was a saintly man and fully deserved the honours which the two Churches have paid him on the altars for centuries; and the study of contemporary documents only confirms this conviction. The fanatics of the Extremist party merely took advantage of his simplicity, his lack of discretion and his inexperience in politico-religious matters, and that was all there was to it.


To cut short all further intrigues and deprive his enemies once for all of all hope of return to power with the assistance of Theodora and her daughters, Bardas decided to render his sister and his nieces harmless by sending them to a convent. He acted, it must be admitted, with great leniency, for Byzantium was used to worse scenes and a repetition of the tragedy that befell Constantine VI and his sons and cost them their lives would not have perturbed its equanimity so very deeply.


Ignatius was asked to bless the Empress’ veil, a request which to Bardas’ way of thinking was meant to give him the chance to prove his innocence in the political plots of the Extremist party. But this was asking too much. It was not so much his religious temperament and his rectitude that caused him to demur, but the fact that he owed the Empress everything: she had selected him for the patriarchal dignity and he meant to remain loyal. He refused. In his refusal the government found evidence of the Patriarch’s complicity with the enemies of the new political regime and felt all the more irritated as the fanatics exploited his attitude against Bardas, Michael and their partisans, and



1. Consult my book (loc. cit.), where I quote Bury’s judgement on Ignatius’ conduct. It is interesting to note that Yared’s conclusions (loc. cit., 1872, vol. II, pp. 556 seq.) on this incident were thus confirmed by Bury.





went so far as to organize a conspiracy. Simeon Magister, [1] unfavourable as he was to Photius and openly in sympathy with Ignatius and Theodora, and the Continuator of George the Monk [2] both mention a murderous assault on Bardas. It was engineered by the imperial protostrator and it appeared that the ex-Empress was implicated. It was, however, discovered in time and the conspirators were beheaded in the Hippodrome. Meanwhile the position grew more serious, as the failure of this first attempt did not entirely discourage or dishearten the opposition. Gebeon, one of the fanatics, tried his chances by asserting that he was the Empress’ son; not unsuccessfully, for Theodora’s partisans began to rally round him, when he was caught and cruelly done to death. Ignatius, already under serious suspicion and closely watched by the imperial police, made a slip : maybe out of pity, or because the culprit’s pose as a monk brought him under the Patriarch’s jurisdiction, he undertook the man’s defence. This only made suspicions worse and Ignatius was arraigned for high treason and banished to the Isle of Terebinthos. [3] This must have happened, according to his own statement before the synod, at the end of July 857.



1. (Bonn), p. 658.            2. (Bonn), p. 823.


3. For details, cf. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire. . ., pp. 188 seq. Even the biographer of St Theodora states that the Empress numbered many partisans among the senators, which may suggest that the conflict was rather of a political nature (Vita S. Theodorae, ed. Regel, Analecta Byzantino-Russica, Petropoli, 1891, p. 15).








Nicetas’ testimony—Ignatius’ abdication confirmed by the Extremists’ reports—Photius’ canonical election—Asbestas and Photius’ consecration—Extremists’ revolt and its motives—Photius’ reaction—Repercussions of these conflicts among the episcopacy and the monastic world.



Bardas and his partisans finding it impossible to leave on the patriarchal throne a man who to all appearances was under the influence of an opposition party that made no secret of its sympathies for the fallen regime, the question arose of ways and means for getting rid of him: Was it to be straightforward deposition, which was in contravention of canon law and therefore liable to aggravate the difficulty— or resignation? The latter alternative carried the day.


Did Ignatius then actually resign? The documents we possess on this issue contradict each other. The main Ignatian documents deny it and this version has commanded general acceptance. But there are other sources which support the view that Ignatius actually did resign. As the issue is of capital importance in the history of Photius and his first schism, it calls for a thorough examination. [1]


Of all the contemporary accounts of the events that followed the internment of Ignatius on the Isle of Terebinthos, only one so far has been generally considered reliable, that by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, [2] author of a pamphlet commonly assumed to be the genuine biography of St Ignatius. That several Byzantine chroniclers such as the successors of Theophanes and George the Monk depended for their information on Nicetas’ so-called biography [3] only tended to establish his reliability.


After relating the events that preceded Ignatius’ internment, Nicetas dwells on the repeated efforts made by the government to extract Ignatius’ resignation: a deputation of prelates is said to have approached him and induced him to resign in view of the difficulties of the time. [4]



1. Cf. my study, ‘Le Premier Schisme de Photios’, in Bulletin de l'Institut Archéol. Bulgare (Sofia, 1935), vol. ix, pp. 312-25, which I summarize here with the addition of some new evidence.


2. Vita Ignatii, P.G. vol. 105, cols. 505 seq.


3. See Part II, ch. 5, pp. 391, 401 of this book, where I give the reasons why these writers followed Nicetas’ account.


4. Loc. cit. col. 505.





On their request being refused, a second deputation of bishops, reinforced by a number of patricians, senators and high functionaries of the Empire, went to Terebinthos. Exhortations, threats, nay, the use of force, if we are to credit Nicetas, proved all in vain. A lengthy description of the fatal effects which a government of miscreants may have on the destinies of the Church, with the additional remark that Providence permits such trials to test His own, is rather startling at this particular place and suggests that the author intends by this digression to slur over something unpleasant. He then passes immediately to the nomination of Photius, who, at the instigation of Asbestas, [1] was busy exerting his energies against Ignatius to the length even of threatening his life. Two months after his appointment, the new Patriarch withdrew the pledge he had given the bishops, who had acknowledged him only on condition that Ignatius should be well treated. [2] Photius then began persecuting his predecessor and his predecessor’s partisans. Nicetas tells of Ignatius’ deportations, of the renewed efforts to wring from him an abdication and of his excommunication by Photius. Then follows the account of the embassy charged with informing the Pope of Ignatius’ resignation, of the convocation of the Council of 861 which stripped Ignatius of his patriarchal dignity on grounds of an uncanonical election, [3] and lastly, of renewed persecution. It was then that his tormentors succeeded in forcing Ignatius to sign a scrap of paper on which Photius is supposed to have subsequently scribbled with his own hand a forged confession of the irregularity of Ignatius’ election.


Such is the tale which has commanded general credit. But the affair is not so simple. Nicetas’ account leaves open many gaps, and although he seems to record the historical sequence of events with some precision, he omits to mention a number of facts which he must have known, but which did not tally with his preconceived notions.


One point is particularly striking: whilst on several occasions flatly denying Ignatius’ resignation (his insistence suggests that at the time of his writing many people affirmed the reverse), Nicetas does not pretend that the Emperor deposed Ignatius; he simply states that the Emperor appointed Photius as the Patriarch. Yet, such a procedure was not in keeping with tradition in a State, where in different circumstances, juridical forms at least had been consistently observed. No action was taken in the appointment of a new Patriarch, until the see had first been declared vacant: any other method might have implied that there



1. Loc. cit. col. 509.            2. Loc. cit. col. 513.            3. Loc. cit. col. 517.





were two Patriarchs at the head of the Church. And yet, Nicetas’ special pleading in favour of Ignatius would have been much enhanced, had the author been able to record an unjust deposition. [1] His silence seems fairly significant.


In order to get at the truth, which in Nicetas’ story can sometimes be read between the lines, one should collate it with other accounts, some of them coming from Ignatian circles. Now we happen to possess the evidence of five valuable contemporary documents, two of them, the Acts of the Eighth Council and the Life of St Euthymios, being in a class apart, and the three others—the statements of bishop Stylianos of Neocaesarea, of the monk Theognostos and of Metrophanes, metropolitan of Smyrna, all partisans of Ignatius. To these three Ignatian records may be added what Anastasius the Librarian states about events in Byzantium at the time of Photius’ elevation to the patriarchal throne and the account given by the anonymous author of the anti-Photian Collection.


The Acts of the Council of 869 are the first source to mention Ignatius’ abdication. In the sixth session, Elias, representing the Patriarch of Jerusalem, said: [2]


. . . Inquiring into all the facts, we have ascertained that when Ignatius, the saintly Patriarch, was in exile, he suffered violence and that a rumour was falsely and unjustly spread of his having resigned the throne of Constantinople. To this we must add, as the Church of the Romans has repeatedly maintained, that we do not believe that any resignation was ever tendered; and if it was tendered, we cannot accept it, since it was wrongly forced on him by violence and against his will, as is easily perceived. This much is therefore certain, that whoever lives in exile and under duress cannot be held to renounce a throne as it ought to be renounced, for he did not expect to live; he expected death at any moment and daily prepared to suffer, the worst.



The Greek summary of the Acts is more laconic, though more explicit than the translation by Anastasius: ‘The deed of abdication signed by the Patriarch Ignatius in exile is null and void and must be considered vitiated by the fact that it was forcibly extorted. . . . ’ [3]


Other evidence comes from the same session of the Council, namely, the cross-examination of the Photianist Eulampius by



1. Carefully note that by insisting on the efforts made by the government to induce Ignatius to resign, Nicetas implicitly denies the belief so generally accepted that Ignatius’ internment in Terebinthos was equivalent to a deposition. Had a sentence of deposition been passed, why those efforts on the part of the government to compel the Patriarch to abdicate?


2. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 85.            3. Ibid. col. 345.





the Emperor Basil: [1] ‘Eulampius: And yet, kind sir, the Lord Ignatius did resign. The Emperor...: Who deposed him? Eulampius: The Emperor deposed him. The Emperor. . . : And where was he when he resigned? Eulampius: Abroad, in his island. The Emperor. . . : No doubt, he sent a messenger to the Emperor to inform him of his intention to resign. . . . Give us the name of that messenger.’ But just when we expect to hear particulars of Ignatius’ resignation, the dialogue is cut short by the Holy See’s legate Marinus refusing to listen any further to people who have already been condemned by Rome. In the Greek summary of the Acts, this passage is also given in abbreviated form, but in clearer terms‘: [2] But meanwhile the lord Ignatius resigned. The Emperor said: When he had been forcibly dethroned, sent into exile and asked to resign in that state, how could his resignation be valid and not extorted?’ It should be observed here that this official document directly contradicts the evidence of Nicetas.


In another document, the Life of St Euthymios, a contemporary work, we read : [3]


He [Ignatius] governed the Church for ten long years; but being persistently harassed by the imperial rulers and openly and deliberately persecuted, he at last gave up this hopeless struggle against men who suffered from an incurable disease and breathed nothing but malevolence. He therefore relinquished the patriarchal throne and the direction of the Church, a decision in which he yielded partly to his own preference and partly to external pressure. After handing in to the Church his act of resignation, he withdrew to his monastery, being persuaded that this would be preferable. The Government’s evil dispositions being what they were, he elected to devote himself to meditation and quiet commune with God rather than draw disaster on himself and his flock. When the rumour spread that the archbishop had been expelled from his ecclesiastical see against his will and that for this reason people refused to enter into communion with the new Patriarch, the holy father Nicholas himself, for fear of entering into communion with the same, left his monastery. All this happened under the new Patriarch, a shining light of orthodoxy and of all the virtues, namely, the blessed Photius, who as suggested by his name, illuminated the whole world with the plenitude of his wisdom. From his infancy he had been consecrated to Christ and in defence of His icons had faced confiscation and exile. From the outset, he was a true associate of his father in all his struggles and virtuous practices.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 88.            2. Ibid. col. 349.


3. L. Petit, ‘Vie et Office de St Euthyme le Jeune’, in Revue de l'Orient Chrétien (1903), vol. viii, pp. 178, 179. See my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 143, 144.





Hence his life was made wonderful and his death agreeable to God and confirmed by miracles.



The Life of Euthymios flatly contradicts Nicetas’ statement, but its evidence has seldom been taken seriously. Hergenröther [1] mentions the extract from the sixth session of the Acts of the Council but attaches no importance to it, and those who gave it some credit only understood it in the light of Nicetas’ story regarding Ignatius’ extorted signature at the bottom of the confession forged by Photius. As the Life of St Euthymios the Younger was published only in 1903, little use could be made of it and its statements could not be seriously collated with the evidence of Nicetas.


Let us now examine the evidence coming from other Ignatian witnesses. First of all, it is surprising that Stylianos, in his letter to Pope Stephen V, [2] Theognostos [3] and Anastasius [4] in their accounts, also addressed to the Pope, were studiously silent on the events intervening in Byzantium between the Patriarch Ignatius’ internment on the Island of Terebinthos and Photius’ election. And yet, both Stylianos and Theognostos must have known that it had been Photius’ wish that his accession to the patriarchal throne should have every semblance of legitimacy, since the Emperor alleged in the letter which endorsed Photius’ synodical letter to the Pope that Ignatius had abdicated on grounds of old age and unsettled conditions. Logically, one would have expected them all to concentrate their main attack on Photius by making the Pope understand that both the Emperor and Photius were simply shameless liars. It is therefore strange that all the accounts, which were intended to inform Rome of the actual state of things, should be so reticent about events preceding Photius’ accession.


Fortunately, another document, being that written by Metrophanes, Metropolitan of Smyrna, is more expressive. This document was not meant for the Pope, but purported to send information to a high Byzantine official, Manuel, Logothete of the Course, about Photius’ downfall at the Council of 869. Addressed to a Byzantine who knew all about the happenings in Constantinople at the time, it is more explicit and helps to fill the gaps we noted elsewhere. This is how the Metropolitan describes the events: [5]


Photius. . . like an adulterer, seized the throne of Constantinople during Ignatius’ lifetime. Without having been elected to the dignity by the bishops’



1. Photius, vol. II, p. 102.


2. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 425-46.            3. Ibid. cols. 296-302.            4. Ibid. cols. 3 seq.            5. ibid. col. 416.





votes in accordance with law and usage, he was summarily installed by the Caesar. This is the reason why the bishops unanimously disowned him, nominated their own three candidates and for a long time stood by their decision. Eventually, they were outwitted and all gave in, except five, including myself. When we realized that all the bishops were corrupt, we considered that we should demand that he should sign an official declaration in which he professed to be a son of the Church in Christ and bound himself to remain in communion with our very saintly Patriarch. We preferred doing this rather than disobey our Patriarch, who had expressed a desire that we should elect as Patriarch one belonging to our Church in Christ. It was then that he signed in our presence a declaration affirming his wish to regard Ignatius as a Patriarch above suspicion and guiltless of the charges made against him; [1] that he would never say a word against him nor allow anyone else to do so. On those conditions we accepted Photius, though under protest and pressure from those in authority. But he soon broke the word he had signed and deposed Ignatius. Thereupon the whole body of the bishops of Constantinople met and anathematized Photius, declaring him dethroned by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So unanimous were the bishops at that moment that they turned the anathema against themselves, in case any one of them should ever acknowledge Photius. And as they went on holding meetings for forty days in the church of St Irene, he retaliated by summoning, with the assistance of Bardas, a synod in the church of the Holy Apostles and again deposing and anathematizing Ignatius. It was then we personally upbraided him for his crime, with the result that we were subjected to violence, arrested without a warning and imprisoned for days in the evil-smelling jail of the Numeroi. Ignatius was imprisoned with us and put in irons; others were locked up in the Pretorium prison. Then we were set free and banished, the Patriarch to Mytilene, others elsewhere, whilst Photius sent to Old Rome four metropolitans of his own party, to explain his case to his own advantage and to Ignatius’ detriment. But the godly Pontiff, although there was none present on our behalf to plead our cause—our enemies would not allow it—summoned a council of the Western bishops, condemned Photius on the strength of his own letters and treated him like a layman.



Metrophanes then goes on to the dispatch of the pontifical legates to Constantinople.


This text is important, since it concerns events that followed Ignatius’ internment and was addressed, not to the Pope, but to a local official. It is the account by an eye-witness, obliged against his will to tell the truth in exact proportion to the reader’s capacity to verify for himself the information supplied. That truth is very simple and fairly easy to reconstruct.



1. This is my translation of the word ἀκαταιτίατος.





Ignatius was deported to the Isle of Terebinthos for the simple reason that the government suspected him of being in league with the Extremists who were bent on the overthrow of the existing regime. This suspicion, despite the lack of unimpeachable evidence, seemed to be well founded. The Patriarch's uncompromising attitude towards Bardas and Michael had been cleverly exploited by the opponents of the regime to foment a revolt, which had gravely compromised him in the eyes of the government. This clash between the civil and ecclesiastical powers having placed the Church of Constantinople in a very precarious position, Ignatius was pressed to resign on grounds of old age and public unrest; and among the bishops who made this attempt there were not only prelates in sympathy with the Moderate party, but others, not a few, who up to that time had supported Ignatius and made no secret of countenancing the opinions of the Extremist section. This much can be read between the lines in Nicetas the Paphlagonian’s account, [1] in which the writer expresses indignation that among the delegation there should be found bishops who once had sworn and confirmed in writing that they would rather deny the Trinity than allow their legitimate pastor to be condemned by any other than a canonical sentence. We may here observe that Nicetas slightly exaggerates. It does, however, clearly emerge from his words that the Byzantine higher clergy gradually came to acknowledge, almost unanimously, that in the circumstances it would be advisable in the interests of the Church for the Patriarch to abdicate. It was the application of the famous principle of 'oeconomia'. Faced with the insistence by bishops and high imperial officials, among whom he noted many friends who certainly did not credit the calumnies levelled against him, the Patriarch ended by giving in and even went so far as to invite his most faithful partisans to elect another Patriarch. They were the five bishops mentioned by Metrophanes, including himself. They also finally acquiesced for fear of ‘ disobeying our Patriarch, who had expressed a desire that we should elect as Patriarch one belonging to our Church in Christ’. [2] Since Ignatius could not invite his own partisans to elect another Patriarch, unless he had previously given his resignation, Metrophanes, an Ignatian, confirms the statement in Photianist sources relating to Ignatius’ resignation.



1. P.G. vol. 105, col. 505.


2. This enigmatic passage puzzled me already at the time I wrote Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode (see p. 140). Not satisfied with the solution proposed, I have gone over the same ground again.





Now let us test this conclusion in the light of the statement by another writer, an extreme Ignatian and the compiler of the anti-Photianist Collection. This contains all the documents against Photius and served the extreme Ignatians as an armoury in their struggle against the Photianists. After recording how many times the Photianists had dishonoured their signatures and thereby fouled the cross which according to usage preceded their names, the author proceeds :


They did so for the first time, when the Caesar Bardas tried to dethrone Ignatius, who to anticipate an ignominious expulsion decided to resign of his own free will. [1] But the bishops agreed among themselves that if Bardas ever tried to use force, they would rather die than tolerate such a thing. They thus prevented Ignatius carrying out his intention. [2] But when later Bardas forcibly ejected him, the bishops made common cause with him [i.e. Bardas] and thereby fell under the anathema they had decreed against themselves. Later again, when Photius had forced his way in, the bishops asked him to pledge his word in writing and undertake always to honour Ignatius and do him no harm. Photius then signed a document to that effect. But he violated his pledge, ignominiously summoned a synod and anathematized Ignatius, and induced some bishops who had supported Ignatius to join in the anathema: they had defended him at the outset, but violating their crosses, turned against him.



It is obvious that this document goes even further than the witnesses quoted previously, for it shows that Ignatius wished to resign at the beginning, i.e. at the first clash with the new government. No sooner had Bardas interned Ignatius at Terebinthos, than the latter’s followers, probably realizing that things were beginning to look dangerous, went back on their previous intentions and advised Ignatius to resign, taking the precaution to ask Photius for guarantees. The account makes it evident how misleading it was to interpret events exclusively in the light of Ignatius’ ‘biography’.


Another witness from the Ignatian camp, the monk Theognostos, confirms the accuracy of this interpretation. He is, as we have said, silent about the events following Ignatius’ internment, but when he describes in Ignatius’ name his trial by the synod of 861, he makes a slip and allows the truth to leak out. This is what he puts into Ignatius’ mouth : [3]


I asked leave to greet the legates Rhodoald and Zachary, and leave being granted, I bowed to them and asked what they desired. They answered:



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 441: ἑκὼν ὑποχωρῆσαι ἐβούλετο.

2. καὶ οὕτως ἐπέσχον τῆς ὁρμῆς τὸν Ἰγνάτιον.

3. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 297; P-G. vol. 105, cols. 857, 860.





We are the legates of the Roman Pope Nicholas I and we were sent to try your case. I asked them again if they had not brought me any letter from His Holiness. They answered: No, since they had not been sent to a Patriarch, but to a man condemned by a local synod. We are ready, they said, to do whatever the canonical decrees lay down. Then, said I, first dismiss the adulterer. If you cannot do that, you are no true judges. They replied by pointing to the Emperor: He wants it so. Then those around the Emperor turned to me and invited me, by suasion and threats, to resign. [1] But they failed to convince me. Then they turned to the metropolitans, insulting and incriminating them in many ways, saying that surely [2] they had already accepted my resignation. [3] Why then did they again claim me as their Patriarch? To this the metropolitans replied: At that time, [4] having to choose between two evils—the Emperor’s anger and the people’s revolt—we chose the lesser. To-day, you who are near the Emperor, return the throne to the Patriarch and leave us alone. Then the imperial officials began again to exhort me, insisting on my resigning of my own accord, so as to enable the adulterer to rule the Church in perfect peace. As I refused to be persuaded, they dispersed that day.



Theognostos’ words are sufficiently clear. This keen partisan of Ignatius unconsciously confirms what the Ignatians persisted in denying, i.e. that Ignatius had spontaneously resigned and that his resignation had been acknowledged to be valid even by his own supporters. Later, yielding to a ‘popular revolt’, that is, to the pressure of the radicals of their own party, they again proclaimed Ignatius their Patriarch. Government adherents then endeavoured to obtain from the latter a new spontaneous declaration, confirming his abdication. Although Theognostos asserts that this new pressure was put on during the synod of 861, we may surmise, all the more justifiably as we find it suggested by Nicetas, that these attempts were made even before the synod of 859.


This passage from Theognostos has been misinterpreted to this day, the fault lying mainly with Raderus who edited the document. So convinced was he that Ignatius had been unfairly deposed that he translated the word apotaxis by ‘ depositio ’, which is of course incorrect, and all the more inexplicable as he had shortly before translated it by ‘ abdicatio ’. Hergenröther accepted this translation [5] and lent his weight to another instance of how prejudice can twist an argument. [6]



1. τὴν ἀπόταξιν ἐζήτουν.

2. τάχα used ironically.

3. τὴν ἀπόταξιν ἐμήν.

4. τότε.

5. Photius, vol. I, p. 424·


6. Theognostos seems to convey fairly clearly that there were then two parties in Byzantium. He calls the members of the party in opposition to his own not only οἱ περὶ τὸν βασιλέα, which might just as well refer to the imperial officials, but also ot βασιλικοί. Reading between the lines, one can find confirmation in another passage of Theognostos, that the whole episcopate had acknowledged Photius as the rightful Patriarch ; in the character of Ignatius he writes (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 300) : ‘And even when he [Photius] had induced the metropolitan to rally to him, they asked him for a document signed with his own hand concerning my person.’





Having examined all the important accounts of Ignatius’ attitude after his internment, we may then conclude with confidence that Ignatius was not deposed by force, but that he abdicated to forestall worse complications. His abdication was made at the request of the new regime, it is true, but it was acknowledged as valid and canonical by all the members of the higher clergy gathered in Constantinople, including Ignatius’ staunchest supporters. Ignatius himself invited his followers to accept the situation and to proceed to elect the new Patriarch.


The foregoing records have given us a clear picture of how the election of the new Patriarch came about. It remains to complete them with information from elsewhere. From the evidence produced, we may already infer that the government wanted a man whose loyalty was above suspicion, and it betrayed an inclination to nominate one straight away. It hinted at the name of Photius as that of the most likely candidate. But the bishops, chiefly Ignatius’ partisans, insisted on the observation of canon law, i.e. on the bishops meeting synodically and presenting three candidates of their choice to the Emperor. Satisfaction had to be given and the synod was summoned. But before the synod could proceed with the election, it was called upon to settle another matter. We must remember that at the time of the synod meeting Gregory Asbestas’ group was still under a ban. The position needed rectifying, since the Moderates had after all had the best of the fight and Gregory was still the leader of the party’s ecclesiastical members. The position forcibly recalled that of the Studites at the death of the Patriarch Methodius, though Asbestas and his friends could claim that the highest court of appeal, the See of Rome, had not confirmed the Patriarch’s verdict. Their suit was then pending. Ignatius gone, they were now in a position to ask the synod, which represented the Church of Constantinople during the vacancy of the patriarchal See, to do the right thing by annulling the sentence passed on them; and the synod felt all the more disposed to give them that satisfaction, as it saw no other way of restoring peace within the Byzantine Church. The new government took a personal interest in the affair and the synod rehabilitated Gregory and his friends. 1[]



1. These two facts may be inferred from the letter by Pope Nicholas I to Michael III, M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 498-9: ‘Porro si dicitis Gregorium ab imperio vestro et ab antistitibus fuisse receptum, percontari libet. . . quibus hoc documentis, quibus canonibus jubentibus agi rite potest. . . .Jam vero si dicitis: Non ego absolvi, sed a pontificibus, ut solverentur, postulavi, e contra illi multo magis a vobis postulare debuerunt, ut, si eum velletis absolvi, legitima ecclesiastici tenoris absolutio proveniret.’





It appears that the bishops deposed by Ignatius gave the Fathers of the synod, who represented the Church of Constantinople, some sort of satisfaction before being definitely absolved. So much, at least, emerges from the defence by Zachary of Chalcedon, who spoke in the course of the sixth session of the Council of 869-70. [1] Zachary refuted the opponents’ charge that Photius had been ordained by deposed bishops: ‘For they were not deposed for actual misdeeds, but for their attitude of resistance to the Church. United again and disowning their conduct, they show themselves worthy of being received.’ This statement by the counsel for the defence must have been based on fact. It seems probable, if not certain, that the synod must have asked Gregory for some declaration to conciliate Ignatius’ partisans, whose votes were indispensable for annulling Ignatius’ sentence. This rehabilitation had been laid down as a necessary requisite by the victorious party prior to the Patriarch’s election. We must remember that the Studites, who had been excommunicated by Methodius, had been readmitted to the Church by the Patriarch Ignatius and not by a synod, since the Empress Theodora had appointed Ignatius without the formality of a synod. Michael III and the Regent Bardas first meant to follow Theodora’s precedent, and if the new Patriarch had been appointed by the Emperor in the same informal way, Asbestas’ group would have been taken back into the Church by the Patriarch just as the Studites had been. But as Michael and Bardas acceded to the clergy’s demand for the customary procedure and the holding of a synod, Asbestas and his followers only stood to gain by having their reconciliation confirmed by a synod attended by both parties.


The synod then dealt with the new Patriarch’s election. With the two camps face to face, the discussions, according to Metrophanes, were heated. The Moderates probably had their own candidates in readiness, with Asbestas presumably foremost among them, as the leader of the ecclesiastical wing. But his opposition to Ignatius had been too conspicuous for his election to make for peace. The Ignatians had their own candidates as a matter of course.


For fear of a schism, it was then agreed to eliminate all the bishops, whether Ignatians or anti-Ignatians, and to look for a capable candidate among the higher officials. This tradition had for a time proved popular in Byzantium,



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 87.





when troubles were many, and the practice had been resorted to with excellent results, as in the case of Tarasius and Nicephorus. So the synod presented to the government, besides an Ignatian and an anti-Ignatian, a neutral candidate, the protoasekretis Photius, the very man whom the Emperor and Bardas had had in mind from the beginning. The choice, besides giving the government some satisfaction, rallied all the bishops present, except five, of whom Metrophanes, and no doubt Stylianos, were the most refractory.


Why did most of the Ignatian bishops rally to Photius? First, because he was a new man: though a sympathizer with the Moderate party, he evidently was not numbered among its most outspoken members. His orthodoxy was above suspicion, since he had been persecuted by the iconoclasts; he was moreover related to Theodora, whose government [1] the Ignatian bishops still remembered, so that he gave reasonable hopes of not being too zealous in the service of the new regime. On the other hand, he was also related to Bardas, which was a recommendation with the government. But it should be remembered that Photius owed his promotion to Theoktistos, the Logothete, who first appointed him professor at the University of Constantinople, then President of the Imperial Chancellery; this was his best recommendation to the Extremists who favoured the regime of Theoktistos and Theodora.



We now come to Photius’ consecration. This matter is of importance, as Photius’ opponents particularly objected at a later stage of the Photian controversy to some features of the ceremony.


The new Patriarch’s consecration was a hurried affair, for he received all the degrees of the priesthood within the space of a week, a procedure that was of course against the rules of canon law, but under such exceptional circumstances the Byzantines considered themselves exempt from habitual practice. Nor was it an isolated case in Byzantium. Had not the consecrations of the Patriarchs Paul III in 687, Tarasius in 784, and Nicephorus in 806, all laymen at the time of their elections, been conferred in total disregard of canonical rules? By a curious coincidence, all these Patriarchs had, like Photius, occupied the position of imperial



1. It would be more obvious still why Theodora’s partisans decided to acknowledge Photius, were Rosseikin’s hypothesis on the degree of relationship between Photius and Theodora proved. Rosseikin, Pervoe Patriarshestvo Patriarkha Fotiya (Sergiev Posad, 1915), pp. 32-3, asserts against Bury (‘The Relationship of Photius to the Empress Theodora’, in Engl. Hist. Rev. (1890), pp. 252-8) that Theodora had given away her sister Irene in marriage to Photius’ brother Sergius.





protoasekretis or President of the Imperial Chancellery. Then again, negotiations before and at the time of the synod seem to have lasted longer than had been expected; [1] Christmas was near, and for the liturgical ceremonies to be celebrated with the usual solemnity the presence of the Patriarch was considered indispensable. When it is remembered what an important place the liturgy held in Byzantine life and at court, one may admit the plea for telescoping the new Patriarch’s consecration.


Protracted negotiations must have taken place about who should consecrate the new Patriarch and eventually it was decided that bishops of both parties should share in the function. The Moderates delegated their leader, Gregory Asbestas, in satisfaction for what he had suffered at the hands of Ignatius, and two other consecrators (a consecration must be performed by three bishops) [2] were selected from among those bishops who did not belong to the party of the bishop of Syracuse. So much can be gathered from the speech of the synkellos Elias, who represented the Patriarch of Jerusalem at the sixth session of the Eighth Council: [3] ‘We should not condemn those bishops who are convicted of having consecrated Photius, as they were forced to do so under imperial pressure.. .. But he alone who had been previously deposed and anathematized both by the Patriarch Ignatius and by the Apostolic Church of Rome, Gregory of Syracuse, is condemned and deposed.’ The context makes it clear that Elias was not thinking of the election, but of the consecration of Photius, and he would have altered his terms, had the two other consecrators been friends of the Syracusan, for instance, Peter of Sardes and Eulampius of Apamea. [4]



1. As Nicetas (Vita Ignatii, Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 261, P.G. vol. 105, col. 541) states that Ignatius was reinstated in his dignity by Basil I on 23 November, the same day as he was expelled, it seems that this must stand for the date of Ignatius’ resignation.


2. This would be the only way of reconciling Ignatius’ declaration that he was expelled at the end of July from the patriarcheion with Nicetas’ dating.


3. See I. Habert, Archieraticon. Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Graecae (Paris, 1643), pp. 80-4 : ‘ De numero pontificum qui Episcopum apud Graecos legitime ac rite ordinaturi sint.’ 3 Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 85-6.


4. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, p. 380, was not unaware of this passage and his scepticism regarding its importance seems unjustified. The Greek Acts (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 348), in summarizing Elias’ speech, are still more emphatic than the Latin Acts. It is true that Zachary, bishop of Chalcedon, in pleading for Photius at the same session, only mentions Gregory as Photius’ consecrator (ibid. col. 87). According to the Greek Acts (ibid. col. 348), he even seems to insinuate that all the consecrators belonged to Gregory’s party. Metrophanes, however, states in his reply to the defence (ibid. col. 90): ‘ Promoventes eum et consecrantes violenter et coacti ac inviti, atque sine proposito ac voluntate in illius et promotionem et consecrationem ex imperatoris necessitate ac tyrannide impulsi sunt et secuti.’ Clear, too, are the Greek Acts, which differentiate between Gregory and the other consecrators (ibid. cols. 352, 353). The attestation of these two opponents of Photius is significant.





How then are we to reconcile the above with the tradition of the Byzantine Church giving the titulary of Heraclea the exclusive right of consecrating and enthroning a new Patriarch? [1] It is not necessary to assume that the privilege was suspended in Photius’ case. First, we do not know the names of the two other consecrators and the titulary of Heraclea may have been one of them. It is also possible that the two functions of consecration and enthronement were held separately and that the latter was performed by the titulary of Heraclea. [2] Cases were many in Byzantine Church history of new patriarchs being transferred from other sees to Constantinople and needing only enthronization by the metropolitan of Heraclea. [3]


The fact that bishops of the Ignatian party took part in Photius’ consecration is generally omitted by the Ignatians, who at a later stage mainly objected to Gregory Asbestas’ participation. They [4] even inferred from it that as an intimate friend of Gregory, Photius had been excommunicated with him by Ignatius. But since Gregory’s share in the consecration was rather in the nature of a concession to his party, it need not have been evidence of any friendship between the two men concerned. If on the other hand Photius had been excommunicated for his friendship with Gregory, what about Constantine-Cyril, venerated as a saint by the two Churches, whom Anastasius called Photius’ ‘amicus fortissimus’? It is true that Photius later adopted Gregory’s ecclesiastical policy, but then Ignatius also adopted the ecclesiastical policy of the Studites who had been excommunicated by Methodius and no harm was done. All one can say about Photius’ association with Asbestas is that he was a favourite with the majority of the intellectuals of Constantinople who patronized the Moderate party and that Gregory was the leader of its ecclesiastical section.


The documents under discussion seem to suggest that the government



1. On this right, cf. Nicephorus Gregoras (Bonn), vol. 1, pp. 164, 165, and Codinus, De Officiis (Bonn), ch. xx, p. 104.


2. Cf. Yared, op. cit. (1872), vol. II, p. 56, and Ivantsov-Platonov, Sv. Patriarkh Fotii (St Petersburg, 1892), p. 62 (notes).


3. For instance, Germanus, Metropolitan of Cyzicus (715), Constantine, of Sylaeon (754), Anthony, of Perge-Sylaeon (821).


4. Metrophanes, Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 415, 420. Cf. Nicetas, P.G. vol. 105, col. 512; Anastasius, Stylianos, Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 3, 428. Pope Nicholas I (M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 519, ch. i of the synodal decision of 863) was also impressed by the same conclusion. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, pp. 362 seq.





of Michael and Bardas keenly wished to see the end of all the troubles caused by the party spirit in the ecclesiastical field : it insisted on reconciliation and on the recognition of the elected Patriarch by the body of the Byzantine episcopacy. The opponents of Photius, as we have seen, had eventually dwindled to five; [1] and in compliance with the government’s wishes, Photius was successful in securing their recognition of his patriarchal authority by signing a compromise on the treatment of Ignatius. Its details will be discussed presently. When Photius had for the sake of the Church’s peace signed the agreement, each of the five bishops received a copy of the document.


Thus it seemed that Photius’ elevation to the patriarchal throne, after the recent trying events, meant a return to peace and unity in the Church of Constantinople; and such was the conviction at the time which Photius expressed in a letter to the Patriarch of Antioch, [2] in recalling the grave danger of schism that had threatened the Church : his election, so he wrote, had brought back peace at last. The same impression seems to have prevailed among the Byzantine public, who felt that peace had been saved and that party wrangles would be a thing of the past. Even Nicetas states, though with a touch of irony, that once consecrated, Photius immediately announced to the people the restoration of peace. [3] This consummation was due to Ignatius’ wisdom in resigning and thus sacrificing his personal interests to those of the Church and to the new Patriarch’s conciliatory spirit and readiness to make concessions.


Peace, unfortunately, was not to last. Two months after Photius’ advent according to Nicetas, [4] forty days according to Metrophanes, [5]

 the fight



1. Their names were probably listed among Ignatius’ partisans by Nicholas I in his letter dispatched to Michael on 28 September 865. The Pope enumerates the bishops who were expected to come to Rome to plead Ignatius’ cause (Af.G.AT. Ep. vi, p. 482): ‘Antonius Cyzicus, Basilius Thessalonicae, Constantinus Larissae, Theodorus Syracusanorum, Metrophanes Smyrnae, Paulus Ponti Heracliae.’ Stylianos of Neocaesarea was certainly one of them. We cannot therefore exactly say who the five bishops referred to were.


2. J. Valetta, Photii Epistolae (London, 1864), vol. 1, pp. 145, 146.


3. P.G. vol. 105, col. 512. S. Aristarchos, Photii Orationes et Homiliae (Constantinople, 1900), vol. I, pp. 149-60, even wrote after his own method the homily which Photius is supposed to have delivered on 25 December 858.


4. Loc. cit. col. 513.


5. Loc. cit. col. 416. This is how to my way of thinking the words ἐπὶ ἡμέρας τεσσαράκοντα should be interpreted. It is difficult to admit, as does Hergenröther, Photius, vol. I, p. 382, that the synod lasted forty days. It is, however, possible that the church of St Irene was staffed by an extremist clergy and that the Ignatians used it as their headquarters during the forty days or two months preceding the final rupture.





between the two parties was resumed with greater virulence than ever. As we have seen, Ignatian sources make Photius responsible for the resumption of the struggle by breaking his pledge to the Ignatian bishops and letting loose another persecution against Ignatius and his friends. Nicetas is particularly wrathful in his account of this persecution. To verify any such information coming from an anti-Photian environment, we have only four letters addressed to Bardas by the Patriarch at the outset of his tenure [1] and written in the throes of excitement. There Photius makes the government directly responsible for the excesses committed, intercedes on behalf of some of their victims, the secretary Christodulos and the chartophylax Blasius, and even threatens Bardas with his resignation, should this persecution persist. Thus, again, the Ignatian and Photianist documents contradict each other. To get at the truth, we must find out the motives for a resumption of hostilities.


In this particular matter, we must take as a basis of our inquiry Metrophanes’ account, as it is more circumstantial than that of Nicetas. According to him, the new conflict was provoked by the Ignatians. They gathered in the church of St Irene, proclaimed Ignatius the legitimate Patriarch and forthwith excommunicated Photius. Since Metrophanes and other Ignatian sources accused Photius of breaking his promises to the Ignatians, the sense of the compromise signed at the request of the recalcitrant bishops should yield the principal motive of the rupture.


Metrophanes’ account gives us the main stipulations of the compromise : Photius was to regard 4 Ignatius as a Patriarch above suspicion and guiltless of the charges made against him; he would never say a word against him or allow anyone else to do so’. Theognostos, impersonating Ignatius in his Libellus to Nicholas I quoted previously, makes Ignatius say: [2] 'And even when he [Photius] had induced the metropolitans to rally to him, they asked him for a document signed with his own hand concerning my person. In this document he asserted in writing and under oath his determination to undertake nothing but what I should approve, as though I were his own father.’ Nicetas [3] completes the terms by stating that Photius undertook 'to leave to Ignatius his patriarchal dignity, to do everything in accordance with his wishes and not to place any obstacles in his way’. The implication then was that Ignatius had to be treated as the former Patriarch, living



1. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 617 seq.

2. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 300.

3. P.G. vol. 105, col. 513.





with full episcopal honours in honourable retirement and that all accusations of political intrigue should cease. Such appears to have been the only possible meaning of the terms that could have been acceptable to Photius.


But Nicetas suggests that at least some Ignatians read into the terms much more than they conveyed. ‘ To do everything in accordance with his wishes’ implied that the new Patriarch was in all things to follow the line of policy laid down by his predecessor who would thus virtually remain in office. The new Patriarch would secure recognition only on condition that he was one of£ our Church in Christ’ : these words which Metrophanes put into the mouth of Ignatius struck the exact note of the radical Ignatians’ feeling.


Such a reading Photius considered to be utterly inadmissible. The crisis which ended in Ignatius’ resignation and Photius’ election was therefore ultimately provoked by the Extremists. For the purpose of removing Michael III from the throne and reinstating Theodora, they misused Ignatius’ prestige in the Church. To follow Ignatius’ policy was, as they understood it, to follow their own policy. This was asking too much. Photius, as the Patriarch, owed loyalty to the existing government, the same ground on which Ignatius had refused to bless Theodora’s and her daughter’s veils. Anastasius the Librarian, who knew the circumstances of the refusal, explained it in these terms:1 'The Patriarch refused, because the two Empresses had not yet freely embraced that vocation, and chiefly because he had sworn never to countenance any intrigue against them, an oath customary under every Emperor or Empress.’ And if one may say so, what was sauce for Ignatius was also sauce for Photius, who likewise had sworn allegiance to the government that had confirmed his election.


It is easy to follow the steps that led to the conflict between the Patriarch and the Extremists. When Photius forbade ecclesiastics to meddle in politics and to take part in demonstrations hostile to the regime, the radical Extremists at once denounced the measure as a breach of the compromise. Disappointed in their expectations and seeing the chances of Theodora’s return to power vanishing, they reminded Photius of his promise and of the meaning they attributed to it. To their way of thinking, Ignatius would automatically return as their Patriarch, should the compromise which Photius had signed not be observed. Were Photius ever to make it clear that Ignatius was no longer the Patriarch, he would be instantly accused of violating his



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 3.





promise, and of robbing Ignatius of the honours due to him. Here the Ignatians made good use of the signed document of which they had the copies. Let him move another step, and they would break away from him and transfer their allegiance to Ignatius as the one legitimate Patriarch. This, as has already been said, did actually happen, when the Extremists, assembled in the church of St Irene, issued their manifesto.


It may be that the initiative came, not from the five bishops, but from the more radical elements which disapproved of their ecclesiastical leaders’ acceptance of the compromise, and were spoiling for a fight. They would have found it only too easy to convince the bishops that the pledge had been broken and that there was every legitimate reason for a rupture. We shall see later that the Ignatians numbered in their ranks fanatics who were more radical than Stylianos himself.


What was Photius’ reaction to this outburst? The sources at our disposal do not agree, but according to Nicetas: [1]


Scarcely two months had elapsed since his ordination, when he broke his pledge. He began by imprisoning those of the Church rulers who had been friendly to Ignatius and whom he succeeded in getting hold of, and condemned them to heavy penalties and sanctions; then he overwhelmed them with promises of presents and honours in return for the signed document, trying by every possible means to encompass Ignatius’ ruin. Baffled in this, he suggested to the unscrupulous Bardas and through Bardas to the lightheaded Michael to send agents to inquire into Ignatius’ activities, as though he had been secretly conspiring against the Emperor. A cruel and brutal band of prefects and soldiers immediately left for Terebinthos to make inquiries and to harass Ignatius’ friends with a variety of vexations. When at the end of their search they had found no plausible pretext tor proceeding against him, they took to methods of open tyranny.



Ignatius was deported to the Isle of Hiera and there locked up in a stable; thence he was sent to Prometon, with only two servants to help him, and subjected to ill treatment by Leo Lalacon, a Domestic of the Scholae. Again according to Nicetas, the purpose of all these molestations was to wring from him his abdication from the patriarchal throne. Afterwards he was incarcerated in the Numeroi jail, to be deported, in the first days of August, to the Isle of Mitylene. His friends and intimates were no better treated, and the chartophylax Blasius had his tongue cut out. During Ignatius’ stay in Mitylene, Photius summoned a synod in the church of the Twelve Apostles, where he had him deposed and condemned.



1. P.G. vol. 105, col. 513.





Stylianos, in his letter to Pope Stephen V, is not as explicit as Nicetas. After stating that the new Patriarch had rallied many followers by threats and bribes, he says: [1]


Besides this, he pledged his word in his own hand that he would not raise any further objection to Ignatius or to the priests ordained by him; yet, shortly after, he violated his own signature and summoned a synod, or rather a meeting of brigands, in the noble church of the Holy Apostles, where this adulterer deposed and anathematized the Patriarch Ignatius.



This is a very vague indictment; but Metrophanes, in the passage quoted previously, is more definite. After a reference to the synod held in the church of St Irene, he says: [2]


Photius retaliated by summoning, with the assistance of Bardas, a synod in the church of the Holy Apostles, again deposing and anathematizing Ignatius. It was then that we personally upbraided him for his crime,. .. with the result that we were subjected to violence, arrested without a warning and imprisoned for days in the evil-smelling jail of the Numeroi.. ..



Another Ignatian document, the so-called Synodicon Vetus, published by J. Pappe [3] and giving, with an anti-Photian bias, an account of the synods that met in Constantinople in those days, describes Photius’ reaction as follows :


Thus, when Photius had occupied the throne in contravention of the holy and godly canons, he gave himself no rest until he had provoked the Emperor’s anger, inflicted untold miseries on Ignatius and finally relegated the innocent man to Mytilene. He then summoned a conventicle [synedrion] of reprobates in the Church of Our Lady in Blachernae and unjustly deposed Ignatius, who was present at the synod. Those who refused to yield to his evil suggestions [pravis nutibus] and to communicate with him, he subjected to endless trials [infinitis malis affecit] and banished to places of his own choice.



All these documents agree in two particulars : they refer to a violent persecution of the Ignatian clergy and to a synod summoned by Photius in answer to the meeting in the church of St Irene; but whereas Nicetas seems to place the convocation of the Photian synod after the persecution, probably in the month of August when Ignatius was in Mytilene, Metrophanes of Smyrna seems to place it immediately after the meeting in St Irene’s.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 428.

2. Ibid. col. 416.

3. In J. A. Fabricius and G. C. Harles, Bibliotheca Graeca (Hamburg, 1809), vol. XII, p. 417.





The Synodicon Vetus on the other hand, speaks of a synod that met in the church of Our Lady in Blachernae. On this basis we must reconstruct the facts. Reconstruction is important, since it is the only means of getting at the meaning behind the conflict and of weighing the Patriarch’s responsibility for the persecution which, according to all accounts, followed those incidents. [1]


Fortunately, we are able to quote another interesting document which throws some light on the events in Constantinople after the revolt of the Ignatians. Its author is not a contemporary, but his account carries weight, since it expresses the Byzantine tradition and the opinion of those Byzantines who were not directly interested in the incidents and were in a better position to pass judgement through the mellowing perspective of time. We find the account, not in a historical writing, but in the work of a Greek canonist of the twelfth century, and for that reason it failed to attract general attention. Zonaras, in explaining, and commenting on, the canons voted by the ‘first and second Synod of Constantinople’, the synods of 859 and 861, writes as follows: [2]


This synod is thus designated: the holy and great first and second synod of Constantinople assembled in the venerable church of the Holy and most glorious Apostles. Those who read this inscription may wonder why this synod is called first and second. In this connection, we learn that it met in the above-mentioned church of the Holy Apostles [in 859], that a discussion arose between the orthodox and their opponents and that when the orthodox had clearly won their point, all that had been said had to be put in writing. [We further learn] that the heretics objected to the decisions being put on record lest it should emphasize their defeat and their ejection from the community of the faithful, and that this was the reason why they fomented a revolt, which ended in fighting and bloodshed. That is how the first assembly suspended its deliberations and its meetings and how some time later [in 861] another synod was summoned in the same church to discuss the same subjects, and placed on record all the previous decisions on dogmatic matters. That is the reason why this synod, though it was, in fact, one, received the name of ‘first and second’, the Fathers having met twice.



Zonaras thus confirms the report by Metrophanes of Smyrna who, as already stated, wrote it for the benefit of one who knew the facts, and so was not at liberty to distort them at will. From these reports



1. Anastasius the Librarian also mentions the incidents in his introduction to the Acts of the Ignatian Council of 869-70, but his report is too short to supply any new information (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 4).


2. J. Zonaras, ‘Commentaria in Canones...’, P.G. vol. 137, cols. 1004 seq.





it appears that to put an end to agitation Photius countered the move on the part of the extremist clergy in a strictly canonical way by convoking a synod in the church of the Holy Apostles, where it was declared that Ignatius, having resigned his see, was no longer Patriarch and that the new nomination by the Extremists was null and void. In the event of Ignatius accepting the nomination, he was declared to be ipso facto deposed and excommunicated. Furthermore, in order to anticipate any future disturbance, some canons were formulated to suppress abuses that were to a great extent responsible for encouraging the turbulent elements inside the Church. But to prevent the implementing of the synodical decisions, the opposition went to great lengths and by resort to violence succeeded in wrecking every possible canonical settlement.


Metrophanes confirms Zonaras’ reference to the uproar at the meeting : ‘It was then that we personally upbraided him [Photius] for his crime in stripping Ignatius of his patriarchal dignity, with the result that we were subjected to violence. . . .’ He unwittingly discloses the fact that the Ignatian clergy attended the synod summoned by the Patriarch in the church of the Holy Apostles; that it was therefore a genuine synod convoked for the purposes of putting an end to agitation and countering the pronunciamento of the church of St Irene. The canonical character of the synod is also confirmed by Zonaras’ account of the first meeting of the ‘first and second synod’.


Zonaras’ and Metrophanes’ statements therefore corroborate each other. Metrophanes places his own arrest and imprisonment, and the persecution of his friends after his intervention, at the synod in the church of the Holy Apostles; and this again is confirmed by Zonaras who speaks of a rising of the ‘heretics’, one that ended in bloodshed, to avert their defeat at the synod. But it is difficult to admit that this rising was provoked by purely religious considerations; and since the monks and the bishops who disagreed with Photius and with the decisions of the synod did not carry swords, somebody else must have taken advantage of the incident to do some fishing on his own in troubled waters. If we remember the incidents that accompanied the change of regime in Byzantium after the dethronement of Theodora, we shall appreciate the implications of Zonaras’ words and form a shrewd guess at who saw his opportunity for the overthrow of the new regime. Apart from this, we must also admit that the new government was fully entitled to take energetic measures for the maintenance of public order and it is evident that the accusations levelled by the Ignatians at Photius which make him responsible for the heavy punishments inflicted on





some dangerous agitators among the Extremists completely miss the mark. The Patriarch had no police under his orders and wielded no executive power: the government alone could deal with such disturbances of the peace.


The truth is that Photius did not see eye to eye with the government in the severity with which it stamped out the revolt. In one of his letters addressed to Bardas, probably the first written after the outbreak, he bitterly complained of the government’s brutality in bringing the offenders to book. [1] There is a short passage in this letter hinting that the true reason for the new rift among the Byzantine clergy was his loyalty to the new regime and that the rebels had committed grave offences against the existing laws. ‘We should have much preferred’, he writes to Bardas, ’to find in you the man who punishes the offenders rather than the author of such outrages.’ The Patriarch further complains that half of his jurisdiction is gone—a clear reference to the refractory bishops’ meeting at St Irene’s—and adds, as a thinly veiled threat of resignation, that he would rather lose the whole of it. On another occasion, he pleads for the secretary Christodulos, probably one of the leaders of the revolt, who claimed right of sanctuary, and for the chartophylax Blasius, who had had his tongue cut out. [2]


Even Nicetas, who naturally made Photius responsible for all the repression, indirectly admits that the main reason for this new quarrel was political—Photius’ refusal to turn against the new government; for by his allegation that Photius had instigated Bardas to inquire into Ignatius’ alleged conspiracy against the Emperor, Nicetas was clearly reverting to the old political antagonism between Moderates and Extremists. But the government was not going to allow itself to be dictated to by these hot-heads and having once discovered the true motive of the opposition, took, as was only to be expected, the necessary measures to make an end of it. [3]



1. P.G. vol. id, col. 620.


2. On the nature of the ‘glossotomia’, cf. Bury, A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, vol. ii, p. 329. Attention should also be drawn to the fact that the Byzantines never looked upon confinement and restriction of movement as a severe punishment. Isolation and the contemplative life exercised on them a special attraction inherited from oriental mentality. But they possessed a detailed catalogue of corporal punishments and mutilations which they knew how to inflict with exceptional skill. See in this connection Zachariae von Lingenthal, Geschichte des Griechischen-Römischen Rechtes (Berlin, 1892), 3rd ed. pp. xi, 331 seq.


3. Nicetas’ statement to the effect that the interpretation put on the compromise signed by Photius served as the main pretext for the opposition party’s aggression is also confirmed by Pseudo-Simeon, who, in his Chronicle (Bonn, p. 671), states that Photius, after fraudulently obtaining from the leader of the opposition the copy of the document in question, tore it up, saying: ‘Neither you nor Ignatius do I acknowledge as bishops.’





But Nicetas also tells us another thing: the very fact that not Ignatius, but men who claimed to be his followers, were the first to be proceeded against implies that the rupture could not be laid to the charge of the old Patriarch; and, moreover, the rigorous inquiry conducted by the imperial police proved his innocence. This detail has its importance in showing once more that Ignatius was not personally responsible and— at least at the outbreak of the dispute—had no thought of resuming the functions which he had handed over for the peace of the Church, but that once again the radical elements of the Extremist party had taken advantage of his naïveté and prestige to raise their banner against Photius and the government he supported.


Nicetas’ account also affords a good illustration of the way the government reacted: in order to prevent the fanatics seizing the person of Ignatius and making further capital of his influence over the masses, Bardas placed him under the special surveillance of the police and had him frequently transferred from place to place, so as to impede communications between him and the leaders of the malcontents.


To put a final stop to any further agitation, it would have been best to obtain from Ignatius a formal attestation that he no longer considered himself to be the Patriarch. Nicetas’ reference to Ignatius’ refusal to abdicate shows that the government and Photius must have vainly tried to secure it.


Why did Ignatius not sign this declaration demanded from him, when it would have so effectively contributed to the general appeasement? Because the methods employed by Bardas were anything but conducive to the results intended. Ignatius must have been particularly sensitive to the ill treatment meted out to his friends. Probably, some of his trusted partisans may have eluded the watchfulness of the police and succeeded in communicating with him, to convince him that if the government harassed his friends unreasonably, it would take advantage of his declaration to treat them even worse. Besides, Ignatius had only to say that he had already made his abdication and deemed it unnecessary to repeat it.


Lastly, Nicetas informs us that the agitation engineered by the opponents of the government and of Photius lasted a long time. According to him, Photius summoned his synod after Ignatius had been banished to Mytilene, and this, according to the same author, happened in August.





In view of what has been said previously, the Extremist clergy refused obedience to Photius some forty days or two months after Photius’ consecration, i.e. in February 859, and Photius’ synod must have met at the end of February or in March. The revolt mentioned by Zonaras must have broken out in March, or, if we accept Zonaras’ suggestion that the deliberations of the synod were considerably advanced, perhaps a month later. Nicetas’ account of the incidents is not quite reliable, and this need not surprise anyone familiar with his method, but there may be some truth in his statement that another ecclesiastical meeting was held in Byzantium in August. Once the revolt had been suppressed and the agitation put down, it is only natural to suppose that Photius imposed ecclesiastical sanctions on the prelates and clergy responsible for the trouble and that judgement was given at a different meeting.


We are quite entitled to surmise that Nicetas omits all reference to the convocation of the synod at the church of the Holy Apostles which was to answer canonically the challenge of the Extremists. It is more than probable that this new synod was held, not in the church of the Holy Apostles, but in Blachernae, as the Synodicon Vetus has it, and that Ignatius was summoned in person before this synod, since the same document states that Ignatius’ deposition was proclaimed in the former Patriarch’s presence. A renewed declaration of the decisions taken at the council that met at the church of the Holy Apostles being made in Blachernae in the presence of Ignatius would have been quite a normal procedure. This second meeting was not as large as a synod and took no new decisions ; hence it is not listed among the synods that met at this period, and only the Synodicon Vetus and Nicetas have recalled its existence. The canonical decisions taken at the synod which met in the church of the Holy Apostles in the spring of 859 were, as we shall see presently, reconsidered and made public only in 861.


Nicetas then adds that the synod anathematized Ignatius, but this is probably an over-statement, as the synod had no sufficient grounds for going to that length, if it is true, as his biographer testifies, that the inquiry set up against Ignatius had produced no incriminating results. Theognostos does not mention an anathema in his Libellus, [1] but it should be observed that neither the one nor the other dared affirm that the sentence was confirmed by the synod of 861, of which more will be said later. We must conclude then that Ignatius was simply deposed at the synod held in Blachernae mentioned by the Synodicon Vetus,



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 300; P.G. vol. 105, col. 861.





or rather declared to have no right to the patriarchal See, in spite of his 'promotion’ by the Extremists.



It is unfortunately impossible to obtain an adequate idea of the importance of the revolt, the documents in our possession being in this respect extremely vague. In any case, it does not seem that the Byzantine episcopacy joined it in a body. Theognostos, in his Libellus written in 861, poses as the mouthpiece of ten Metropolitans and fifteen bishops; but Pope Nicholas, in his letter to Michael III already quoted, only names six Metropolitans. It is hard to say whether the number quoted by Theognostos is exact: as we have seen, Theognostos often exaggerates and his information is not always so reliable as has been thought. Is he exaggerating in this case?


What is certain is that shortly after the revolt, and probably after the synod of August 859, the opposition leaders, all members of the higher clergy, were replaced by safer prelates. But we happen to know very few of these leading Ignatians: Theodore of Syracuse, who had to hand over his see to Gregory Asbestas, Basil of Chalcedon to Zachary, Anthony of Cyzicus to Amphilochus. Peter of Miletus, once deposed by Methodius, was moreover reinstated and appointed archbishop of Sardes in Lydia. The other changes mentioned by Hergenröther [1] were introduced only later. This, however, is not all. We know that at the opening of the first session of the Council of 869-70 the prelates who had remained loyal to Ignatius numbered only twelve, [2] a figure nearer the one quoted by Theognostos; but not even this computation can be considered accurate, as we must allow for the death of some Ignatian bishops, perhaps for the absence of others due to illness. Aristarchos, who collected all the information relative to the changes effected in the Byzantine episcopacy during Photius’ first patriarchate, [3] reached the approximate figure of thirty-five prelates deposed or replaced, though these transfers cannot all be dated from the beginning of the patriarchate or otherwise accounted for with any certainty. Therefore, the figure quoted by Theognostos should not be discarded a priori, though it may be observed that it is not very impressive compared with the hundreds of prelates who submitted to Photius. After all, the rebels amounted to but a small minority of the Byzantine episcopacy.


It is readily admitted on the other hand that the monastic world all



1. Photius, vol. I, p. 403.

2. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 18; Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, p. 76.

3. Loc. cit. vol. I, pp. ιγ, ιδ, λξ.





but unanimously refused allegiance to the new Patriarch; unfortunately, Ignatian sources, chiefly Theognostos, only refer vaguely to a ‘multitude’ of monks who remained loyal to Ignatius. What Hergenröther [1] has written, and what I personally have said about this opposition, [2] needs supplementing.


The monastery of Studion seems to have been the most important storm centre: its abbot Nicholas flatly refused to hold communion with Photius and went into exile, though the fact that five abbots in succession carried on after him the administration of this important community suggests that not all the Studites adopted the same attitude. The Life of St Evaristus contains an interesting report of the repercussion the troubles we are studying had in the monastic world in general and in the monastery of Studion in particular. The author of this Life [3] tells us why and how Nicholas left the monastery he had governed. His extremely discreet account is worth reproducing in full: [4]


... A certain change and misunderstanding had come over the Church, but I would rather not give the reasons and circumstances. The result at all events was that Nicholas, probably feeling the weight of his charge and responsibilities, or perhaps considering it inconvenient to enter into communion with the pastor, addressed to his disciples a spiritual and salutary exhortation to show his hearers the road that leads to good spiritual pastures; and having carefully and paternally advised them to violate none of their promises to God, to live and show themselves worthy of the monastic state, and bravely to endure earthly trials in view of the consolation that awaits us, he left the monastery, followed by those who openly conformed their conduct to that of their pastor. . . . They split up into many groups, just numerous enough to make true the Lord’s promise that He would be with those gathered in His name (Matt, xviii. 20), and thus scattered to various places in various lands. . . .



Among the monks who left the monastery of Studion with Nicholas we find Evaristus and Paphnucius. They were received by a certain Samuel, a pious citizen, who offered them the hospitality of his home. Later, Evaristus was requested by abbot Nicholas, who had fallen ill, to join him in Hexamilium, presumably in Cherson of Thrace, and he subsequently accompanied him to see the Emperor Michael III, apparently for another effort at reconciliation between the Studites, Photius and the government. Initiated by government, this venture came to



1. Loc. cit. vol. I, pp. 392 seq.


2. Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 135—47.


3. C. Van de Vorst, ‘La Vie de Saint Évariste, Higoumène à Constantinople’, in Analecta Bollandiana (1923), vol. XLI, pp. 288-325. 4 Loc. cit. pp. 306-7.





nothing, owing, no doubt—though the biographer has nothing definite to say about it—to Nicholas’ unyielding attitude. After the interview with the Emperor, Nicholas betook himself to Samuel, and on hearing where he was, the old Studites promptly flocked to the pious citizen’s house and put their host to the trouble of founding a new monastery for their benefit, the Kokorobion. Such an influx of monks soon attracted the government’s attention: Nicholas was arrested, taken back to the monastery of Studion and there placed under the watchful care of some monks known to be loyal to the regime. The Kokorobion monastery, however, continued to exist and to thrive under the direction of St Evaristus.


The anonymous biographer, part of whose work is summarized above, was not far from the events he described, since the only surviving MS. of his work dates from the tenth century and the author treats of his hero as of a contemporary. This being so, his punctilious discretion in speaking of the quarrel that had arisen in the Church, in which he refers neither to Photius nor to Ignatius by name, is somehow curious. Though his hero was an Ignatian, no sign of hatred for the new Patriarch or Michael III escaped him. Now, according to him, the monks wrho refused obedience to Photius were not persecuted in the least; they found easy sanctuary with pious laymen, and even succeeded in opening a monastery in Constantinople. Nicholas of the monastery of Studion alone was the object of some governmental severity, though the Emperor in person attempted to overcome his resistance. In short, this evidence in no way corroborates the dark picture conjured up elsewhere with vague hints at a dreadful persecution.


We know the names of some other abbots who remained loyal to Ignatius: Joseph, Euthymios, Nicetas of Chrysopolis and Dositheus of Osion Dion, not to mention the famous Theognostos, abbot of the Monastery of the Source (Pege). Although they were certainly not the only abbots to refuse submission to Photius’ authority, [1] the Ignatians’



1. The community of St Anne in Bithynia seems likewise to have remained faithful to Ignatius, as we learn from a manuscript of the Meteora, No. 591 (Νίκου A. Βέες, Ἔκδοσις παλαιογραφικῶν καὶ τεχνικῶν ἐρευνῶν ἐν ταῖς μόναις τῶν Μετεώρων κατὰ τὰ ἔτη 1908 καὶ 1909. Edited by the Athens Byzantine Society, 1910, pp. 24, 25, 69). The MS. contains the homilies of St Chrysostom on the Gospel of St Matthew. According to a copyist’s note, it was written by the monk Eustathios in 861-2: Ἔγραφε δὲ καὶ ἐτελειώθη ἡ ἱερὰ καὶ σωτηριώδης αὕτη βίβλος ἐν τῷ ΣΤΟ (861-2) ἔτη, ἐν τῇ ἑνδεκάτῃ ἐνδικτίονι, ἐν τῇ μόνῃ τῆς ἁγίας Ἄννης τῆς διακειμένης ἀπὸ τῶν τῆς Βιθυνίας μερῶν ἐν τῇ ἐνορίᾳ τῆς Κίου, ἐπὶ τῆς ἐξορίας τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου πατριάρχου Ἰγνατίου. Cf. Nicos A. Bees, ‘Un manuscrit des Météoris de l’an 861-2’, in Revue des Études Grecques (1913), t. XXVI, pp. 53-74.





remarkable discretion on the subject is worth noting, as it was by no means their habit to be reticent in emphasizing their Patriarch’s popularity. That is why it is difficult to take literally what Anastasius the Librarian tells us of the happenings at Mount Olympus in Asia Minor, where the monks’ cells are stated to have been burned to the ground. [1] Olympus lost none of its importance in the second half of the ninth century and the beginning of the tenth. Another hagiographical composition written in the first years of the tenth century and already quoted, the Life of St Euthymios, corrects to some extent the account by Anastasius. It is stated there that on refusing to enter into communion with Photius, [2] Nicholas, the abbot of the Pissidion, left his monastery: which evidently proves that the majority of the monks of this important community had acknowledged Photius as their legitimate Patriarch. Euthymios also left after the abbot’s departure, but not for the reason given by the hagiographer for Nicholas’ exit:


Fond of peace and solitude, Euthymios. . .saw there a good opportunity to hasten to the mountains of Athos. Not having received so far the holy habit of a monk. . .he was sad, disconsolate and broken-hearted, mainly because his holy pastor John had gone to rest in the Lord, and also because Nicholas had left the monastery. Distressed for all these reasons, he received a divine inspiration telling him to go and see the ascetic Theodore and receive at long last the habit from his hands; for Theodore also lived on the heights of Olympus, shedding the light of his virtues like a torch on all those who dwelt around. To him therefore he went. . . [and] he was considered worthy of receiving the sacred and salutary monastic habit. The saint then. . . after a stay of fifteen long years at Mount Olympus, left with the blessed and godly Theosteriktos for Athos. Soon after Theosteriktos left to settle once more at Olympus, where he invited St Euthymios to join him in 863, this saint being in search of his old master, who also had a desire to settle in Athos. [3]



All this only shows that the holy mountain continued to thrive in spite of religious conflicts ; that the monks were in no way disturbed in their pious exercises and went about freely; lastly and not least, that contacts between Olympus and Athos, the new centre of Byzantine monasticism,



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 5.


2. I made in this connection a mistranslation in my previous work Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, p. 144. Read ‘pour ne pas entrer en communion (avec Photius)’ instead of‘pour rester en communion’. This is the Greek text: πολλῶν δὲ διὰ τοῦτο τῆς τοῦ νέου πατριάρχου κοινωνίας ἀποκλινάντων, καὶ ὁ...


3. Loc. cit. pp. 182, 186.





seem to have been frequent and friendly. How then are we to explain the anti-Photianist accounts of the so-called persecution of monks?


The answer, it seems, is to be found in the canons of the synod of 861, known by the name of 'first-second’. [1] Of these seventeen canons, the first seven deal with various problems raised at the time by Eastern monasticism. The first forbids the transformation of private houses into monasteries without episcopal authorization; a house thus transformed will no longer be considered as the founder’s property; he will lose the right to rule the new institution, or to appoint anyone to this function. The second canon forbids the consecration as a monk of anyone who refuses to place himself under the direction of an abbot legitimately established ; it will no longer be lawful to impose the monastic habit on those who intend to go on living in their own private houses, without a care for monastic discipline. The third canon reminds the abbot of his duties towards the monks under his care. The fourth is particularly important; it censures those monks who leave their monasteries without permission or take up residence in lay people’s houses: such a practice was permissible in times of heresy, says the canon, referring no doubt to iconoclasm, but can no longer be tolerated at the present time, when heresy has been uprooted; the bishop alone has the right to transfer monks for reasons of piety from one monastery to another. The fifth canon insists on the necessity of giving every candidate for the monastic order the opportunity to break himself in to monastic duties for the space of three years. The sixth forbids the monks to own property; they must dispose of their goods before entering the monastery. The seventh forbids bishops to found private monasteries and to endow them with revenue from the mensa episcopalis.


All these canons were prompted by abuses that had been rife since before the iconoclastic days. It is generally known that for economic or other reasons the first iconoclastic emperors endeavoured to limit the number of monasteries; and that their decrees aimed at the suppression of the practice, then prevailing among rich Byzantines, of converting their houses into monasteries, where they went on living as they did before, and of disposing of their wealth in total disregard of



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 536-48. Cf. on the evolution of Byzantine monasticism at this period Sokolov, Sostoyanie Monashestva v Viz. Tserkvi s polov. IX do nachala XIII v. (Kazan, 1894) (especially pp. 60 seq. on Ignatian and Photian monks). The study by W. Nissen, Die Regelung des Klosterwesens im Rhomäerreiche bis ium Ende des 9. Jhts (Hamburg, 1897) (Programm Nr 759 der Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums), is written on more general lines.





canonical prescriptions. [1] These measures chiefly hit the well-to-do classes and naturally were not welcomed by monks who lived on the generosity of the rich. Now it was chiefly to these regulations that the iconoclastic emperors owed their reputation of being persecutors of the monks. After the final restoration of Orthodoxy, the monks recovered all their former prestige; Irene and the pious Theodora patronized them and their influence went on increasing under Ignatius’ patriarchate; but the old abuses which the iconoclastic emperors had fought crept stealthily back, as evidenced by the seven canons summarized above.


Such a situation was, however, fraught with danger. Iconoclasm was not suppressed by Theodora till 843, and it would have been unwise to afford the more or less sincere converts from iconoclasm new opportunities for criticism or to panegyrize Constantine V for fighting such abuses whilst the memory of his military fame was still fresh. The iconoclastic reaction under Leo V, Michael II and Theophilus served as a grim reminder that too zealous a championship of monasticism,, such as was displayed by Michael I, could do Orthodoxy more harm than good. The Patriarch Methodius had learnt his lesson and practised moderation in his religious policy. Ignatius thought otherwise, but the new government under Michael III and Bardas was alive to the risk of giving an easy rein to the Extremists. Photius also saw the danger and was only too keen on removing all grounds for criticism. His first endeavour was to restore order in the monastic world and the canons discussed above, though some of them had already been voted at the synod of 859, show the drift of his policy and clarify the position in the first decades after the suppression of iconoclasm.


Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that Photius’ cautious attitude should be so little appreciated by certain zealots and that the radical monks should suspect another attack on monasticism. Hence the agitation against Photius raised by some of them and the stigma of persecution attached to his name. Wild statements by some of his bitterest enemies created the impression that the whole monastic world had risen in arms against him and have since imposed upon the historians’ credulity.


This consideration throws light on the character and the passions of



1. It is not true to say that the iconoclastic emperors were the sworn enemies of monastic life, as it has been generally alleged. I, among others, have found evidence of the existence of an iconoclastic monastery in Asia Minor, as shown in the Life of St Gregory Decapolites, which I published in my book, La Vie de St Grégoire le Décapolite et les Slaves Macédoniens au IXe siècle (Paris, 1926), pp. 40 seq., 48 seq.





the two currents of opinion prevailing in Byzantium and shows in which quarters the new ecclesiastical and secular regime met with its worst opposition. Next to the Extremist monks and a few bishops who shared their opinions, came the wealthy zealots who looked askance at the changes in the imperial palace and in the patriarcheion and their attendant reforms. These had, in the opinion of many of them, an iconoclastic flavour. Indeed, the iconoclastic emperors, chiefly Constantine V, had tried to bring about by authoritarian methods exactly what Photius and his supporters were trying to achieve by canonical means. The Moderates were as sincere in their orthodoxy as any, and as keen on preventing a possible iconoclastic revival, but their efforts were liable to be misunderstood. [1]



1. This chapter was nearing completion, when I came across V. Grumel’s study, ‘La Genèse du Schisme Photien’, in Studi Bizantini e Neo-Ellenici (1939), vol. v (Atti del V Congresso Internazionale di Studi Bizantini), pp. 177-85, but it failed to make me alter a single word in the chapter. It is possible to take the wrong turn in trying to shift the responsibility for the revolt from the retired Patriarch’s radical supporters to Ignatius himself. One finds it difficult to understand this persistence in presenting Ignatius as a headstrong monk, intractable and deaf to reasonable arguments. Nor was Ignatius ‘un drôle de saint’. Contrary to what has been asserted, and as we shall see in the course of this work, Ignatius did acknowledge Photius’ ordination, ordained though he had been by Asbestas. Again, Photius’ own ordination by Asbestas was the condition laid down by the victorious party as a compensation for the concessions made by Photius to the radical bishops.








Photius’ and Michael’s letters to Nicholas—Was the Pope in communion with Photius’ envoys?—Negotiations between the legates, the Emperor and the Patriarch before the synod—The Acts of the synod and accounts by Nicetas and Theognostos—Did Ignatius appeal to Rome?—Legates’ attitude during the synod.



The assumption that iconoclasm came to an abrupt end in 843 and left no traces was shown in the previous chapter to be at odds with the facts. As we have seen, when Photius ascended the patriarchal throne the heresy had not yet been completely liquidated. It is certainly surprising to learn from a homily which Photius delivered at St Sophia in 867 [1] at the inauguration of an ikon of the Virgin, that the picture was one of the first to be restored in the Church since the official suppression of iconoclasm, though twenty-four years had elapsed since the restoration of Orthodoxy. It therefore looks as though the authorities, for fear of provoking reactions among the penitent iconoclasts, acted with some caution.


All this must be kept in mind in considering the Emperor Michael’s initiative in 860. Taking advantage of the dispatch of the synodal letter by the new Patriarch to Pope Nicholas I, [2] Michael III, after recalling the latest events that had occurred in the Church of Constantinople, invited the Pope to send legates to Byzantium, where he was planning to hold a Council, for a second elucidation of the Catholic doctrine concerning images.


Surprise has often been expressed that Photius should not have issued his encyclical letter sooner; [3] but it is only fair to remember that the synod summoned to put an end to the Ignatians’ opposition only met in August 859, i.e. eight months after Photius’ election. It was natural that no apocrisiaries should be sent to Rome in the autumn of the same year, probably to save them a journey during an inconvenient season and chiefly a winter stay in Rome. Communications between Italy and Greece were also, so it seems, suspended from the end of October till



1. (Aristarchos), loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 294 seq. Cf. my study ‘Lettre à M. H. Grégoire à propos de Michel III’ in Byzantion (1935), vol. x, pp. 5-9.


2. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 585—93.


3. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, p. 406.





spring. [1] It would in any case have been considered preferable to send them in the spring of 860 so that the papal legates should start for Constantinople at a time better suited for journeys of that length. The Byzantine delegates then reached Rome in summer and left again with the legates at the end of September, reaching Constantinople probably before Christmas and completing a most difficult journey before the bad season set in.


It has also been thought strange that Photius should have omitted to mention in his letter the synod that was to be. summoned in Constantinople; [2] but there was good justification for the omission. To convoke and direct a General Council was, according to Byzantine law, solely the Emperor’s concern, a privilege that had been his since the time of Constantine the Great: Patriarchs—even of Rome—had no business to meddle. [3] Photius, once President of the Imperial Chancellery, evidently knew and respected court usage and imperial privileges; hence he confined himself in his letter to Nicholas I [4] to the formulae in common use in synodal letters, [5] mainly insisting on the importance of the episcopal dignity to which, in spite of himself and all but against his will, he had been raised after his predecessor’s resignation, and adding his profession of faith.


The letters were taken to Rome by a distinguished delegation, headed by the Protospathar Arsaber, a relative of the Emperor and of Photius, and including the metropolitan Methodius of Gangra, the bishops Samuel of Colossus, Theophilus of Amorion, and Zachary of Taormina, who, having represented Gregory Asbestas’ group in his appeal to Rome, was familiar with the journey and with the Eternal City. According to custom, the delegation took numerous presents, which Anastasius the Librarian, author of the Life of Nicholas I, enumerates with a certain relish in the Liber Pontificalis. [6] The pallium was not among them, a sign that Photius knew the Pope’s feelings better than Ignatius.



1. Cf. J. Haller, Das Papsttum (Stuttgart, 1934), vol. 1, p. 500. Idem, Nikolaus I. und Pseudo-Isidor (Stuttgart, 1936), p. 30.


2. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, p. 413.


3. I dealt with this problem in my study, De Potestate Civili in Conciliis Oecumenicis, quoted on p. 7.


4. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, pp. 407-11 (translation and analysis of the letter).


5. Cf. synodal letter by the Patriarch Nicephorus to Leo III, P.G. vol. 100, cols. 169-200. Also, the formulary published by I. Habert, Archieraticon. Liber Pont. Eccl. Graecae (Paris, 1643), pp. 557-9.


6. Ed. L. Duchesne, loc. cit. vol. II, p. 154.





As regards the Pope’s attitude towards the Emperor’s and the new Patriarch’s envoys, Baronins [1] and Hergenröther [2] assert that, suspecting something irregular in Photius’ elevation, Nicholas I refused to receive them to communion with the Roman bishops; this rests on a declaration made by the papal legate Marinus at the fourth session of the Council of 869-70, [3] and has generally found favour with historians.


Let us recall the fact that according to the minutes of that session the bishops Theophilus and Zachary stated that Nicholas I had received them to communion when they were in Rome: ‘We have said and we repeat that we were received by Pope Nicholas as bishops, that we co-celebrated with him and that we were treated as such.’ The Pope, they said, had thereby acknowledged Photius as Patriarch. The Acts suggest that the claim of the two bishops was accepted by many people and that the papal legates agreed to both being heard by the Council. There they repeated their assertion on several occasions and even offered to produce the witnesses—presumably the officials and servants who had accompanied them to Rome—provided the Emperor promised they would suffer no harm. Lastly they quoted the evidence of Marinus, one of the papal legates, who had been present at their reception, but the latter emphatically declared:


I was sub-deacon of the Roman Church at that time, consecrated by the saintly Roman Pope Leo, and had ministered in the Roman Church from the age of twelve and when these men came to Rome with Arsabir I was ministering in the Roman Church of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, called ‘Praesepis’. It was there that the very saintly pope Nicholas met them to examine their Libellus and to tender the oath; and he did not receive them to communion as bishops. If they deny this, let them prove that he did receive them to communion as bishops. [4]



One finds it difficult to admit that either Marinus or the two bishops would have been daring enough to tell a bare-faced lie in the presence of the assembly; but the letter in which the Pope reserves to himself the right to give a final decision on Ignatius’ case whenever his legates should have concluded their inquiry, enables us to reconcile two assertions so obviously contradictory.


The Pope could not refuse to receive the ambassadors of the Emperor and of the Patriarch without reasons grave enough to justify the affront; and Marinus admits that Nicholas I had actually received them.



1. Annales Ecclesiastici, ad a. 859, n. 60.

2. Photius, vol. 1, p. 414.

3. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 53-74, 328-40.

4. Ibid. col. 58.





Strictly speaking, and allowing for a generous dose of mental reservation, he could pretend that the Pope had not granted the delegates communion with his bishops, since the validity of their reception had been made conditional on the Pope’s final decision, which was to be given after the report of the board of inquiry and eventually did turn out to be unfavourable to Photius. But he would have been splitting hairs, and it seems inadmissible that a papal legate’s usual veracity should have failed him to such an extent. But Anastasius, the translator of the Acts, fortunately comes to our rescue. This is what he writes about the embassy in his Life of Nicholas I preserved in the Liber Pontificalis: [1]


In his [Nicholas’] days Michael, son of the Emperor Theophilus, Emperor of the city of Constantinople, sent for the love of the Apostles gifts to the Blessed Apostle Peter through the good offices of the bishops called Methodius the Metropolitan, bishop Samuel and two others who had been deposed from their episcopal office, Zachary and another called Theophilus, together with a lay imperial official called Arsavir, protospathar. . . . [2]


Observe that here Anastasius discriminates between the two bishops Methodius and Samuel and the two others who had been suspended, Zachary and Theophilus. Zachary himself acknowledged, as pointed out in the minutes of the same session of the Council, that he had been suspended by Ignatius at the same time as Gregory Asbestas, and he stated to the imperial commission that Pope Benedict III had ordered him to abstain from the exercise of ecclesiastical functions, as long as his case awaited trial by the Holy See. [3] It is clear, then, that the legate Marinus, in his reply, referred only to Zachary and Theophilus, the only partisans of Photius then present before the Fathers of the Council.


This clears the puzzle. Nicholas I must have officially received the Byzantine delegation at the church of St Mary Major, after the bishops had taken the oath prescribed by the protocol of the Roman Chancellery. Rumours that had reached him concerning events in Constantinople4 did not authorize him to withhold the traditional honours, though they prompted him to look into the facts more closely. He probably also noticed that the cases of Ignatius and of the Asbestas group had not yet been tried by the Holy See and that the decree of the synod of Constantinople of 858 rehabilitating Gregory and his friends had, as far as he was concerned, and in his own conception of papal rights, the same



1. Ed. Duchesne, loc. cit. vol. II, p. 154.

2. Follows the list of presents.

3. See p. 27.

4. The Pope refers to them in his letter to Michael III, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 490. Cf. p. 108.





legal value as Photius’ election, and no more. He therefore reminded Theophilus and Zachary of his predecessor Benedict Ill’s injunction, of which he must have found a record in the archives, and consequently refused the two bishops communion with the Western bishops. Thus are explained and reconciled the two contradictory assertions, and we may conclude that Nicholas received the Byzantine embassy with due honour and admitted the four Eastern bishops—at least at the beginning —to communion with the Roman clergy.



To return then to Anastasius’ text after the enumeration of the presents brought to the Pope by the Byzantine ambassadors:


When they had presented the Pontiff with many other gifts, they at once read out the ambassadorial message they had been ordered to deliver, namely, that being made Emperor of the Greeks, he [Michael III] asked through his envoys that legates of the Apostolic See be sent to Constantinople to deal with the destroyers of the sacred images. In reality, he only had in mind the case of the Patriarch Ignatius and of Photius, the usurper of the Church of Constantinople, with a jealous and cunning desire to have this holy man Ignatius condemned by a sentence of the Apostolic See, as he later succeeded in doing and then to place the neophyte Photius at the head of the Church. Presently, the Supreme Pontiff, still ignorant of the Emperor’s evil designs, sent thither two bishops, Radoald and Zachary, ordering them to settle in synod whatever the issue of the sacred images should suggest and also solemnly to inquire into the case of the Patriarch Ignatius and of Photius, but only to inquire and then to report to him.



This text is really suggestive: Michael III had not asked the Pope for a re-trial of the cases of Ignatius and Photius by the synod he intended to summon: in the Emperor’s mind, the sole purpose of that synod was to define again the Catholic doctrine on images and once again to condemn iconoclasm. It is therefore clear that both the Emperor and Photius considered Ignatius’ case to have been definitely closed since the synods (of the Holy Apostles and of Blachernae) in 859.


Another contemporary document, coming from a quarter hostile to Photius, confirms this conclusion—the Synodicon Vetus, [1] whose author writes: ‘After all this, Photius sent to the Roman Pope Nicholas, of blessed memory, a delegation declaring that Ignatius had abdicated of his own free will and owing to his physical weakness, and urgently requesting the dispatch of legates for the purpose of a final condemnation of the iconoclastic heresy, yet all the time busy preparing underhand



1. J. A. Fabricius, B. D. J. Pappe, loc. cit. vol. xii, pp. 417, 418. Cf. p. 57.





the condemnation of Ignatius.’ The texts of Anastasius and the Synodicon are not unrelated, which shows to what extent Anastasius, whilst staying in Constantinople, had come under the influence of the Ignatians: none but the Ignatians ever alleged that the condemnation of iconoclasm was only a pretext for the convocation of a Council and for the condemnation of Ignatius. But, by their statements, they thus unwittingly bore witness to the fact that the Byzantine embassy had not asked for a re-trial of the old Patriarch.


The replies by Nicholas I to the letters of Michael III and Photius throw light on the Pope’s feelings towards the imperial intentions. In his letter to the Emperor, [1] after commending Michael’s interest in the Church, the Pope expresses surprise that Ignatius should have been deposed by a synod £sine Romani consulto pontificis’. To him, the trial of Ignatius seemed unfair, the witnesses quoted in the imperial letter being incompetent, their evidence unconvincing and Ignatius not having pleaded guilty. As, moreover, a layman had been elected in disregard of canonical interdictions, Nicholas concluded by refusing to acknowledge Photius’ nomination to the patriarchate before the results of the inquiry made by the legates in Constantinople should reach him. The Pope then lays down the procedure of the inquiry. The passage is important enough for the interpretation of the Acts of the Council of 861 to be reproduced in full:


In order that fairness be observed in all things, we wish, O merciful Augustus, that Ignatius who, as you have informed me through your letters, has spontaneously and of his own free will relinquished the government of the above-mentioned See and has been deposed in the presence of the General Council of the people by Your Highness, should appear before our legates and the General Council in accordance with your imperial custom so that they may inquire why he abandoned the flock entrusted to him and why he made so little of, and treated with such contempt, the wishes of our predecessors and holy Pontiffs, Leo IV and Benedict. For this purpose the legates will make a careful inquiry into his deposidon and his censure, with a view to discovering whether the canons have been observed or not; then, when the matter has been reported to us, we shall direct by our apostolic authority what is to be done, so that your Church, daily shaken by these anxieties, may henceforth remain inviolate and unhurt.



The Pope then outlines the Catholic doctrine on images; requests the Emperor to return to the Roman patriarchate the jurisdiction of Illyricum, the patrimonies of Calabria and Sicily, and the right to



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 433-9.





consecrate the bishops of Syracuse, concluding with a recommendation in favour of the papal legates.


The Pope’s reply to Photius’ synodical letter is brief, firm in its tenor, but friendly in tone. After expressing satisfaction at the new Patriarch’s orthodox profession of faith, the Pope nevertheless blames him for having been ordained in contravention of canonical rules forbidding laymen’s hurried elevation to the episcopal dignity, adding, however, that should his legates’ findings in Constantinople be favourable, he 4 will embrace the Patriarch of so eminent a city in brotherly love’. The reply, be it observed, makes no reference to Ignatius’ case.


We may therefore conclude from this correspondence that Ignatius’ re-trial was ordered, neither by Photius nor by the Emperor, but by the Pope himself. Contrary to the wishes of the Byzantines, who looked upon the incident as closed, the Council and the legates were to examine Ignatius’ conduct, the Pope reserving the final decision to himself personally.



Constantinople had not expected such a solution. Unfortunately, as we possess no information on the negotiations carried on before the opening of the Council between the legates and the ecclesiastical and civil authorities of Byzantium, we can only guess what was discussed between them. We are also ill-documented on certain discussions at the Council itself: for instance, we know absolutely nothing about the meetings devoted to the dogmatic question. The conciliar decisions about the monks, previously discussed, [1] suggest that much of the discussion was devoted to the problem of Byzantine monasticism, a problem that had raised controversies at the outset of iconoclasm and of which we still know very little.


As the Acts of the Council of 861 were destroyed by the Fathers of the Ignatian Council of 869-70, we only possess a few summaries of the meetings that dealt with Ignatius. Nicetas, Theognostos, Anastasius and Stylianos have left us minutes of varying accuracy; but fortunately we possess an extract [2] from the Acts, based, as we shall show presently, on the text brought to Constantinople by the papal legates Radoald and Zachary, or more exactly, by the imperial ambassador Leo. This extract having proved reliable on another occasion, [3] we can try, without neglecting other documents already mentioned, to reconstruct the facts in the light of this additional document.



1. See p. 67.

2. Wolf von Glanvell, loc. cit. pp. 603-10.

3. See pp. 28 seq.





On their arrival in Constantinople, the legates insisted on the Pope’s instructions being carried out to the very letter; and on seeing that the Roman Pontiff wished to introduce something contrary to their plans and the traditions of their Church, the Emperor and Photius made some opposition: in their view, as Ignatius had resigned in conformity with canonical rules, and had been deposed by a synod to make it evident to all that he had ceased being a Patriarch, and as his successor had been elected in accordance with the laws of the Byzantine Church, there could be no question of going back upon past decisions. And yet the Pope’s request could not be disregarded; though no one had asked him for a decision in the matter, his authority had to be respected, for fear of creating new difficulties at the very moment when it was hoped to end them once for all. So, a compromise acceptable to both parties had to be found.


At first the outlook was not promising. It is generally held that strong pressure was brought to bear on the legates and that they were refused all intercourse with Ignatius and his partisans. In support of these allegations, a passage is quoted from the letter of Nicholas I to Photius, dated 18 March 862. [1] But this text does not specifically show that the legates were prevented from communicating with the partisans of the fallen Patriarch; they were rather kept away from intercourse with the Greeks in general. [2] Let it be stated at once that the legates’ reports, after their return to Rome, need cautious handling, for when they had lost all hope of bringing the Pope round to their own views, they were only too evidently in search of good excuses in defence of the attitude they had adopted in Byzantium.


And yet, one cannot, with Theognostos, [3] exactly blame them for having accepted presents from Photius. Handed over by officials sent to greet them at Rhoedestus on the way to Constantinople, these presents



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 451: ‘De missis siquidem nostris, quos petitos in servitio beati Petri principis apostolorum pro utilitate sanctae Constantinopolitanae ecclesiae contra depositores imaginum vel alias necessitates ingruentes necnon et pro causa solum modo depositionis saepefati viri Ignatii inquirenda illas in partes direximus, silendum non est. Qui, cum iis, sicut dicunt, per centum dierum spatia omnium nisi suorum alloquendi facultas fuisset denegata, ut apostolicae sedis missi non digne suscepti sunt, neque, ut decuerat, retenti. Quod non pro alia gestum putamus re, nisi ut inquirendi locum de depositione praefati viri non invenirent. . . . Quibus secundum horum relationem longa exilia et diuturnas pediculorum comestiones, si in tali intentione persisterent, quidam minantes quod illis a nobis injunctum fuit clam vobis cum sequacibus vestris resistentibus perficere minime potuerunt. . .’


2. It is, however, a fact that the Ignatians were prevented handing a memorial to the legates. See p. 79.


3. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 297.





were not bribes, but were simply a matter of diplomatic amenity. The same custom may be observed in the reception in 869 of the legates sent by Hadrian II to condemn Photius. As reported by Anastasius, [1] the representatives of Nicholas I were met at Thessalonica by a high imperial official, then at Selymbria by Theognostos and the Protospathar Sisinnius, who brought ’forty horses from the imperial stables and all the silver cutlery from the imperial table’. The presents mentioned by Theognostos and consisting of clothes may be assumed to be tokens of the court’s anxiety to protect the legates against the rigours of the winter after a journey that had lasted longer than was expected. [2]



But even if there be nothing to prove the use of pressure to dissuade the legates from re-trying Ignatius in accordance with the Pope’s instructions, negotiations before the convocation of the synod were, we must admit, unconscionably long. The legates arrived in Byzantium certainly before Christmas, but judging from the allocution delivered at the third session, the synod was convoked only shortly before Easter. The Emperor and the Patriarch eventually yielded to the Roman legates’ request that the inquiry into Ignatius’ case should be placed first on the Council’s agenda. The minutes of the Acts [3] will tell us that they consented to the re-trial only on condition that the legates should give judgement in Constantinople without first referring the case to the Pope. They naturally argued that a final verdict would promote the pacification of the Church and was well worth a concession.


The Emperor personally presided at the first session, when Paul, metropolitan of Caesarea in Cappadocia, opened the debate: 'There is no question of going over Ignatius’ case again, since he was deposed for flagrant offences’, said the bishop, but he added: ‘In order, however, to honour the Holy Roman Church and the Holy Father Nicholas in the person of his representatives, we are willing to allow a second examination of the problems that concern him.’ ‘The sentence against Ignatius’, said the spokesman of the Byzantine Church, ‘was passed by a synod. As far as our Church is concerned, the case is therefore closed and has not to be considered again. But to do homage to St Peter and to the Holy Oecumenical Father Nicholas, we all agree to his case being reconsidered and tried again.’


It appears that Ignatius, who had been taken to Constantinople,



1. Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne), vol. II, p. 180.


2. J. Haller, Nikolaus I und Pseudo-Isidor, p. 23.


3. Wolf von Glanvell, loc. cit. pp. 603-10.





tried to hand in a memorial at the opening of the synod, for Theognostos, in his Libellus, writes in the name of Ignatius: [1] ‘We presented to the bishops through the good offices of the priest Laurentius and the two Stephens, one of whom was a sub-deacon and the other a layman, a memorial in the form of a letter, adjuring them to place it in the hands of your Holiness; but they did not do so.’ Now this passage has been wrongly interpreted. It has been the fashion to infer that after the Council of 859 the fallen Patriarch tried to lodge with the Pope a complaint against Photius, the three persons named having sworn to transmit the document but broken their oath. This interpretation, which is accepted by Hergenröther, [2] is completely mistaken and was prompted by the Latin translation of Raderus—another instance of his unreliability. Theognostos’ account shows that the three persons concerned discharged certain duties at the Council and were also responsible for preparing the necessary documents for the trial. Ignatius, or rather, some of his partisans—perhaps Theognostos himself, as he is the only one to mention the incident—tried to approach them and through their intermediary to send to the bishops and the papal legates a memorial of the Ignatian party. Theognostos naturally presents the incident in such a way as to create in the mind of the Pope the impression that Ignatius had appealed to the Holy See before the Council. Further on, Theognostos writes in Ignatius’ name: ‘When we were invited to appear before a tribunal worthy of Caiphas, we implored them to let us be judged by Your Holiness, but none would listen to us.’ Had Theognostos, after this outburst, omitted to mention the three persons already identified, it would have been harder to detect his motive, but he showed his hand too clearly.


It seems, indeed, evident from the context that Ignatius never made any such declaration. Theognostos only interprets in that sense the attempt to present a memorial to the legates and through them to the bishops of the synod and to the Pope. We repeat that the memorial, on the face of it, had been drawn up not by Ignatius, but by Theognostos and his friends; and it failed to reach its destination—the legates, the Fathers of the Council and the Pope—because the secretaries of the synod, the priest Laurentius and the two Stephens,



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 296. This is the Greek text: αἱ δὲ παρ’ ἡμῶν δοθεῖσαι τοῖς ἐπισκόποις ἔγγραφοι πίστεις, ἤγουν ἐπιστολαί, διὰ τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου Λαυρέντιου καὶ τῶν δύο Στεφάνων, τοῦ τε ὑποδιακόνου καὶ τοῦ λαϊκοῦ, οὓς καὶ ἐνωρκώσαμεν τοῖς χερσὶ τῆς σῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτὰς ἀποδοθῆναι, ἄπρατοι μεμνήκασιν.


2. Photius, vol. I, p. 422: ‘dieselben die ihm ihr eidliches Versprechen, seine frühere Klagschrift nach Rom zu bringen, gebrochen hatten.’





refused to oblige Theognostos and his friends by acting as their messengers.


If we are to believe Theognostos and Nicetas, [1] Ignatius would have asked the Council in what apparel he was to appear before his judges: in a monk’s garb, being condemned, or in pontificals, being merely accused. The choice being left to him, Ignatius left the Posis palace, where he had taken up his residence, to go to the church of the Apostles, where the Council was holding its sittings; he made the journey ‘in great pomp’, clad in pontificals and surrounded by an endless cortege of his partisans. On reaching the church of St Gregory of Nazianzus, the procession was stopped by the Patrician John Coxes, who in the Emperor’s name ordered Ignatius to present himself alone and in monastic garb. The three secretaries of the Council then angrily upbraided him for having put on ‘the sacred stole’.


It is easy to surmise from this story what really happened. Quick to seize their opportunity for a noisy anti-government display, the Extremists made Ignatius don his patriarchal robes and mobilized all available forces to escort the Patriarch to the Council. One can imagine this cortège parading through the streets of Constantinople and raising a riot, but is it surprising that the imperial police should have stepped in? Ignatius’ appearance in episcopal regalia might have been overlooked, but who would have tolerated such an exhibition and given the Extremists the chance to use the occasion for making trouble among the populace? In any case this incident proves what an important concession to the Pope Ignatius’ re-trial really was, in view of its political and religious implications.


The details just mentioned are not of course reported in the extract from the Acts already referred to ; nor does one find there any confirmation for Theognostos’ statements on the Emperor’s attitude towards Ignatius before the Council. One can understand, however, that Michael was not profuse in his praise for the old Patriarch’s behaviour, and Theognostos makes it sufficiently clear that the unexpected Ignatian demonstration had created a certain sensation in Byzantium by reason of its anti-government sting. The extract from the first session of the Council also lends colour to another statement by Theognostos to the effect that Ignatius, after greeting the legates, demanded the return of his see, for we read that Ignatius, fully conscious of his dignity, insisted on his being the Patriarch, successor of the Apostles St John and St Andrew, implying thereby that Constantinople was an apostolic see



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 296; P.G. vol. 105, col. 517.





on a level with Rome, and he worded his request to the legates in a most resolute manner: ‘If you are genuine judges, you must return my see. That is how you should judge.’


The minutes of the first session summarize the main charges brought against Ignatius, mainly his failure to reply to a request from Pope Benedict III to send to Rome information concerning the Asbestas case. Ignatius explained that he had been dethroned only a few days after receipt of the papal letter, [1] and therefore had not had the time to reply. This charge must have come from the legates, as it was mainly their business to see that the Holy See’s authority was respected.


The second charge was formulated by the Protospathar John: ‘It is a custom with us, as it is also with you, I believe, that after a Patriarch’s death, the Emperor summons all the bishops, priests, abbots and deacons, saying: Go and choose the successor God will suggest to you and bring me your decision. They thereupon withdraw to deliberate. They then announce to the Emperor the candidate they have elected and the Emperor gives his consent to the consecration. That is how they receive him.’ In other words, John raised the issue of Ignatius’ elevation and argued from the fact that he had not been elected by a synod, but simply nominated by the Empress Theodora. To this Ignatius replied: ‘My lord and father Tarasius himself was raised [to the throne] by a woman.’ The Emperor here interjected: ‘You should not say that he was raised by a woman, but that the lord Methodius and the lord Tarasius were appointed under a woman’s rule’, the Emperor hereby confirming the fact that the Patriarchs Methodius and Tarasius had been canonically elected.


All this is omitted by the monk Theognostos, who instead inserts the passage already quoted and dilates * on the renewed efforts by imperial officials to induce Ignatius to abdicate again; there is nothing to justify the repudiation of this passage, since the mere omission of the incident from the Acts is not enough to invalidate it. A formal declaration by Ignatius would have simplified matters considerably, making the re-trial claimed by Nicholas no longer necessary, and gracefully extricating the Emperor and the Patriarch from an entanglement that was both unpleasant and liable to impede the future development of the Byzantine Church. However that may be, Ignatius’ attitude made it clear that he had gone back on his abdication and had therefore come under the control of the Extremists.



1. See p. 29.            2. P. 80.





The second session of the Council received from Theognostos but scant notice, the abbot being content to recall Ignatius’ refusal to appear before the Council, to which he had again been summoned by Laurentius and the two Stephens, members of the Board. The exPatriarch is alleged to have declared that he could not acknowledge as judges men in collusion with the intruder Photius, who ate with him and accepted his rich presents: ‘I do not accept that sort of judge. I appeal to the Pope: to his judgement I will willingly submit.’


The minutes of this second session, brief as they are, contain several important particulars. Ignatius’ contumacy, for one thing, is confirmed. After taking cognizance of the fact at the opening of the meeting, the legates reassert their intention to revise Ignatius’ trial as representatives of the Pope and on the strength of the decisions of Sardica, which give the bishop of Rome the right to re-try any bishop. To this the bishop of Laodicea replied in the name of the Byzantine Church: ’Our own Church only rejoices at this; she neither opposes nor deplores it.’ He then expressed regret that Ignatius should have scorned the legates’ two invitations. Apocrisiaries proposed to send him a third summons, after which, should he persist in his contumacy, proceedings would be taken against him in accordance with canonical law. Amphilochus, bishop of Cyzicus, suggested that the third summons should be served that very day, as had been done in the case of Dioscorus at the Council of Chalcedon; but the legates expressed the wish to follow Roman, and not Byzantine procedure. The summons was worded deferentially, but firmly: it contained a protest against Ignatius’ request to see the legates taking the preliminary oath: Ignatius forgets, they said, that he is dealing with the representatives of the Roman See. It appears that certain bishops registered surprise at the courtesy shown by the legates to the ex-Patriarch, whose pretensions must have been offensive to them ; but the papal legates replied that they had indeed no intention of trying Ignatius for any offences that were merely personal, but for the transgressions he had committed against the Church. Their gentleness was not relished by the Fathers, since the bishop of Laodicea declared:4 Our Church has different customs from yours; but our saintly Emperor submits to your will.’ The apocrisiaries then cut short further criticism by this emphatic declaration: ’We have no wish to follow our own customs in this trial, but the canonical authority and the constitution of the Roman Church.’ It would be superfluous to stress further the importance of this session as a witness to Byzantine feelings at that time on the supremacy of the See of Rome.





One can only regret that it has been ignored to this day, shifted into the background by Theognostos’ doubtful account.


The third session, which was held after Easter, again saw the Emperor in the chair, assisted by Bardas. After the first formalities of the protocol and notice having been given of Ignatius’ refusal to appear, the exPatriarch was introduced to the assembly, having come under police escort by order of the Emperor. Ignatius persisted in repudiating the legates’ competence and opened the debate by a startling declaration: ‘Ego non appellavi Romam, nec appello. Quid vultis judicare?’ He then asked whether the legates had brought a pontifical letter addressed to him, and the legates answered No. There followed an interesting and lively skirmish. To a question by Ignatius asking who were the judges, the legates replied: ‘It is we and the Holy Synod who are the judges’, and on his retorting: ‘If you had brought me a letter, I would have acknowledged you’, the Emperor intervened urging him to accept and acknowledge the judges accredited by his Imperial Majesty and by the whole Church. The Protospathar John then reminded Ignatius that his refusal was at variance with his own attitude towards Benedict III, to whom he had sent the monk Lazarus with a request to ratify the sentence passed on Asbestas. But in vain did the legates, the Emperor and Bardas insist: all their protestations that they willingly acknowledged the legates as legitimate judges only drew from him ironical retorts on their ability to bring about a change in his position.


The final sentence was passed at the fourth session. The case of Asbestas and his group came up first for settlement, and when Zachary, the principal witness, had reviewed the facts again, the legates annulled the judgement given by Ignatius. Next came the question of the legitimacy of Ignatius’ elevation to patriarchal honours, and evidence was called to prove that he had not been canonically elected. The legates, on the strength of St Sylvester’s prescription, insisted on the sworn evidence of seventy-two witnesses; and though the oriental Church was usually content with ten even in the case of a bishop’s trial, [1] the synod deferred to their wishes. But another difficulty arose. Most of the competent witnesses were either patricians or senators, and contrary to usage in Byzantine law, the legates wished them to take the oath. Thus the special consent was required of Bardas, who in the Emperor’s name authorized the high officials mentioned to take the oath; this Ignatius himself was called upon to administer. The legates then ratified the



1. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. I, p. 426, n. 38, on the different practices in the two Churches.





sentence of deposition and the sub-deacon Procopius divested the ex-Patriarch of the insignia of his dignity.


Theognostos inserts between the two last sessions a passage of which no trace can be found in the Acts. According to his version, Ignatius, harking back to the past, claimed that the text be read of the decision by Innocent, ordering that John Chrysostom, before being judged, should be restored to his See; as also the fourth canon of the Council of Sardica, forbidding the appointment of a successor to a bishop on whom sentence had been passed, but not yet ratified by Rome. Ignatius is also alleged to have protested against the procedure of his summons before the Council and against the selection of witnesses:


Who are those people? Who can believe them? What canon lays it down that the Emperor should produce witnesses? And if I am not archbishop, you yourself are not the Emperor, these are not bishops, and no more is the adulterer [Photius], for you have all been created such by my hands and my unworthy prayers. Had the adulterer belonged to the Church, I would willingly have come to an understanding with him, but since he is an outsider, how could I make him a pastor of Christ’s sheep ? And there are many things against it: first, the fact that he is numbered among the damned and the excommunicated, a penalty imposed on them [Asbestas’ friends] not only by me, but also by the other Patriarchs, nay, even by your own authority. For the unworthy Zachary notified to them that they had no power to exercise any liturgical functions, to communicate or to ordain, until they were released from the ban: but they did exactly the reverse. The second reason is that he was a State official and a layman, being made a pastor before he was a sheep. On top of all this, he was ordained by one who had been deposed and excommunicated.



Theognostos then makes Ignatius repeat how Photius had broken the promise he made to the bishops to respect him, and snatched the signed document from their hands, adding that Ignatius was again urged to resign and that the Metropolitan of Ancyra, who took the ex-Patriarch’s defence too energetically, was struck with a sword ‘by the barbarian’. [1] Other friends of Ignatius were similarly ill-treated, so



1. Raderus (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 299) translates the word βάρβαρος by ‘nefario ipso parricida’, meaning Photius. The translation is worse than inaccurate. But Theognostos also runs riot in his statements; for instance, when in another place he described the ill-treatment received by the Metropolitan of Cyzicus at the meeting. The man who mishandled him must have been an official or a member of the constabulary. Photius, of course, carried no sword and was only present at the last session, if at all; yet it is none other than Photius whom Theognostos tries to incriminate as the author of the ill-treatment he reports.





it is alleged, and after ten days Ignatius was at last tried and condemned.


Is it really true that all this occurred at the last session but one? It is hard to say. We are inclined to believe that Theognostos rather dramatizes his own ideas about the trial, his own arguments and those of his friends on the Council’s methods of procedure. But he forgets that his first two arguments, had they ever been actually used, would have received short shrift at the hands of the Fathers; for Ignatius had not observed the fourth canon of the Sardica Council when he appointed a successor to Gregory before his case had come up for trial in Rome. As to Pope Innocent’s decision, the Fathers could have answered that the cases of Ignatius and of John Chrysostom were not on all fours : Ignatius had actually resigned and was not deposed until ecclesiastics in revolt against his successor had recalled him to the patriarchal throne again ; also because, being requested to put a stop to this agitation, he declined to do so, thereby tacitly agreeing to his second nomination.


The canonist who drew up the extract from the Acts of the synod would probably have been far too interested in that controversy not to record it in his text, had it ever taken place. [1] It looks therefore—to repeat it once more—as though Theognostos had been summarizing various incidents bearing on Ignatius’ case, but not strictly relevant to the debates of the Council.


Such seems to be the most probable reconstruction of the principal phases of the Council of 861 ; but it must be remembered that what was said in the course of the second period of the debates on dogmatic and disciplinary problems still remains a secret.



One point of exceptional interest remains to be cleared up: did Ignatius, after deposition by legates and Council, appeal to the Pope? Theognostos affirms it, since it is in Ignatius’ own name that he addresses his Libellus to the Pope; but we have seen how, in order to make us believe that his hero had appealed to Rome immediately after the synods of 859, he confused his own arguments; furthermore, the Acts of the synod emphatically contradict his statements, since the ex-Patriarch exclaimed at the third session: ‘Ego non appellavi Romam, nec appello.’ If then Theognostos intended to deceive us with that first appeal, who is going to believe his allegations on a ‘second’ appeal?



1. See pp. 303 seq.? 324 seq. on the character and the purpose of the Collection that has preserved this valuable document.





First, it should be made clear that Ignatius does not seem to have been an expert at canon law. His faux pas at the beginning of his tenure in sending a pallium to the Pope already proves it; and his overt opposition in Asbestas’ case to the fourth canon of the Council of Sardica confirms it. We also note that he did not seem to take the appeal addressed to Rome by Asbestas very seriously; that at the Council of 861 he persistently refused to acknowledge the legates’ competence and addressed them in terms bordering on arrogance; that he did not appear before the Fathers till well after the third summons served on him by the representatives of Rome, and then, apparently, only because he was compelled by the imperial police. And yet, there was no justification for his refusal, even when he learned that the legates had received no powers from the Pope to pass a final sentence, since both the inquiry and the examination in the presence of the Emperor and of the Fathers had been ordered by the Pope. This persistent disregard of canonical rules by the pious ascetic, and especially his attitude towards the legates, do not seem to lend support to the theory of an appeal to the Holy See.


Is it not then surprising that after refusing to appear before the Council and to answer the legates’ cross-examination, Ignatius seems tamely to have submitted to their verdict? Yet the extract from the minutes of the last session indicates that the witnesses took the oath administered by him and that he offered no resistance when the sentence of degradation [1] was being carried out. Nor do we find the slightest hint to justify the supposition that Ignatius appealed to the Pope from the legates’ sentence. All this is, we must confess, not thoroughly convincing, since we cannot refer to the Acts in full, but only to an extract.


Fortunately, we can quote witnesses to belie Theognostos’ statements. First, Metrophanes, speaking of the monk’s mediation with the Pope in the Eternal City, credits him alone with the initiative: ‘Then the monk and archimandrite, Theognostos, driven by his zeal, disguised himself as a layman and secretly left for Rome to inform the Holy Father of what had taken place in connection with Ignatius.’ [2] Nicetas, [3] Ignatius’ keenest champion, says nothing about Theognostos’ attempt but attributes to Nicholas alone the responsibility for the legates’ condemnation.



1. Cf. the description of this scene in Nicetas Paphlago, P.G. vol. 105, col. 520.


2. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 429. Once more Raderus blunders in his translation: Ζήλῳ κινηθείς = Tei indignitate commotus’. It shows that his zeal often clouded his Greek.


3. Loc. cit. col. 525.





Now let us see how Ignatius reacted after his condemnation. According to Nicetas, [1] he was placed under very strict surveillance, but the account of the sufferings he is alleged to have endured at the hands of his gaolers is undoubtedly exaggerated. The same writer then states that the exPatriarch signed a declaration acknowledging that he had not been canonically elected and that he had set up ‘a tyrannical regime’, two confessions corresponding to the main charges against him at the Council of 861, i.e. his nomination by Theodora and his condemnation of the Asbestas group. According to Nicetas’ report, Ignatius was handed a blank sheet of paper and Theodore, one of the gaolers, took hold of the old man’s hand and scrawled the sign of the cross, Photius subsequently writing out the declaration. But what truth is there in this tale? Is Nicetas merely trying to disguise the fact, so unpalatable to extremist Ignatians, of the ex-Patriarch’s final submission to the Council’s decision, in consideration of which Ignatius was allowed to live at the Posis palace, once his mother’s property? Later, Nicetas tells us that Photius suggested to the Emperor to have Ignatius summoned to the church of the Apostles, there to listen to the public reading of his own declaration and to be anathematized. It was even proposed to blind him and to cut off one of his hands; his residence, so it is stated, was surrounded on Whit Sunday by a cordon of police, and Ignatius, seeing his life threatened, fled disguised as a servant and accompanied by his disciple Cyprian. This is just another story to be taken with caution, for the ‘hagiographer’ is certainly not saying everything. Considering the Ignatian radicals’ obstinacy in refusing to accept the ex-Patriarch’s spontaneous submission and in accusing Photius of forgery, would it not rather have occurred to the authorities to make Ignatius repeat his declaration before the Fathers of the Council? Fearing lest it should foil all their plans, the anti-Photianists perhaps advised Ignatius to fly and escape from the threat of losing his eyes. The fugitive hid in the Isles of Propontis until the August earthquake shook his shelter, [2] a shock that mollified the authorities towards Ignatius: alarmed by the divine punishment which their cruel persecution had called down on their heads, they decreed—according to Nicetas— that Ignatius could now return to Constantinople in peace, without any



1. Loc. cit. cols. 521-5.


2. It was at that time that Ignatius consecrated an altar on one ol the islands (Nicetas, P.G. vol. 105, cols. 529 seq.). According to Nicetas, the altar was deconsecrated by Photius’ envoy to signify that Ignatius had lost all jurisdiction by deposition and had acted ultra vires.





further fear of retaliation. The ex-Patriarch then left his hiding place and presented himself to the patrician Petronas, who took him to Bardas. ‘Deeply affected by the man’s virtue,’ says Nicetas, ‘Bardas let him return to his monastery, a free and innocent man.’ [1]


Does Ignatius’ panegyrist not bear out the fact that Bardas and the government were convinced in the end of Ignatius’ innocence in his over-zealous partisans’ recent intrigues? Would they not have acted differently, if the ex-Patriarch had legally appealed to Rome? Would his withdrawal to a monastery not have spelled danger? And would Bardas have been so lenient, if Ignatius had persisted in his opposition? All these questions, in my view, can only be answered in the negative, all the probabilities converging on the one conclusion, that Ignatius finally submitted to his fate and did not appeal to Rome. [2]



There only remains to explain, and form an estimate on, the legates’ conduct in the proceedings of the Council. It seems absolutely certain that by passing sentence on Ignatius in the Pope’s name they exceeded the limits of their powers, since the Pope, as we have seen, had in so many words reserved the right to himself. On the other hand, the criticism often raised that they overstepped their mandate by summoning Ignatius before the Council is unjustifiable, since the inquiry by the Fathers had been ordered by Nicholas I. The Emperor Michael, in his reply to the Pope, also corroborates the fact that the legates were quite conscious of exceeding the limits set to their activities by Nicholas, as it was with the greatest reluctance that they were induced to go beyond their warrant. [3]


Photius’ enemies have pretended that violence and corruption account for the result; but why should the Byzantine government have resorted



1. Nicetas, P.G. vol. 105, col. 525. At one place in his ‘biography’ of Ignatius Nicetas reveals the true culprit in all the persecutions against Ignatius, namely, Bardas, not Photius. In relating a dream Bardas had before dying, he represents St Peter inviting Ignatius to point out the man responsible for all his misfortunes and the ex-Patriarch singled out Bardas (ibid. col. 536). Here Nicetas unwittingly tells the truth and by the same token shows that all the unpleasant measures taken against Ignatius had politics as their inspiration.


2. This is confirmed by Nicetas’ report that Bardas examined, and found no truth in, the statement made by the impostor Eustratius to the effect that he had received from Ignatius a letter addressed by him to the Pope who had refused to receive it, whilst sending a friendly letter to Photius. Nicetas (P.G. vol. 105, cols. 528 seq.) pretended that the two letters had been forged by Photius; yet he admitted that Bardas looked into the allegation and found no truth in it.


3. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 514 (letter from Nicholas to Michael, 13 November 866).





to force, when it was its obvious wish to bring the legates round to its own designs by persuasion? As to the reproach of corruption, one needs to be cautious : Radoald and Zachary were very capable bishops, whom the Pope used to honour with particularly delicate missions; and to think that the Pontiff numbered among his trusted agents men accessible to venality would be casting an unwarranted slur on the Roman clergy and on the pontifical court of that period. Even when he came to disapprove his legates’ conduct, Nicholas never went so far as to accuse them of being open to arguments so alien to morality. Motives for their attitude should be looked for elsewhere.


The legates were intelligent enough to realize that conditions in Byzantium were somewhat different from what was thought in Rome; that the anti-Photianist opposition was not so formidable and that its members were not as harmless and innocent as they claimed to be. They could not but be aware of the immense significance of a Patriarch of Constantinople being condemned and deposed by the representatives of the Holy See. Whatever we may think of their statesmanship, one thing is certain : Radoald and Zachary were excellent canonists, [1] and knew enough about the religious policy of Nicholas I to anticipate that the negotiations, of which they were the instruments, would meet their master’s deepest desire, and that the Pope, who had succeeded in imposing his authority on the Western bishops and had stifled the dreams of independence of the Frankish Church, the most powerful Church in the West, would appraise their initiative at its true value. They also knew that the Pope never liked to leave important decisions to his representatives, and that in the particular instance of Ignatius he had jealously reserved the verdict to himself. This was why they withstood so long the request of the Emperor, who consented to the resumption of the Council meetings only on condition that the issue should be definitely settled on the spot. Their reluctance displeased him; and they knew it; and they were made to understand that if they refused to yield he would drop all idea of a Council, in which case Nicholas would have lost his chance of having a say in Ignatius’ case. Faced with this alternative, which seemed to them fundamental, they decided to go ahead, expert canonists as they were, and to exchange the humble part of inquirers for the role of judges. Thanks to them, the Church of Constantinople fully and freely, one may say for the first time, acknowledged the Roman Pontiff’s right to try a Byzantine Patriarch.



1. Cf. E. Perels, Papst Nikolaus I und Anastasius Bibliothecarius (Berlin, 1920), pp. 209 seq.





Two other instances of this exercise of supremacy can be found back in the sixth century, [1] although the circumstances were entirely different: Pope Agapet’s intervention against the Patriarch Anthimius (535) was prompted not by disciplinary, but by dogmatic motives, the defendant having lent his support to the Emperor Zeno’s Henotikon; while the liquidation by Pope Hormisdas of Acacius’ schism (519) centred mainly on a doctrinal issue. In the case of Ignatius and the Council of 861, the issue was purely disciplinary, in no way touching on doctrine, and the Byzantine Church, by allowing Ignatius to be tried by the Pope’s representatives, granted to the See of Rome more than a mere right of appeal, since, as we have seen, the ex-Patriarch had lodged no appeal with the Holy See.


Such an achievement was worth a few concessions, and Radoald and Zachary made them in the hope that the Pope would be only too thankful for it. Obviously, Nicholas’ letter to the Emperor could not be read at the Council meeting in its original form and it was modified, the passage relating to the reservation of the final verdict being suppressed. A similar incident had occurred at the Seventh Council: having been sent to Constantinople by Hadrian I merely to inquire into the necessity for, and the convocation procedure of, an oecumenical council (the decision of summoning or not summoning it having been reserved to the Pope), [2] the legates eventually decided to take part, as papal representatives, in the Council summoned by Irene, and as the Pope’s letters could not be read as they stood to the Fathers, their terms were altered to suit the occasion, without any results unpleasant to the legates. In the light of this precedent, coupled with the fact that Radoald and Zachary brought to the Pope the submission of the Byzantine Church to his judgement, the legates’ ‘perversion’ should be much less of an unpardonable sin. [3]



1. Cf. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttums (Tübingen, 1933), vol. ii, pp. 153 seq., 221 seq. J. Haller, Das Papsttum (Stuttgart, 1934), vol. i, pp. 232 seq., 245 seq.


2. See the letter from Hadrian I to Constantine and Irene, in Baronius, Annales Ecclesiastici, a. 785, para. 37. Jaffé-Ewald, nos. 2448, 2449. Cf. J. Haller, Das Papsttum, pp. 5 seq.


3. Cf. J. Haller, Nikolaus I und Pseudo-Isidor (Stuttgart, 1936), pp. 27 seq.








Radoald and Zachary return to Rome—Nicholas’ policy and letters to the Emperor and the Patriarch—Theognostos and the Roman Synod of 863—Byzantine reaction in Bulgaria and its development in Rome—Nicholas’ fatal reply—Was the breach permanent?—Reaction in Byzantium—Boris’ volte-face; his influence on the growth of the conflict—The Byzantine Synod of 867—Did Photius challenge the Roman primacy?



On reaching Rome, the legates explained to the Pope the reasons why they had taken it upon themselves to exceed their mandate, and the Pope could not but see the important advantage the Holy See had secured over the most powerful patriarchate in the East. Everything points to the fact that, at least on principle, he approved all that the legates had done in Constantinople. This is proved by the way he dealt with them; for Radoald of Porto was actually entrusted towards the end of November 862 with an important mission to the Frankish court.1 The Pope would certainly not have sent Radoald on this new embassy, had he not been pleased with his last mission to Constantinople. As for Zachary, he quietly and honourably resumed his duties at the pontifical court.


In one particular matter, however, the mission of Radoald and Zachary had failed completely. The Pope had commissioned them to claim the return of the patrimonies of Sicily and Calabria and of Illyricum to the direct jurisdiction of the Roman See. In this the legates were unable to give the Pope any satisfaction, nor did the proposals seem to have come up for discussion at the Council. None the less, the fact that the Byzantine Church and the Emperor had accepted the papal legates’ verdict suggested that the prestige of the See of Rome was very considerable in Byzantium. Was there then no hope that the Byzantines would ever yield on this particular point? But the Pope still possessed, should the need ever arise, a powerful weapon at his disposal. If it was true that the Patriarch Ignatius had been tried and condemned by the legates in the Pope’s name, it was no less true that the new Patriarch had not yet been officially acknowledged by the See of Rome as the legitimate successor.



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 268-70. The letter is dated 23 November 862.





The letter sent to the Pope by Photius after the Council seemed to raise and encourage such hopes, for it was couched in very deferential terms, as though Photius had been aware that the Pope had not yet fully entered into communion with him. Hence the efforts in his letter to meet all the objections which the Pope had previously raised against the legitimacy of his elevation. After repeating what he had said in his previous letter, he insisted that he had been forced to accept a dignity which in no way appealed to him; he also tried to justify his rapid promotion from the laity to the patriarchate, since the Church of Constantinople, he said, had not accepted the canon of Sardica quoted by the Pope in his letter to Michael III, [1] prohibiting such rapid rise of laymen to ecclesiastical dignities. [2] But to meet the Pope’s wishes, Photius had a canon voted by the Fathers of the last synod putting an end in the Church of Constantinople to a practice at variance with Roman usage; he went on to quote several instances to the Pope of the canonical prescriptions being disregarded and ended by requesting him not to listen to calumnies from people reaching Rome from Constantinople without any letters of recommendation from the ecclesiastical authorities. [3]


The contents of this letter seemed to the Pope to be encouraging, for



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 435 seq.


2. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. I, pp. 445, 541 holds that this assertion by Photius is ‘eine offenbare Lüge’. Rosseikin, Pervoe Patriarshestvo Patriarkha Fotiya, pp. 156 seq. tries to reconcile the Pope’s and the Patriarch’s contradictory statements. But the matter seems quite simple. Photius was justified in saying that the Church of Constantinople had not accepted the Pope’s decretals quoted in Nicholas’ letter to Michael ; and as to the canons of Sardica, Photius never pretended that his Church did not know them. All he implied was the tenth canon, quoted by the Pope, which, although contained in the canonical Collections with the other canons of Sardica (cf. V. Beneshevich, ‘ Joannis Scholastici Synagoga L titulorum’, in Ahh. bayr. Akad., Phil.-Hist. Kl., 1937, p. 48), had not been carried into practice by the Church of Constantinople, as evidenced by the appointments of Tarasius and Nicephorus. It was to remedy this defect that Photius had had a special canon voted. Cf. on this point J. Langen, Geschichte der Römischen Kirche (Bonn, 1893), vol. iii, p. 19: ‘Es ist nicht auffallend, das Nikolaus dem Konzil von Sardica eine solche Bedeutung einräumt, da man im Abendlande seine Kanones mit denen des nicänischen bald verbunden hatte, und es oft genug für oekumenisch erklärte. Thatsächlich aber war es nur ein abendländisches Generalkonzil gewesen, und seine Kanones im Orient nicht recipiert. Die Decretalen der Päpste waren aber im Orient nur zum Theil bekannt, und galten nur insoweit, als ihr Inhalt sich an den anerkannten Glaubensquellen, Schrift, Tradition und oekumenische Koncilien bewährte. Die römische und orientalische Anschauung trafen hier gleich hart auf einander.’


3. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 593-617. See the analysis of this letter in Hergenröther, Photius, vol. I, pp. 439-60 and in Rosseikin, loc. cit. pp. 151-71.





he saw clearly that the new Patriarch was very keen on recognition by the See of Rome as the legitimate incumbent. This was important, making it worth his while to look about for a counterpoise equivalent in the scales of pontifical politics to the Patriarch’s desire, and there was no better test than the return of Illyricum to the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. There was in Photius’ letter a passage which seemed to justify the attempt. [1] There the Patriarch stated that he would have been only too willing to meet the Pope’s demands, had the Emperor not vetoed some of the concessions, so that the Patriarch and the legates had to give way for fear of worse risks. In these words Photius evidently hinted at the Pope’s demand that Illyricum should become Roman again, and the Pope naturally concluded that the Patriarch had on principle no objection to the request.



The Pope immediately proceeded to action. Leo, the imperial ambassador, had reached Rome after the legates; he was armed with a letter from the Emperor and with the Acts of the Council and was charged to supply the Pope with full information. But as pourparlers with the imperial ambassador dragged on, it gradually dawned on the Pope that an important concession such as he was scheming could hardly be extracted from the Emperor; all that the Pope’s tenacity achieved was to make Leo miss the last boat to Constantinople and to force him to spend the winter in Rome, but without making the slightest impression on his firm determination to obey his master’s instructions. No arrangement that could please Nicholas was in sight.


Anyone familiar with Nicholas’ ecclesiastical policy will understand why the Pope was so anxious to reach a satisfactory solution of his problem. The stake was first of all a young and vigorous nation which occupied a part of ancient Illyricum—the Bulgarians. [2] They were still pagans, but their conversion to Christianity was only a matter of time. Had Nicholas’ plans succeeded, the papacy would have registered a twofold success: first it would have secured, through the medium of the Bulgarians, won over to Roman Christianity and occupying, so to speak, the very threshold of Constantinople, an indirect influence over the Byzantine Church; and second, the Roman missionaries would then have been in a favourable position to elbow out of those countries the



1. P.G. vol. 102, col. 613.


2. For further details, see my study on Illyricum in my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 248-83.





Frankish missionaries, whose activities extended to the whole periphery of the Frankish Empire as far as Croatia and Bulgaria to the south and Pannonia, Moravia and Bohemia to the east and north-east. For it was not in the interest of the papacy, as conceived by Nicholas, that the Frankish Church should grow too powerful and extend its direct influence over these new nations. Such was the reason, as I have explained in a previous work, why Nicholas was so keenly interested in the young nations that sprang up round the Frankish Empire, and this policy, which inspired the acts of the pontificate of this great Pope, will help us to understand better Nicholas’ dealings with Photius and his rival Ignatius.


The firmness with which the imperial ambassador Leo met the Pope’s overtures in this matter should, however, have made Nicholas realize that he was treading on dangerous ground. It was not only the Franks and the papacy, but the Byzantines as well who had their hearts set on Bulgaria, with this difference, that whereas the Bulgarian problem was for the Franks and for Rome only a matter of prestige, it was for the Byzantines a matter of life and death, for Byzantium could not possibly permit another power, whether political or cultural, to settle at its very doors.


His failure with Leo did not damp Nicholas’ hopes, and he tried his counterpoise theory in the expectation that the desire of Photius to obtain the Pope’s acknowledgement would be keen enough to justify the cost. The ambassador left with two letters, dated 18 March 862, addressed to the Emperor and to Photius, both containing the Pope’s refusal to acquiesce in the new conditions in Byzantium, and pleading the Roman primacy, which obliged him to ensure the observation of canonical laws throughout the Church. In both letters Nicholas refutes the arguments of the Emperor and Photius in support of a layman’s promotion to ecclesiastical dignities even in cases of urgent necessity and protests against the reading of his letters to the Fathers in a bowdlerized version. In his letter to Photius, the Pope complains that his legates had not been treated with courtesy and insists repeatedly that they had no right to pass sentence on Ignatius.


The tone of his letter to Michael is very courteous, as though the Pope were trying to give the Emperor the impression that he had no wish to sever relations with him; but Nicholas makes it clearer in his letter to Photius that his verdict should not be considered as final. After expressing doubts concerning the truth of Photius’ statement that he





had felt no inclination to accept the patriarchal dignity, [1] the Pope proceeds :


We do not number Ignatius among the deposed, and as long as we are not in a position to ascertain, in all truth, his offence and his guilt, we refuse to pass sentence of condemnation ; for we must beware lest an innocent man be condemned on false pretences. As the Roman Church maintains him in his dignity, if no accusation against him is substantiated, so also she refuses to admit you to patriarchal honours, as you have come by them in reckless defiance of the traditions of the Fathers ; nor will she consent to your retaining your priestly functions unless and until the Patriarch Ignatius be justly condemned.



Now it is easy to read between the lines of this letter that the Pope left open the possibility of his confirming the sentence passed on Ignatius by his legates, since all he maintains is that the evidence produced in support of the condemnation did not seem to him adequate. He does not, of course, mention the price Byzantium would have to pay for a new revision of this sorry business; but Leo had stayed in Rome long enough to fathom the secrets of Nicholas’ policy; and he had opportunities enough, during those long winter months, of sounding the Pope’s canonists and officials to acquaint his imperial master and Photius with what lay behind an apparently definite refusal. And in order to lend his words more weight and a more menacing significance, Nicholas at the same time announced his decision to the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. [2]


But if the Pope imagined that these dignitaries would ever be able to influence Michael and Photius and induce them to yield to the See of Rome, he made a great mistake. Those poor oriental Patriarchs were far too dependent on imperial good will and bounty ever to indulge in



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 450. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. I, p. 441 goes too far in casting doubts on the sincerity of the Patriarch’s statement that he had accepted the patriarchate against his will: he calls it ‘die alte Lüge’. And yet, it is one of the most moving passages in the letter (P.G. vol. 102, col. 597). Scholars who have a love for learning and know how to be absorbed in its deepest secrets, will read with emotion what the old professor of the Byzantine ‘ University’ has to say about his studies and his students. They alone will understand the feelings of regret and bitterness Photius experienced, when harking back to those peaceful years of study which he had to give up for ever. Instead of an idyllic life, devoted to study and teaching, he finds himself swallowed up in public life and dragged into political party conflicts for which he professed nothing but contempt. Did Hergenröther never experience the feelings of a scholar wrested from his studies by occupations that have nothing to offer in common with scholarship ?


2. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 440-2.





activities that might inconvenience their more fortunate and more powerful confrère of the Imperial City; and if the Pope entrusted those letters to Leo’s diplomatic bag he gave evidence of greater naïveté still. It is not likely that the successor of St Peter’s refusal to acknowledge Ignatius’ successor ever reached those Eastern Patriarchs’ ears.



In vain did Nicholas await a reply to his demand: Michael and Photius remained dumb, which, to put it frankly, was the only possible thing for them to do. Unable to pay the price the Pope expected for a new revision of the Photian and Ignatian cases, their most discreet policy was to wait till the Pope changed his mind rather than start a quarrel which would have gravely compromised the good relations between the two Churches.


But the Pope kept on hoping that his letters would produce the desired effect on the Byzantines, whilst the legates Radoald and Zachary continued to enjoy his favours. Radoald received, on his mission to the Frankish court, new instructions from the Pope as late as the month of April, 863: but the imperial embassy did not make its appearance. Instead of the ambassadors, other people came to Rome, namely, the so-called champions of Ignatius, the principal mischief-makers in all the troubles that had divided the Byzantine Church. The most prominent among them were the abbot Theognostos and his followers, all trying to draw the Pope to their side. Though none of them had letters of recommendation from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicholas gladly welcomed all these refugees, listening to their complaints and their views on the position. Theognostos came forward as Ignatius’ spokesman, though I have already said that the ex-Patriarch had not appealed to the Pope and had given no one a mandate to act in his name; but being one of the Ignatian leaders, Theognostos considered himself entitled to do so.


It is hard to say when Theognostos arrived in Rome; only one thing is certain: it was after the ambassador Leo’s departure. It would be interesting to know whether it was in the course of the year 862 or at the beginning of 863, but notwithstanding the vigilance of the imperial police, he certainly did his utmost to be in Rome at the earliest possible date.


If Theognostos arrived in Rome in 862, it is important to observe that he failed to induce the Pope to adopt his point of view, for it must in that case have taken him a full year to decide on the resolute step in





favour of Ignatius, which he actually took, as we know, at the Roman synod of 863.


The exact date of this meeting is not given in the Pope’s letter about the synod. [1] As it is said there that after first meeting in the church of St Peter the assembly transferred its sittings to the church of the Saviour, ‘propter frigidiorem locum’, it has been assumed that the synod took place in the spring of that year, Baronius and Hergenröther dating it in the month of April. Yet the text seems rather to indicate that the venue of the meeting was altered on account, not of the cold, but of the heat. Hence J. Haller [2] is right in dating the convocation of the synod in the month of August, a time of the year when the heat in Rome is wellnigh intolerable.


The timing is important, for it proves that Nicholas waited till the last possible moment for the arrival of an embassy from Constantinople armed with full powers to negotiate the Photius affair and the restitution of Illyricum to the Roman See. Balked in his expectations, he then made up his mind to intensify the pressure, and the month of August was the most appropriate for the move. Assuming that sea communications between Italy and Byzantium would be practically suspended by the end of October, there was no likelihood of an imperial embassy arriving at such a late date in Rome: the envoys would have had little time for their negotiations and a winter stay in Rome was not particularly attractive. No embassy would be sent from Byzantium at that time of the year to find itself marooned in Rome till the reopening of sea traffic, i.e. till the month of March of the following year. On the other hand, if the Pope wished to dispatch the decision of the synod to Constantinople, he had little time to waste to enable his messengers to set out before the bad season started.


Of what took place at this synod we are well informed by the letter Nicholas sent on 13 November 866 to the the Eastern Patriarchs. [3] First were read the Acts of the Byzantine Council of 861 together with the letters of Michael and Photius. Then the legates’ procedure in Constantinople was examined. Zachary, questioned by the synod, confessed that he had exceeded his powers by holding communion with Photius



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 517: ’Tunc convocato multarum provinciarum Occidentalium regionum sanctissimorum episcoporum coetu et collecta sancta synodo in ecclesia Dei, in qua beatus Petrus apostolorum princeps redolet et virtutibus emicat, deinde propter frigidiorem locum in ecclesia Salvatoris, quae ab auctore appellatur Constantiniana’ (Church of the Lateran).


2. Loc. cit. pp. 32 seq.


3. M.G.H. Ep. vi, chiefly pp. 517-23.





and deposing Ignatius ; and for his pains was deprived of his episcopal dignity and excommunicated. The synod then voted six canons. The first declared that Photius, having been ordained by a bishop who was ’tied’ by the Holy See on account of his misdeeds against Ignatius, was stripped of all ecclesiastical dignity. He was also blamed for trying to bribe the papal legates. The second canon declared Gregory Asbestas to be deposed and excommunicated; and the clergy ordained by Photius were disqualified from all ecclesiastical functions (canon III). Canon IV restored in very solemn terms the patriarchal dignity to Ignatius. Bishops and clergy who had been victimized for their loyalty to Ignatius were to be immediately reinstated in their honours and functions (canon V). The last canon ratified the condemnation of John the Grammarian, the last leader of iconoclasm and its sectaries.


If we now compare these new decisions issued by Nicholas with the contents of his letters to Michael, Photius and the Eastern Patriarchs in 862, we note, indeed, an immense ‘progress’ in the Pope’s mental attitude towards Photius ; and it is also easy to guess who was responsible for this ‘progress’: none, of course, but Theognostos and his friends: and the Pope himself confessed as much, when he mentioned in the same letters the rumours brought to Rome by people coming from Constantinople. [1]


Let us specify the points in which Theognostos influenced the Pope. First in importance was Gregory Asbestas’ association with the Photian affair. Until then Nicholas had known little about him, or at any rate attached little importance to his case, since he mentions him nowhere. The legates’ decision annulling the condemnation of Gregory and his group had not been, up to that date, particularly questioned by the Pope, the only objection he raised being against the sentence on Ignatius and Photius. Yet, at the Roman synod, Asbestas’ case held the floor, no doubt as a result of the intervention of Theognostos and his friends.


A careful scrutiny of the Acts of the Roman synod discloses first of all the fact that the relations between Photius and the Asbestas group supplied the main grievances against Photius, who was blamed, for instance, for having communicated with ‘schismatics’, i.e. with Asbestas’ friends, even before his ordination, a detail of which the Pope had been completely unaware before Theognostos’ arrival in Rome. Photius was



1. Loc. cit. p. 517: ‘Sed procedente tempore murmur multorum ab illis partibus Romam venientium, quin immo persecutiones a fautoribus Photii commotas fugientium, sensim eosdem coepit episcopos muneribus fuisse corruptos diffamare et, quod communicassent Photio et deposuissent Ignatium, divulgare.’





also indicted for having been ordained by a deposed bishop and for having sentenced Ignatius with the assistance of deposed and anathematized bishops—again Asbestas’ group—and of bishops ‘without a see5, this last designation implying, no doubt, that the Pope—again at the instigation of Theognostos—did not acknowledge the promotions among the clergy made by Photius. Until the synod, the Pope had apparently no knowledge of any promise made by Photius to some Ignatiafi bishops or of his dealings with the outgoing Patriarch; yet, in the first canon of the Roman synod, the violation of this promise was listed among the main crimes laid at the ‘ intruder’s ’ door. The Pope also gave credence to Theognostos’ account of the ‘persecutions’ against the Ignatians. The fact that for the very first time he blamed his legates for having communicated with Photius [1] could only be due to reports carried by the Ignatian refugees to Rome, informing the Pope of particulars he did not know before, or rather, to which he had attached no importance.


For the first time, too, the Pope honoured Photius with the ‘uncomplimentary designations’ so dear to the Ignatians: the new Patriarch is now called a ‘rapax et scelestus adulter’, ‘adulter et pervasor’ (canon I of the synod), ‘neophytus et Constantinopolitanae sedis invasor’ (canon III), and ‘adulter, prevaricator, pervasor’ (canon IV), titles one can find on nearly every page of Ignatius’ Life, as written by NicetasDavid, and of the anti-Photianist Collection, of which mention will be made later.


Why, then, did Nicholas lend so much credit to the reports of Theognostos and his like? For we must remember that the Pope could easily control their statements by consulting either the Acts of the synod of 861, or the archives of his predecessors Leo IV and Benedict III (both Popes rather unfavourable to Ignatius), containing the documents of the Asbestas case and of his trial under Ignatius, or the letters of the Emperor and Photius; yet the Pope so disregarded these documents that he even indirectly accused the Emperor of telling lies. The Emperor had stated in his correspondence that Ignatius had resigned, and the R.oman synod emphatically states in its fourth canon: ‘Qui primo quidem imperiali violentia ac terrore trono privatus est.’ Nicholas even preferred to disown his own legates who until then had been his trusted agents. How is such extraordinary conduct to be explained?


We must remember what has been previously said about Nicholas’ policy:



1. Loc. cit. p. 515: ‘Denique et cum Photio adultero, ecclesiae invasore atque neophyto, quod sibi multipliciter prohibitum fuerat, inter sacrosancta mysteria communicaverunt.’





it did not take Theognostos and his associates long in Rome to discover the Pope’s dominant thoughts and the motives of his quarrel with the Emperor. Theognostos found the target to aim at and proceeded with methodical cunning. He first gave Nicholas a complete assurance of the Ignatians’ profound attachment to the Roman See: for did not their leader Ignatius appeal to the Pope’s judgement immediately after the synod of 859?—a statement it was difficult for the Romans to verify, since Photianist evidence, the only one at their disposal, said nothing about it. So, why not believe it? Again, one thing seemed certain: Ignatius had commissioned Theognostos to appeal to Rome after his condemnation in 861 : Theognostos said so; his Libellus containing the appeal was written in the ex-Patriarch’s name and the document was replete with expressions of extreme deference to Rome. How was the Pope to verify the pious monk’s statement?


There was also a sentimental side to the affair: the round of sufferings endured by Ignatius, after the vivid, picturesque and passionate account by his faithful supporters, must have moved to tears a Pope of Nicholas’ temperament, a saintly man who had ever been the champion of the rights, not only of the Church, but of all the oppressed ; who had undertaken the energetic defence of Theutberga, the repudiated wife of Lothar II, one of the finest gestures to the credit of a successor of St Peter. Nicholas always loved to step into the breach in defence of bishops against powerful Metropolitans, as was the case with Rothad of Soissons and Wulfad of Bourges. Nothing fired his sense of justice and touched his heart so much as the report that somebody was being unjustly treated; [1] and here the evidence of unjust persecution was glaring in the very city of Rome, where Theognostos and his co-sufferers had taken refuge from ‘imperial fury’; such pious and virtuous folk, too, who edified all the Romans with their fervent practices. One can well imagine with what zeal they played up to the crowd, conscious that there was no better way to the heart of the pious Pontiff and his faithful and naïve flock. And the obstinate silence of the Emperor and Photius bore out the version given by Theognostos of events in Byzantium.


There remained still another consideration which, more than any other, must have confirmed Nicholas in his last decision. For all their protestations of submission to Rome, the Emperor and Photius refused the request that seemed to Nicholas so fair, the return of Illyricum to the Roman jurisdiction. But after all, the Patriarch’s position in Byzantium



1. Cf. Perels’ opinion on Nicholas (loc. cit. p. 178): ‘Ein moralischer Untergrund ist in den Motiven seines Handelns gar nicht zu verkennen. . . . ’





did not seem so strong as it looked, judging from the legates’ account. Theognostos airily spoke of innumerable crowds of pious monks and bishops, who refused to accept Photius as their legitimate Patriarch. Photius had, therefore, come up against an opposition, which in Theognostos’ opinion was very serious and seemed to have a more decided lean to Rome than Photius had. Then why not back it up, all the more so as justice demanded it?


Again, there were good prospects that, once restored to his see by the Pope, Ignatius would show himself more grateful to the papacy than his rival, and in this respect Theognostos had no doubt given the Pope more definite assurances, calculated to dispose of his lingering hesitation.


Of this we find corroboration in a letter from Pope John VIII to Boris-Michael, written at the end of 874 or at the beginning of 875, where the Pope exhorts the Khagan to throw up his obedience to the Byzantine Patriarch and make his submission to the Roman See. This is what he says about Ignatius: [1]


For it was on this condition that Ignatius was acquitted by our predecessors, that if he undertook anything against apostolic rights in connection with Bulgaria, which not even Photius ever dared to attempt, he would, despite his acquittal, remain under the sentence of his previous condemnation. Therefore, either he stands acquitted, if he respects the rights of the Apostolic See on the Bulgarian question, or, if he does not, he falls back under the previous ban.



This passage surprised M. P. Kehr, who published it, but the only possible explanation is that the words reflect the negotiations between Nicholas and Theognostos before Ignatius’ reinstatement.


Another circumstance deserves our attention: whereas the Pope paints his legates’ doings in Constantinople in the darkest colours, one is surprised to find that the punishment meted out to Zachary of Anagni did not fit the 'misdeeds’ deplored by the Pope. Zachary, it is true, was deposed and dispossessed of his diocese, but the Pope gave him as a reward the disposal of the rich and important monastery of St Gregory the Great. [2] Nor was his diocese handed to another titular.



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 294 seq.: ‘Sub ea enim conditione Ignatius a nostris predecessoribus solutus est, ut, si per Bulgariam, quod neque Photius ille temptaverat, aliquid contra jura apostolica temptavisset, sub pristinae damnationis suae sententia nichilominus permaneret. Aut ergo in Bulgariam contra institutionem sedis apostolicae nil temptans vere solutus est, aut, si temptaverit, pristinis utique laqueis inretitus est.’ Cf. chapter vi, pp. 159 seq.


2. Joannis Diaconi Vita Gregorii M. iv, ch. 93, P.L. vol. 75, col. 236.





After his rehabilitation, [1] Zachary quietly resumed his office and his title, as though there had been a private understanding between him and the Pope. Besides, Zachary had honestly told the truth, when he confessed to the synod that he had exceeded his powers in Constantinople. [2]


Radoald did not fare as well as Zachary, for he refused to appear before the Pope and must have been condemned for contumacy by a synod held in Rome on 1 November 864, as reported in a letter from the Pope to the Western Patriarchs and bishops. [3] Radoald was threatened with anathema, should he ever attempt to make contact with Photius.


It seems then that, according to the Pope’s account, Radoald had refused to fall in with the new trend of pontifical policy towards the oriental Church, and maintained that his own way with Photius in Constantinople had been justified and that the Pope was wrong in altering his attitude.


That is how we believe Nicholas’ abrupt volte-face with regard to Photius may be explained, the Illyricum problem and Theognostos’ plausible reports operating as the main levers. But even this decision by the Pope, despite its severity, was not to be the last word ; his verdict was reversible, if only the defendants would yield to reason and give the Pope satisfaction on matters on which he felt so keenly. [4]



But in this respect the Pope was mistaken. As he was waiting for the Emperor’s reply and preparing his attack on the Patriarch, things went on in Byzantium very much as before : the die-hard Ignatians’ opposition was broken and paralysed; the Emperor’s power was steadily expanding, and Byzantium, under the rule of its young Emperor and of the remarkable statesman Bardas, had recovered its pristine influence. By 860-1 the Empire’s political and religious prestige had penetrated as far as the Khazars, and by 862-3 to the Moravians. [5] Yet the ambassador Leo’s report and Nicholas’ letter revealed to Bardas and Michael the danger that threatened the Empire from Bulgarian quarters, and this report, together with Nicholas’ claims, accelerated the encirclement



1. See p. 202.


2. Cf. the passage in the Pope’s letter, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 517.


3. Loc. cit. pp. 561, 562. Cf. Haller, loc. cit. p. 29.


4 Cf. what J. Haller says on this matter, loc. cit. pp. 31 seq. He explains the relations between Byzantium and Rome at that time with remarkable insight and clearness, though he unwarrantably underestimates Theognostos’ share in the change of pontifical politics.


5. For further details, cf. my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 148-209, 226-31.





manœuvre which Byzantium had been planning round Bulgaria, It was then that the embassy sent by Rastislav (862), the Moravian prince, proposing an alliance against the Bulgarians, came in the nick of time. At the very moment when the Pope signed the Acts of the Roman synod, Byzantine ambassadors and missionaries, Constantine and Methodius, were presenting their credentials to Rastislav in his fortress on the banks of the Morava; and when, towards the middle of 864, the Pope was wishing King Louis the German every success in his campaign against Rastislav with promises of prayers for the conversion of Bulgaria, which he hoped to be imminent, [1] the Bulgarians’ fate had already been sealed. In the spring of the same year, the Byzantines, in concert with their Moravian allies, had unexpectedly invaded Bulgarian territory, whilst their fleet made a demonstration on the Bulgarian coast. Boris promptly capitulated, threw up all his schemes for an alliance with the Franks and promised to accept baptism. The Pope’s prayers were therefore realized; but alas, it was not the Frank and Roman missionaries, but the Greeks, who had been chosen as God’s instruments.


We do not know when the Pope heard for the first time of the disaster that upset all his plans and knocked the bottom out of his Illyrican schemes, and it is difficult to say whether he clung to his hopes, after realizing the facts. We should have known more about this, if we possessed the letter which the Pope addressed in the summer of 865 to Michael III, but which never reached him. Nicholas mentions this letter in his reply to one from the Emperor, which he did not receive till the end of the summer in 865. It was written, he says, with all the love a father can have for his son, [2] and all the courtesy a Pope must have for an Emperor. It is a pity that the original here summarized was not preserved by the Pontifical Chancellery, but the mere fact that the Pope wished to write to Michael even before he had received his reply proves at least that the Pope was waiting and hoping for an answer from Constantinople, long overdue, until the summer of 865. The Photian incident was therefore not considered definitely closed, as far as he was concerned, notwithstanding the new Patriarch’s condemnation by the Roman synod.


Michael’s reply, so eagerly awaited, was brought by the Protospathar Michael towards the end of the summer of 865, at the time when the Bulgarian incident seemed to be closed for good and Boris had received baptism. It may be that the Emperor had watched and chosen his



1. Letter to Solomon, bishop of Constance, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 293.

2. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 454.





moment, but his reply to the Pope has unfortunately been lost, though its main lines can be restored from Nicholas’ answer.


The Emperor must have written in the tone of one who was sure of his advantage. He first blames the Pope for failing to appreciate at its true value the concession he and the Byzantine Church had made to the Roman See by allowing Ignatius to be tried by his legates. No instance of such concession [1] had ever been heard of since the Sixth Oecumenical Council. Then the Emperor protests against the Pope’s request for a revision of Ignatius’ trial. He had never asked the Pope to send his legates to try Ignatius, whose case had been settled by a local synod of the Byzantine Church long before the legates arrived and could not be reconsidered. [2] As the incident did not touch on orthodox doctrine [3] and was a purely disciplinary affair, which the Byzantine Church could perfectly well settle for itself, it was no concern of the Roman See. What the Emperor did ask for was the dispatch of legates for a second condemnation of iconoclasm, knowing that iconoclastic ideas were also spreading in the West: but not even for this was the presence of the Roman legates essential, since that heresy had already been condemned by the Council of Nicaea. [4] But the Emperor knew the man who had supplied the Pope with such one-sided information and incited him against Photius, i.e. none other than Theognostos and the other refugee monks in Rome, where they also intrigued against his Imperial Majesty. The Pope should repatriate these culprits to Constantinople, and should he refuse to comply with this demand, the Emperor would feel obliged to use more forcible methods to help him to change his mind. [5]


Judging from some bitter remarks made by the Pope, [6] the letter apparently was written in an arrogant tone, though Nicholas seems to have exaggerated and been too sensitive on certain points.



1. Loc. cit. p. 457.


2. Loc. cit. p. 460: ‘Ceterum dicitis non ideo ad nos misisse vos, ut secundum iudicium Ignatius sustineret. . . . Dicentes vero, quod synodice fuerit condemnatus. . . .’ P. 476: ‘. . .noluisse vos, ut a missis nostris Ignatius iudicaretur, eo quod fuerit iam iudicatus et condemnatus.’


3. Loc. cit. p. 469 : ‘ Sed dicitis fortasse non fuisse in causa Ignatii sedem apostolicam convocare necesse, quia non hunc ullus hereseos error involverat.


4. Loc. cit. p. 472: ‘Quod autem scripsistis vos idcirco quosdam nostrorum adesse voluisse, quoniam dicebamur cum expugnatoribus sacrarum imaginum concertare. . . . Quamvis dixeritis non nostri eguisse vos ad expugnandos hereticos pro eo, quod iam fuerit huiusmodi heresis in Nicea secundo convocata synodo. . . subversa.’


5. Loc. cit. p. 479.


6. For instance, loc. cit. p. 454: ‘epistola. . . quae tota blasphemia, tota erat iniuriis plena’; p. 455: ‘. . .vos ab iniuriis scribentes’, etc.





He took offence at the Emperor calling Rome an ‘old town’, when Michael seems to have used the epithet ‘The old Rome’ to distinguish Rome from Byzantium ‘The new Rome’. [1] The Pope, however, had good reason to protest against the Emperor calling Latin a barbarian and Scythic language. [2] This is the first time that we see Greek patriotism at odds with Roman and Latin nationalism.


It used to be said that Michael’s reply had been written by Photius, [3] but there is nothing to prove it, nor does Nicholas seem to have thought so; and some statements by the Pope into which a hint at Photius was read are not convincing. [4] All these fancies are based on the notion, still prevalent, of the Royal and Imperial Chancelleries of the Latin Middle Ages, when all the work of composition and editing of documents was done by bishops and clergy. But what was true of the Latin West is not applicable to the Byzantine Empire. Byzantium had no need for bishops to compose its imperial letters, for the Empire boasted an excellent bureaucratic tradition. Functionaries were laymen, learned and well versed in whatever was expected from efficient State officials. [5] Photius had certainly trained his subordinates well at the time he was directing the Imperial Chancellery and he had, no doubt, a worthy successor to take over his functions.



The Pope was dangerously ill when he received this letter from Michael III, and not in a fit state to word the reply himself. [6] The lengthy answer which the imperial ambassador was handed at the last minute at Ostia, just before the departure of his boat for Constantinople, and dated 28 September, must have been drawn up by the president of the Pontifical Chancellery, Anastasius the Librarian, the Pope contenting himself with giving him the general outline. [7] The letter was destined to be one of the most important documents in the evolution of the papacy. From the eleventh century onward, it has been exploited to



1. Loc. cit. p. 474: ‘Urbs, quam vos quidem inveteratam, sed Honorius pius imperator aeternam vocat. . . .ἡ πρεσβυτέρα, ἡ νεωτέρα Ῥώμη.


2. Loc. cit. p. 459: ‘In tantam vero furoris habundantiam prorupistis, ut linguae Latinae iniuriam irrogaretis, hanc in epistola vestra barbaram et Scythicam appellantes. . . .’


3. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, p. 553.


4. For instance, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 473 : ‘non enim nos ex pio corde vel ore vestro tam profana tamque perversa processisse putavimus. . . .’


5. Cf. A. Andreades, ‘Le recrutement des fonctionnaires et les Universités dans l’Empire Byzantin’, in Mélanges de Droit dédiés à M. G. Cornil (Paris, 1926), pp. 17-40. F. Dvornik, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 25-33, 39-45


6. Loc. cit. p. 474.


7. Cf. Perels, loc. cit. p. 307.





the utmost by the canonists of the Gregorian and post-Gregorian periods. Not only did the great canonists of the time, like Anselm of Lucca, Deusdedit and Ivo of Chartres, bolster up their doctrine on the Roman papacy with extracts from this letter, but it is also quoted in all the other canonical collections of minor rank which are more or less dependent on the larger Collections mentioned before. [1] Gratian, the leading canonist of the Middle Ages, copied twenty-four extracts from the letter in his Decretum.


Such extensive quotation has greatly contributed to Nicholas’ popularity among the theorists of pontifical jurisprudence. But it is often imagined that Nicholas made a striking innovation by formulating in his letter theories which had not been current in the Church or at the pontifical Curia. [2] This is an exaggeration. Perels [3] has demonstrated that Nicholas, in defining the Popes’ supreme power, often quotes the words of Pope Gelasius I without mentioning his name; and he also made his own the theories of Leo I. Nor should one exaggerate the influence of Pseudo-Isidore’s Collection on the evolution of Nicholas’ ideology, though this Collection was, apparently, already known in Rome under Leo IV or Benedict III. [4]


This is not the place to analyse all the ideas of pontifical primacy [5] contained in this letter. All one can do is to point out items of special importance in the later development of the relations between Nicholas I and Byzantium.


In the first part of his letter Nicholas refutes Michael’s statements concerning Ignatius’ condemnation.



1. See E. Perels’ excellent study, ‘Die Briefe Papst Nikolaus I. Die kanonische Überlieferung’, in Neues Archiv (1914), vol. xxxix, pp. 45-153. Cf. what is said on pp. 292 seq.


2. Cf. A. Hauck, Der Gedanke der päpstlichen Weltherrschaft bis auf Bonifaz VIII (Leipzig, 1904), pp. 14 seq. H. Böhmer, ‘Nikolaus I,’ Realenzyklopädie für prot. Theologie (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1904), p. 69: ‘Nikolaus hat die mittelalterliche Papstidee geschaffen. . . .’ But this honour rather belongs to Gelasius I.


3. Papst Nikolaus I, pp. 153 seq., 170 seq. Cf. J. Haller, loc. cit. p. 77. Remember Leo IV’s refusal of the pallium sent to him by Ignatius as a present.


4. Cf. A. Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands (Leipzig, 1900), vol. Ii, p. 542.


5. See specialized studies by

·       Thiel, De Nicolao I papa commentationes duae historico-canonicae (Brunsbergae, 1859). F. Rocquain, La Papauté au Moyen Age (Paris, 1881), pp. 1-74.

·       J. Roy, ‘Principes du pape Nicolas I sur les rapports des deux puissances’, in Études d'Histoire du M.A. dédiées à G. Monod (Paris, 1896), pp. 95-105.

·       Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, pp. 533 seq.

·       H. Lämmer, Papst Nikolaus I und die byzantinische Staatskirche (Berlin, 1857).

·       Greinacher, Die Anschauung des Papstes Nikolaus I über das Verhältnis von Staat und Kirche (Berlin, 1909). (Abhandlungen zur mittelalterlichen und neueren Geschichte, vol. x.)





The Emperor, in the Pope’s opinion, failed to respect the privileges of the See of Rome and spoke of St Peter’s successor in a most outrageous manner. Since the Sixth Council until recent days, most of the Byzantine Emperors had been heretics. [1] The Greeks were in the habit of tampering with pontifical documents, for they did so at the Council of 787 and again in 861. It is outrageous for an Emperor to order a Pope to send his legates to a Council. Not even Michael, though he claimed the right, dared to exercise it; on the contrary, he invited the Pope to send his legates to the Council, as is easily judged from the letter he sent to the Pope at the time. It was really regrettable that Michael should not have imitated his predecessors’ deference. [2] Then, why did he claim the title of Roman Emperor, if Latin, the Romans’ tongue, was no better to him than a barbarian language?


With regard to Ignatius’ condemnation by a synod of Constantinople, the Emperor must admit that until then no Patriarch had ever been deposed or condemned without the consent of the Roman See. It is absurd to contend that the synod of 861 which ratified the condemnation had the same number of Fathers as the great Council of Nicaea : Ignatius’ condemnation was, none the less, unfair. The Emperor had no right to convoke that Council and stand by, whilst a pious Patriarch was being disgraced; such a Patriarch could not be tried by his own subordinates, or by schismatics and laymen, but only by a higher court, i.e. by the Pope. Besides, without his consent, no Council is valid.


In the second part of his letter, the Pope defines with firmness, clarity and precision the traditional and inalienable rights of the Holy See. [3] These rights, he says, were given by Christ Himself to St Peter, who handed them down to his successors. Rome alone can boast of having seen living and dying within its walls St Peter and St Paul, founders of its glory. After Rome, Alexandria and Antioch had the closest contact with the two Apostles, whereas Constantinople had to import some relics (of St Andrew, Luke and Timothy in 356) to give itself a semblance of apostolic tradition. [4]


These privileges give the Pope power ‘super omnem terram, id est, super omnem ecclesiam’, therefore even the right of watching over the Church of Constantinople; and that is why the Pope took an interest



1. Loc. cit. pp. 456, 457.

2. Loc. cit. pp. 457-9.

3. Cf. chiefly the impressive passage, loc. cit. pp. 474 seq.: ‘praesertim cum ecclesiae Romanae privilegia. . . ecclesiam Dei’; p. 484: ‘non itaque inimicitiae. . . nequaquam permittunt.’

4. Loc. cit. p. 475.





in Ignatius’ case, reserved its decision to his own judgement and never gave his legates leave to pass sentence on the Patriarch.


As regards Theognostos and his associates, the Pope refuses to send them back to Constantinople, since they only tell the truth, and their reports are borne out by other monks coming from the East. The Pope has the right to summon any cleric to his court in Rome. [1]


At the end of his letter, the Pope states that he wishes nevertheless to offer a concession to the Emperor and declares his readiness to revise the case of Ignatius and Photius, but only in Rome: the two rivals must appear before the Pope or at least send their representatives to him. He even specifies which Ignatian bishops he wishes to see in Rome to plead their Patriarch’s case before his court. The Emperor must send his representatives too. All this, he insists, is a great concession. The Holy See’s verdict can be altered by none but the Pope himself, but Nicholas assures the Emperor that he wants to be an equitable judge, [2] and only refuses to reconsider the condemnation of Asbestas and his party.


It must be confessed that the conclusion of this letter comes as a shock, for the firmness of Nicholas’ tone throughout his letter on the privileges of his See and the violence of his language addressed to the Greeks and even to the Emperor lead one to expect a different solution to Ignatius’ case. The Pope was apparently seriously disposed to reconsider his verdict against Photius and to leave open the possibility of his rehabilitation; but to help the Ignatians to become reconciled to the fact, he suggests to the Emperor between the lines that he should make up his mind and sacrifice Asbestas and his confederates: their being held responsible for all the trouble would open an avenue to a compromise between the two parties.


Whatever motives led the Pope to such a proposal, it does not seem that he was still nursing hopes of recovering Bulgaria. [3] Realist as he was, he could not but see that all his hopes for the return of eastern Illyricum had vanished, directly Byzantium had laid its hands on the Bulgarians; but of course, when he dispatched his letter, Nicholas could not anticipate what was to happen in Bulgaria some months later.


It is not here that we shall discover the motive of Nicholas’ decision. The vigour of the Emperor’s reply brought home to Nicholas that he



1. Loc. cit. p. 478: 'Jus habemus non solum monachos, verum etiam quoslibet clericos de quacumque diocesi... ad nos convocare.’


2. Loc. cit. pp. 480-4.


3. That is what J. Haller says, loc. cit. pp. 79 seq., though he is not so well inspired here as in his reading of the first phase in the conflict.





had gone too far: after losing Illyricum, he was now busy wasting the finest achievement Radoald and Zachary had brought from Constantinople—the recognition by the Byzantine Church of the Roman supremacy, a loss he realized to be more serious and deplorable than the first. One can trace Nicholas’ fear and worry in the terms, often violent, or at least unconventional, which he uses in addressing the Byzantine Emperor. It is then that he feverishly casts about for props to his argumentation in support of the inalienable rights of the Papacy over the whole Church and in justification of his previous refusal to acknowledge Photius without any further ado. As long as these rights and privileges are admitted, a revision of the sentence passed may be expected on the strength of those very same privileges. [1]


Notwithstanding its lofty and confident tone, Nicholas’ letter marks therefore a regression in pontifical politics, though the retreat is heavily screened by an imposing mass of arguments in support of Rome’s privileges and by fresh attacks on imperial pretensions: [2] but it is a retreat for all that. This letter therefore did not convey a threat or a warning of a complete rupture between Rome and Byzantium; far from it: the Pope took it to be the first step towards an honourable and peaceful liquidation of the whole dispute.



It is difficult to say what effect it produced in Byzantium. The Byzantines’ first impression must have been that the Pope was spoiling his own case. By allowing his legates to sit in judgement over an Eastern Patriarch, the Byzantine Church was offering him an unique concession that did full justice to his claims. But the Pope overlooked this, and instead of taking advantage of such an admission, went hunting for arguments in support of his primacy in Western documents which to Easterners must have sounded strange, if not suspicious. Asbestas and his followers, who themselves had appealed to the Pope against the verdict of their own Patriarch, were ready to go to any length in their recognition of the Pope’s privilege: yet, here was the Pope deciding



1. Loc. cit. p. 481: ‘Ergo de iudicio Romani praesulis non retractando, quia nec mos exigit, quod diximus comprobato, non negamus eiusdem sedis sententiam posse in melius commutari, cum aut sibi subreptum aliquid fuerit aut ipsa pro consideratione aetatum vel temporum seu gravium necessitatum dispensatorie quiddam ordinare decreverit, quoniam et egregium apostolum Paulum quaedam fecisse dispensatorie legimus, quae postea reprobasse dinoscitur.’


2. It would be interesting to know what was formulated in this letter by the Pope, and what by Anastasius. Not without good reason does the Pope (loc. cit. p. 474) complain that he was so ill that he was unable even to attend to the composition of this letter. Cf. J. Haller, loc. cit. p. 76.





against them by claiming against Photius the same rights as his predecessors had claimed against Ignatius. For they had not forgotten what Leo IV had written to Ignatius, [1] when the Pope took him severely to task for condemning Asbestas without the Roman See’s consent, in violation of previous observance.


Another bone of contention must have been the Pope’s assertion that no synod could be summoned without the Pope’s consent, and worse still, that Councils were no concern of the Emperor’s. Nicholas simply ignored the Byzantine ‘doctrine’ on Councils as it had evolved in the East since the days of Constantine the Great. For indeed all the first oecumenical Councils had been convoked by the Emperors; they presided at the meetings and it was their exclusive right to do so. It was actually their practice to order bishops and patriarchs to attend the Councils, their representatives being present at all discussions, even those of a disciplinary character; but they had no right to vote, this being strictly reserved to the bishops, though they afterwards confirmed the decisions and made them legal throughout the empire. [2]


Nicholas’ views on the Councils, as explained in his letter, represented in fact the last stage in the development of the conciliar theory in the West. Yet, even in Byzantium, a slow approach towards the curtailment of imperial power in the Councils was in progress, and the Seventh Oecumenical Council held its meetings under the chairmanship, not of the Emperor or his lay representative, but of Tarasius. Even the Council of 879-80 did not have the Emperor, but Photius in the chair, the Patriarch on similar occasions exercising the functions of the Emperor,



1. The following is the text of the letter (M.G.H. Ep. v, p. 589): 'Ex quo unigenitus Dei filius sanctam in se fundavit ecclesiam caputque universorum apostolicis institucionibus sacerdotum perfecit, cuiuscumque contradictionis litigiique contentio vestrae oriebatur vel accidebat ecclesiae, Romano vestri predecessores pontifici ingenti eam studio procacique celeritate innotescere procurabant; et postmodum eius roborati consensu lucifluo consilio cuncta, quae necessitas provocabat, beatifico moderamine peragebant. Vos autem, predictorum ut fertis virorum [successores], sine conscientia nostra congregatis episcopis depositionem perpetrastis, quod absentibus nostris legatis vel litteris nullo debuistis explere modo. . . . ’


Cf. also Leo’s second letter to Ignatius about the pallium (loc. cit. p. 607). Though some of the Pope’s claims as formulated in his letter to Michael were already familiar to the Byzantines and had proved acceptable, others raised criticism at the court and the patriarcheion, for instance, the claim to judge all major cases in first and second instance. This seemed an unprecedented innovation to the Byzantines, however willing they were to admit the principle of appeal to the Pope’s supreme court even in disciplinary matters.


2. For further details see my study, De Potestate Civili in Conciliis Oecumenicis. . ., already quoted.





a fact that was significant for its liability to prejudice the Emperor’s rights in the future development of the conciliar notion in Byzantium.


Now, this evolution was far more rapid in Rome; it was facilitated by the fact of the Emperor’s residing elsewhere, and the road lay open to a rapid advance towards the complete elimination of all lay influence in ecclesiastical assemblies. Further, it should be emphasized that Nicholas now laid down this principle for the first time in precise and unmistakable terms. Given the position in Byzantium, one can understand that his theory of Councils must have sounded too advanced for Michael’s taste, as he could not help seeing there a serious limitation of his imperial powers.


Lastly, the Pope’s views on the patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch must have been particularly offensive to the Byzantines: he places Byzantium fourth after the patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, an allocation that seems to have been popular at the Roman Curia in those days. Even in his letter to Boris-Michael, prince of Bulgaria, [1] the Pope bluntly stated that the Patriarch of Constantinople had in reality no right to call himself a Patriarch, since his see was not of apostolic origin. Perhaps Photius admitted that after all the Pope was right in denying the apostolic origin of Constantinople, as his historical knowledge must have been deeper than that of his contemporaries ; but in his days the belief was generally current and popular in Byzantium. We have heard Ignatius himself proudly boasting before the papal legates that he occupied the see of St Andrew the Apostle. [2] But why stress this claim in a letter purporting to inaugurate the resumption of negotiations between Byzantium and Rome?


There is in the Pope’s letter a hint that the Emperor had formulated in his missive the Byzantine definition of the Roman Primacy as known to the Byzantines of the ninth century. The passage makes one regret the loss of the Emperor Michael’s letter and it is a pity that the Pope neglected to report the Emperor’s words with accuracy. These are the Pope’s words: [3] ‘Sed dicitis fortasse non fuisse in causa Ignatii sedem apostolicam convocare necesse, quia non hunc ullus hereseos error involverat.’ Does the Emperor here admit the necessity for the Pope’s



1. See p. 114.


2. Cf. F. Dölger about this legend in his recent study, ‘Rom in der Gedankenwelt der Byzantiner’, in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte (1937), vol. LVI, pp. 1—42. It seems safe to say that, as demonstrated by the Ignatian case, the legend was not mainly invented and spread by Photius, as this learned author seems to think. I shall shortly have occasion to return to these problems.


3. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 469. Ill





co-operation in all matters of doctrinal definition, though defending at the same time the Byzantine Church’s right to settle its own internal problems of ecclesiastical discipline alone, without recourse to the Holy See? [1] Again, observe that the Byzantine Church, whilst jealously safeguarding its right to settle its own domestic affairs, admitted nevertheless the right of appeal to the Roman court, as was proved to the hilt in Asbestas’ case and in the Acts of the synod of 861. I note only facts, leaving on one side the question whether this notion of the primacy is correct or not.



Despite all this, even this letter would have failed to provoke in Byzantium any move particularly unpleasant to Rome, had events not abruptly taken a new turn: and the deus ex machina which brought about this sudden change was no other than the Prince of the Bulgarians, recently converted to Christianity. It is not often in history that one sees a barbarian, barely converted, wield such an influence on the fate of the Church.


But the Khagan Boris-Michael is an interesting figure. He seems to have been deeply impressed by the liturgy of his baptism, a ceremony conducted by the Patriarch himself, and he would have loved to grace his court with the same liturgical splendour. The one to impress him most was the Patriarch himself and he found it difficult to admit that he would ever be a genuine Christian prince, unless he also had his own Patriarch. Application for one to the Byzantines was refused as a matter of course, Photius sending him instead a long and beautiful letter to explain how a Christian prince should behave in his private and public life. [2] Of course, Photius would not hear of a Bulgarian Patriarch; but the desire was very characteristic of Boris, though it would be difficult to say how much of it was due to sheer naïveté, and how much to statesmanlike instinct. At any rate, it was in the best interest of the young Bulgarian State to remain independent of Byzantium, even in religious matters, as long as possible.


Then it was that the Khagan remembered what the Frankish priests had promised him, when they preached on his territory, and their preaching certainly did not remain unproductive. There was, besides,



1. The word ‘fortasse’ no doubt means that the Pope is not quoting the Emperor’s words literally. In the preceding sentences, he enumerates the Patriarchs who were deposed with the Pope’s collaboration, but all of them were heretics. The Pope may also have intended to forestall an objection which the Emperor might make. In any case, Nicholas seems to have caught the correct drift of the Emperor’s thoughts and words.


2. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 665 seq.





a Frankophile party at the Khagan’s court, as he had fostered the closest relations with the Franks, and this party worked against the Greek missionaries. It prevailed in the end, and the Khagan made up his mind to try his luck with the Franks again, addressing not only Louis the German, but also Nicholas I.


The Bulgarian embassy, headed by Peter, a relation of the Khagan’s, John and Martin,1 reached Rome in August 866. [2] It appears that all that Boris asked the Pope for was a Patriarch; [3] but he also addressed to him a considerable number of questions and asked advice on matters of exceptional importance. He did not apply to the Pope for missionaries, as he expected them from Louis the German.


Nicholas was elated at the good news, never expecting such a sudden turn in what he had given up as hopeless. Rome spoke of a miracle, and one can understand the feeling, remembering how keen Nicholas had been on the recovery of Illyricum.


The Pope decided to make the utmost of the godsend. The new Bulgarian Church must be founded by Rome and be directly under Roman jurisdiction, without the intermediary of the Frankish Church: so he decided to send to Boris two bishops—Paul of Populonia and Formosus of Porto—with missionaries ‘ad praedicandam gentem illam’, as the Liber Pontificalis has it. He also took trouble over a detailed and careful reply to all the questions.


We know what vogue these answers had among the medieval canonists, who loved to quote them under the heading ‘ Nicolai responsa ad consulta Bulgarorum5. The letter is, indeed, a masterpiece of pastoral wisdom and one of the finest documents of the history of the Papacy. I cannot analyse it here in detail : all I can do is to point out certain particulars showing what care the Pope took to immunize the new Church against Greek influence.


He insists, for instance, on the first place in the Church being occupied by the Roman See, Constantinople being shifted back to the fourth



1. M.G.H. Ep. VII, p. 154 (letter of 8 June 879 from John VIII to Michael).


2. Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne), vol. II, p. 164: ‘Tunc ad hunc apostolicum et vere praesulem orthodoxum legatos suos mense augusto, indictione XIIII, destinavit, donaque non parva tam sanctis locis quam eidem summo pontifici contulit, suggerens eius apostolatui quid se facere salubrius oporteret, vel quid erga reliquum Vulgaricum adhuc baptismo sacro carentem populum, ut fidei sacramenta perficeret, agi deberet. Quod beatissimus audiens papa, magna repletus laeticia, laudes Christo reddidit amplas et cum omni sibi divinitus commissa ecclesia gratulans, infinita preconia Deo nostro qui novissimis his temporibus tantum fecit miraculum devota mente, supplici quoque voce resolvit.’


3. Ch. 72 of Nicholas’ reply. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 592.





place (chapter 92), as has already been stated. A number of Greek customs are condemned. [1] When the Bulgarians asked for a code of civil law, it seems that the Pope, instead of the Justinian code, sent them the Collection of Lombard laws. [2]


The papal embassy was received in Bulgaria with extreme satisfaction ; and Boris was delighted every time the Pope’s gracious letter was read out to him. All his doubts were cleared and all the problems he had raised were solved : he was pleased that his Bulgars—men and women— could go on wearing breeches, without the fear of committing a mortal sin; he could henceforth take his bath on Wednesdays and Fridays and go to communion wearing his belt. But why could he not dispense with the horse’s tail, which served his army as a banner, since the Pope promised him victory over all his enemies, if his Boyars would hoist the cross as an ensign? Though, after all, he might as well do without a Patriarch, if it came to that, and be content with an archbishop, since the Pope had told him that it came more or less to the same thing. He was especially pleased to hear that the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had impressed him so deeply, was only a sham Patriarch, not in the same class as the Patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.


There was among these replies one which was certainly not welcomed by the Boyars, who would have liked to keep their old practice and continue to live each with several wives; but unfortunately, the Pope severely reprobated this custom (chapter 51), proving in this no more lenient than Photius. It was aggravating, but one could not get everything; and there was still hope that the missionaries would not show themselves too difficult in this respect.


Making the most of the good impression they had made on Boris and acting in the spirit of the instructions they carried with them from the Pope, the legates prevailed on the Khagan to dismiss the Frankish missionaries on their arrival, with bishop Ermenrich of Passau at their head. [3] And yet, Louis the German had prepared this mission so carefully, to the extent even of soliciting his brother Charles for assistance in sending sacred vessels for the use of the missionaries.


Hearing what had happened, the Emperor Louis II asked the Pope to let him have the presents which Boris had made to the Pope, including



1. Ch. 6 concerns bathing on "Wednesdays and Fridays; ch. 54, prayers with hands crossed over the chest; ch. 55, communion; ch. 57, eunuchs; ch. 77, sortes biblicae ; ch. 94, the chrism.


2. M. Conrat, ‘Römisches Recht bei Papst Nikolaus I’, in Neues Archiv, vol. xxxvi, pp. 724 seq. Cf. Perels, loc. cit. p. 162.


3. Annales Bertiniani, M.G.H. Ss. vol. 1, p. 474.





the armour which the Khagan had worn the day he crushed the pagan rebellion: a strange request, but Louis II probably assumed that by receiving Latin Christianity Bulgaria would henceforth be part of the Western Empire of which he was the sovereign; and not to disappoint him, the Pope sent him some of the presents. [1]


So everything was going well. Boris was so pleased with the new missionaries that, pulling his hair, he took a solemn oath ever to remain the faithful servant of St Peter, [2] and Nicholas’ hopes seemed at last to be realized.


This unexpected success encouraged the Pope once more to try his luck in Byzantium. The Emperor’s reply had not yet reached him, and the Bulgarian checkmate having provided the Pope with a new weapon, Nicholas decided to increase the pressure. To the legates to be sent to Boris he added bishop Donatus, the priest Leo and the deacon Marinus, who were to accompany them to the Khagan’s court and cross over to Byzantium via Bulgaria, carrying letters to Michael III, Photius, Bardas, the Empress Theodora, the Emperor’s wife, Eudocia, some senators and the clergy of Constantinople. Their presence in Bulgaria certainly enhanced the prestige of the papal embassy; they stayed there for some time and set out for Byzantium in the spring of 867. [3]


The letter addressed to Michael [4] was couched in a much calmer tone than the letter sent in 865 ; and though the Pope mostly repeated what he had said previously, his treatment was more consistent and systematic. After recalling the story of the Photius case, the Pope mainly protests against the expedient of tampering with the letter carried by the legates to the Council of 861 and refuses to ratify the condemnation of Ignatius, who could be judged by none but a higher court, i.e. by the Pope. The same holds for Gregory Asbestas. The synod was not competent to annul the sentence passed by Ignatius, which could only be



1. Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne), vol. II, p. 167; Annales Bertiniani, loc. cit.; J. Haller, Nikolaus I und Pseudo-Isidor, p. 81.


2. Cf. Anastasius, Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 11 ; cf. also my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, p. 281.


3. It is not necessary to suppose with J. Haller (loc. cit. p. 84) that the Bulgarian embassy had left Rome long before the legates bound for Byzantium. The fact that Byzantium knew about the happenings in Bulgaria at the moment the legates had reached the frontier proves nothing. The Byzantines may have heard of them, if the legates tarried for some time at the Khagan’s court. In his letter of 23 October 867, addressed to Hincmar (M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 603), the Pope clearly states that the two embassies had left Rome at the same time.


4. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 488-512. Cf. the analysis given by Hergenröther, Photius, vol. I, pp. 618 seq.





done either by the Patriarch or by the Pope. Photius must first make up for the damage he has done. By ordaining him, Asbestas could only give him a share in his own condemnation; but Ignatius must be reinstated by the Emperor, who therein should follow his predecessors’ example; else, the Pope will summon a Western Council and have the calumniating letter the Emperor had sent him condemned.


However, the Pope concludes by repeating that he is always ready to grant the Emperor the concession offered in his last letter; for Ignatius’ trial can still be revised, the Pope even refusing to justify every one of Ignatius’ acts. If he has offended, he deserves blame. This time, to forestall any fraud, the Pope has entrusted his legates with copies of all his previous letters.


The letter is firm and resolute in tone, but much less violent than that of 865, and suggests that the Pope had more to do with this letter than on the previous occasion.


Nicholas’ letter, therefore, leaves a door open to prospects of mutual understanding. His other letters, besides being mostly a repetition of the reasoning developed in the letter to Michael, yet let the readers guess that what the Pope really wished from his heart was not so much a revision of the trial as the downfall, pure and simple, of Photius. For instance, in his letter to Photius, [1] the Pope no longer mentions any concession; he merely summons the ‘intruder’ to give place to Ignatius, or forfeit his right to absolution till his death.


The letters designed for the bishops [2] often repeat word for word what the Pope said in his letter to Michael, but they also are silent on the concession. All the other letters [3] betray the Pope’s secret wish for Photius’ downfall. Their peremptory tone is no doubt stiffened by his recent success in Bulgaria, whereas the legates have naturally received detailed instructions to work in Byzantium for the ‘intruder’s’ overthrow.


But they were on the alert in Byzantium and the legates could scarcely be under any illusion about the difficulty of their mission. When the papal envoys presented themselves at the frontier of the Empire, they were received by an official called Theodore. The reception could not have been warm, and even the Bulgars who had escorted the legates to the frontier got a taste of the Byzantines’ anger. [4] Theodore must have



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 533-40.

2. Loc. cit. pp. 512 seq., 553 seq.

3. Loc. cit. pp. 540 seq.

4. Liber Pontificalis, vol. ii, p. 165. Cf. Nicholas’ letter to Hincmar, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 603.





questioned the legates on the purpose of their mission and noticed their heavy dossier of letters addressed to important people. It all looked suspicious and a special messenger was dispatched to Byzantium to ask for further instructions, whilst the legates were left waiting forty days for the reply. They do not seem to have carried away pleasant memories of this adventure. [1]



In Constantinople, people must have been quite aware of what was going on in Bulgaria well before the messenger’s arrival. The news of Boris’ defection created consternation at the imperial palace and at the patriarcheion, for there was no disguising the fact that it meant a serious political setback. Boris must have quickly recovered from his defeat in 864 to rush back so soon to his former allies, the Franks. It was, moreover, difficult to counter Boris’ move with a military demonstration, as in 864, the Khagan having taken good care to provide for his security on the Byzantine border and to have his Boyars at their posts guarding the roads and the defiles. And the moment for his change of front had been well chosen : whilst he was carrying out his plans, the Byzantine army was away on an expedition to Crete, [2] and Caesar Bardas, the principal designer of the encirclement policy of 864, had been assassinated by his rival Basil on 21 April. The authorities had their hands full for the moment, and the season did not favour expeditions.


Yet such things could hardly be tolerated: if war was out of the question and diplomacy had lost its efficacy, there remained some expedients of a religious nature that could be tried. The Greek missionaries who had been asked to leave Bulgaria, had made complaints about certain ‘suspicious’ doctrines which their Frankish rivals were disseminating over Bulgaria. The Franks, for instance, allowed the Bulgars to take milk and cheese in Lent. This was dreadful! And they were all but Manichaeans, since they forbade priests to marry, those heretics affecting a particular aversion from marriage. Then the Franks limited priestly powers by holding that confirmation could not be administered to children by ordinary priests, the function being strictly reserved to bishops. What was more serious still, the Franks taught that the Holy Ghost proceeded not from the Father only, but also from the



1. It is not impossible that Pope Stephen V, speaking in his letter to Basil (see p.221) of Marinus’ imprisonment whilst on a papal mission, is really referring to this frontier incident, though the Pope makes Basil responsible for the imprisonment, a confusion on the part of the Pope that cannot be ruled out.


2. Cf. H. Grégoire, ‘Études sur le IXe siècle’, in Byzantion (1933), vol. viii, pp. 524 seq. on this expedition.





Son: this was rank heresy, and such abominations deserved condemnation by a synod.


The synod was duly summoned, [1] but whether before or immediately after the arrival of the messenger conveying the news that the legates stood waiting at the frontier is not known. One thing is certain, that the messenger had time to take back to the legates the decisions of this synod, very severely condemning all these ‘false’ doctrines. The legates were invited to sign them and to acknowledge Photius as the legitimate Patriarch, [2] being permitted on no other conditions to prosecute their journey. Unable, of course, to accept them, the legates had no choice but to withdraw to Bulgarian territory with all the letters they had brought from Rome, none of which reached its addressee. Thus vanished the Pope’s last hopes of undermining Photius’ position in Byzantium through his embassy.


The Byzantines had prepared their plans with great care. Had the legates signed the synodal decrees and acknowledged Photius, they would automatically have wrecked the Latin mission to Bulgaria; or should this manœuvre fail, there was always the possibility of trying the effect of the condemnation on Boris and awaiting the result. That this attempt was actually made [3] we learn from the Pope’s letter to Hincmar: an imperial letter, signed by Michael and his new associate Basil, informed the Khagan of the condemnation. But Boris was still under the spell which Nicholas’ letter had woven round his primitive soul: no, the Latins could not be so wicked. Moreover, he had by his side the bishop of Porto, who certainly was as good a psychologist as the Greek missionaries, and doubts that might have been raised in Boris’ mind were soon laid. The Khagan even handed over the letter to the legates about to return to Rome, happy to be thus of service to the Pope. The legates also happened to pick up in Bulgaria some pamphlets which the Greek missionaries had tried before their expulsion to disseminate among some half-civilized Boyars. [4]



1. This is an obvious inference from Photius’ encyclical letter to the Eastern Patriarchs (P.G. vol. 102, col. 732).


2. The fact is confirmed in Nicholas’ letter to Hincmar, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 604: ‘ a missis nostris contra omnem regulam et praeter omnem consuetudinem libellum fidei, si se ab illis recipere vellent, exigere moliebantur, in quo tam ista capitula quam ea tenentes anathematizarent, necnon et epistolas canonicas ab his ei, quem suum oeconomicon patriarcham appellant, dandas improbe requirebant.’ Hergenröther, Photius, vol. i, pp. 641, 656 seq.


3. Loc. cit. p. 603.


4. That is how I understand the Pope’s words (loc. cit. p. 603): ‘accipientibus . . . nobis et perscrutantibus eandem cum aliis scriptis epistolam... ’





The Pope carefully scrutinized these documents and felt hurt. They blamed the Latins for offering on Easter Sunday, with the Eucharist, a lamb which they placed on the altar after the Jewish fashion; also, for their priests’ habit of shaving, for making chrism with water and for raising deacons to the episcopacy without first conferring on them the priesthood.


One could afford to smile at these childish accusations and rivalries, if the consequences of such wrangles had not been so disastrous to the whole of Christendom. All these details may seem to us petty and insignificant to-day, but they should be read in the setting of the two documents—Photius’ encyclical letter to the Eastern bishops and Nicholas’ letter to Hincmar. The irate and violent tone of the Patriarch’s letter reveals the soreness of the wound the Pope had inflicted on the Byzantines’ national pride: to their way of thinking, vital interests of the Empire were involved in the question, and no compromise was possible. So severely hurt and threatened did they feel that they lost their heads and were ready to make every attempt to recover lost ground.


The Pope was no less alarmed: it seems as if he had never realized before how vital to the Byzantines the Bulgarian problem was, and never understood the Greek reaction to his success in Bulgaria. But he really did take fright, fearing a rupture between Rome and Byzantium that was more than dangerous, one that might easily shift to dogmatic issues. This is why he gave such a cry of alarm in his letters and tried to mobilize all the spiritual forces in his Church before the great blow that he feared should fall.



The threatened repercussion from Constantinople was stupendous, but Nicholas apparently never heard what Photius was really planning against him. There is in his letter to Hincmar a reference to a message which the Byzantines had sent to the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, [1] but as the Pope stated its object to be Photius’ recognition by the Eastern Patriarchs, he could not have meant Photius’ famous encyclical, though he must have heard some vague rumours on what Photius was plotting.


This notorious encyclical announced the convocation of a synod of the Oriental Church for no other object than to put increased pressure on Boris: as the decisions of a local Council had failed to produce the desired effect, perhaps those of a General Council would have a better



1. Loc. cit. p. 608.





chance, the more so as the Council was also to condemn Nicholas’ line of conduct.


In this document Photius stated that the Council would first proceed to condemn the ‘false’ doctrines of the Frankish missionaries; and as regards Nicholas’ policy, he pointed out that he had received a number of letters from Western bishops complaining about the Pope. The Italian bishops even sent him a synodal letter requesting him to defend them against Nicholas’ tyranny: and many monks coming from Rome (Photius names the monks Basil, Zosimus and Metrophanes) confirmed the complaints and implored the Patriarch to intervene in the interests of the Church. Lastly, the third object of the Council was to be (again according to the encyclical) the solemn recognition of the second Council of Nicaea as an Oecumenical Council.


It is quite possible that Photius did receive letters taking exception to Nicholas’ rule, and was no doubt the recipient of protests from the archbishops of Cologne and Trier, two prelates who were the foremost critics of the Pope’s ‘tyrannical’ regime. [1] There was also between Byzantium and the Greek monasteries of Rome a fairly close contact, as I have shown in another work; [2] and the Greek monks of those houses may very well have kept the Patriarch posted on all that happened in the West, particularly in Rome. Photius appears also to have been in touch with another dangerous opponent of Nicholas, John, archbishop of Ravenna, for we possess a letter sent to John by Photius, after his reinstatement on the patriarchal throne, either at the end of 878 or at the beginning of 879. It is a peculiar document, [3] which reads as though the Ravenna titular had raised hopes that Photius’ campaign against the person of Pope Nicholas might find some support in the West; but when Photius decided to strike, John failed to back him up as expected, and his hesitation may have had a good deal to do with Photius’ downfall after Basil had come to power.


As, with regard to Radoald, it was stated that the Pope himself was afraid to see this prelate’s open contact with Photius after his condemnation, we are inclined to believe that Photius’ information on the discontent over Nicholas’ severity was based on fact.


The Council met in Constantinople in the summer of 867, but little



1. Cf. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire, p. 201.


2. Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 286 seq.


3. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Ss. Patris Photii. . . epistolae XLV (Petropoli, 1896), p. 6. Cf. V. Grumel, Les Regestes des Actes du Patriarchat de Constantinople, vol. ii (Istanbul, 1936), p. 102.





of what occurred there has reached us, the meagre information we happen to possess coming exclusively from anti-Photianist sources. [1] Only the following facts can be inferred with certainty: the Council really did take place, though some Ignatians tried to deny its occurrence; many Fathers took part in it; Pope Nicholas was judged and condemned; lastly, Louis II was acclaimed Emperor at the closing meeting of the Council, in the presence and with the consent of Michael III and Basil. [2]


Did their acclamation imply that the Fathers had charged Louis II with the execution of the sentence passed on Nicholas, and was the recognition of his imperial title a reward for the services expected of him? It is difficult to prove that any negotiations to this effect had been carried on between the two courts before the meeting of the Council. It is not impossible, as a certain contact could be made unofficially, though we know absolutely nothing about an exchange of embassies between the two Empires. They had, indeed, common interests in Southern Italy and the Mediterranean. The Byzantines could not help seeing that relations between the Pope and Louis had not always been cordial and the Byzantine court possibly had under consideration a pact with Louis, promising him military aid against the Arabs on condition that he should carry out the decisions of the Council of Constantinople and depose Nicholas. But these are mere conjectures, except for a strong presumption in their favour, since Basil, after Michael's assassination, carried on his friendly policy with Louis II. More would have been known about the negotiations, had we been in possession of the letter from Photius to Louis’ wife, Engelberta, and the letter from Michael to Louis, which the metropolitan of Chalcedon, Zachary, had been asked to transmit. [3]


One thing seems certain, that Photius tried to enlist Western aid, the services of Louis II and of part of the episcopacy against Nicholas. Now, putting on one side all other considerations and concentrating on this simple fact, I ask: can it be seriously admitted that the Patriarch,



1. Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne), vol. n, pp. 178 seq.; Anastasius the Librarian (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 5); the Acts of the Eighth Council (Mansi, vol. xvi, sessions vii, viii, ix); Metrophanes of Smyrna (ibid. col. 417); Nicetas-David, Vita Ignatii (.P.G. vol. 105, col. 537); the Roman synod of Hadrian II (Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 125, 128). Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. 1, pp. 649 seq.; Ivantsov-Platonov, Sv. Patriarkh Fotti, pp. 108 seq.; Bury, loc. cit. pp. 201 seq.


2. Nicetas, loc. cit., col. 537. Metrophanes, loc. cit., col. 417.


3. Cf. what J. Haller says (Nikolaus I und Pseudo-1sidor, pp. 94 seq.) about the relations between Nicholas and Louis II about the year 867.





wishing as he did to secure the assistance of the Latin episcopacy, expected to enlist its support by attacking the whole Western Church and the venerable customs to which those bishops and the Emperor were loyally attached? No, fairness and consistency drive us to the conclusion that the Council of 867 was not aimed at the Western Church as such. The anathemas and condemnations hurled by the Eastern Fathers against some Western customs were only directed against the Roman missionaries of Bulgaria for the purpose of impressing Boris and his Boyars; in fact, Photius’ encyclical, I insist, only mentioned the 'so-called5 bishops preaching in Bulgaria.


These condemnations were meant to be the Eastern Church’s reply to the attacks the Latin missionaries in Bulgaria permitted themselves upon some century-old customs of the Orientals, attacks and counterattacks being both understandable in a country where two rival rites were practised side by side. But it is worth repeating that the Byzantine Government needed a conciliar decree to make any impression on Boris. [1]


Besides, Photius had no reason whatsoever for falling out with Nicholas over the Filioque, to take only one instance. In 860 he had, in his enthronement letter to the Pope, professed his faith in the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father only, [2] and the Pope, instead of rebuking him for his profession, declared in his letter of 18 March 862 [3] that the faith of Photius was perfectly orthodox. Photius could then suppose, or at least pretend, that in this respect the Pope did not essentially differ from the Greeks. We shall presently see that Photius took another declaration of the same kind, that of John VIII, very seriously, [4] and that in Byzantium the origin of that doctrine was often attributed to Formosus, bishop of Porto, of all men, the leader of the Latin mission to Bulgaria. [5]


It should also be observed that such accounts of the Council as have come down to us nowhere mention any condemnation of the Western Church on the ground of any false doctrine she might have been teaching



1. Cf. Rosseikin, loc. cit. pp. 424 seq.


2. P.G. vol. 102, col. 589: οὕτω γὰρ καὶ τῆς χρονικῆς ἐννοίας ὁμοτίμως ἡ Τριὰς ὑπεριδρυθήσεται, καὶ τῆς αὐτῆς οὐσίας τῷ Πατρί, ἐξ οὗπερ ὁ μὲν ἀῤῥεύστως καὶ ἀῤῥήτως γεγέννηται, τὸ δὴ ἐκπεπόρευται, θεολογικῶς ὑμνολογηθήσεται.


3. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 440: 'Unde directionis vestrae sumptis apicibus laetificati sumus, quia vos catholicum in eis cognovimus. Nam ibi prudentiae vestrae utilitatem intelleximus ideoque multas gratias Deo omnipotenti retulimus, quia vestrum scire de catholico fonte manare experti sumus.’


4. See p. 196. 3 See pp. 253, 456 (late treatises on schism).





and that the Fathers of the Eighth Council reproved this synod for nothing but the condemnation of Nicholas.


The opinion that the Council of 867 meant a declaration of war between the two Churches and a rupture between the Latins and the Greeks is due to Pope Nicholas’ letter to Hincmar, for it was he who attached to the Bulgarian incident the significance attributed to it since. It was only natural that the Pontiff should be looking for allies against Photius and that he should try to incense against him the Frankish episcopate more than any other, for there was real danger threatening from that quarter. The Byzantines were certainly aware of the fact that the Roman missionaries had ousted those of the Franks from Bulgaria, a circumstance that may have induced Byzantines and Franks to join hands in their opposition to Nicholas. To forestall such a danger, the Pope had to gain the confidence of the Franks, chiefly Hincmar, by asserting that the interest of the whole Church was at stake: hence Nicholas generalizes the accusations made by Photius against the Bulgarian missionaries, giving the impression that they had been made against the whole Latin Church, and therefore against the Franks as well.


At bottom Nicholas was right, for the customs spread by the Latin missionaries in Bulgaria were customs dear to the Latins which the Franks, who were exceptionally keen on singing the Filioque in their creed, also understood. Flattered at having been singled out by the Pope to mobilize the Frankish Church, Hincmar did his utmost, and the writings, composed at his suggestion, [1] against the Greek denunciations, substantially helped in spreading the opinion throughout the West that Photius had indicted the whole Latin Church. Incidentally, the Pope, at the moment of writing to Hincmar, could have no knowledge of the Council summoned by Photius.



It is generally assumed, too, that the Council of 867 was up in arms, not only against the Pope personally, but rather against the very notion of the Roman primacy: Photius is alleged to have proclaimed the downfall of Rome from the government of the Universal Church and to have behaved generally as though he were the supreme head of the Church.



1. See p. 280. J. Haller, loc. cit. p. 93, disagrees with Perels, loc. cit. p. 167, by minimizing the Pope’s appeal: ‘Eher könnte man darin, dass weder von den lothringischen noch von den westfränkischen Bischöfen eine Gesammterklärung entsprechend der von Worms erfolgte, ein Zeichen von Unlust sehen, die durch den angesammelten Verdruss über die Regierungs weise des Papstes leicht zu erklären wäre.’





There is in Nicholas’ letter to Hincmar a passage which seems to confirm the assumption: [1]


No wonder that they should pretend such things, since they even maintain and boast that when the Emperors moved from the Roman city to Constantinople, the primacy of the Roman See was also transferred to the Church of Constantinople and that the privileges of the Roman Church changed hands together with the royal honours, so much so that the usurper of that same Church Photius calls himself in his writings archbishop and universal patriarch.



It does not seem that the words can bear this interpretation. First of all, when writing this letter on 23 October 867, the Pope knew nothing yet about the Council referred to : the synod must have terminated its sittings towards the end of August of the same year, for we learn that after the assassination of Michael III on 24 September 867 the ambassadors, headed by Zachary of Chalcedon, taking the Acts of the synod to Louis II, were overtaken by a messenger from Basil and called back. They cannot have been far from the capital, since they had left Constantinople in the first days of September, after the closing of the Council. It was not till about 24 September that the Council’s decisions could be dispatched to Bulgaria; but at that moment the papal legates were already back in Rome, having left Bulgaria long before the convocation of the said Council. As a matter of fact, Hincmar’s envoys, who reached Rome in the month of August, found the Pope appalled by the news just received about the stand taken by the Greeks. [2] It is therefore evident that the Pope could not, in the document under consideration, refer to the Council of 867.


Nor can it be that Nicholas quoted the passage from one of Michael’s or Photius’ letters addressed to him, for I have studied the Pope’s replies to these letters without discovering a single reference to any



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 605 : ‘Sed quid mirum, si haec isti praetendunt, cum etiam glorientur atque perhibeant, quando de Romana urbe imperatores Constantinopolim sunt translati, tunc et primatum Romanae sedis ad Constantinopolitanam ecclesiam transmigrasse et cum dignitatibus regiis etiam ecclesiae Romanae privilegia translata fuisse, ita ut eiusdem invasor ecclesiae Photius etiam ipse se in scriptis suis archepiscopum atque universalem patriarcham appellet.’ Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. i, pp. 656 seq.


2. Hincmari Annales, a. 867, M.G.H. Ss. vol. 1, p. 475: ‘Hincmari clerici mense Augusto Romam venientes, Nicolaum papam iam valde infirmatum et in contentione quam contra orientales episcopos habebat, magnopere laborantem invenerunt; qua propter usque ad mensem Octobrium ibidem sunt immorati. Nicolaus. . .et alteram epistolam ei [Hincmari] misit innotescens... Graecorum imperatores, sed et orientales episcopos, calumniari sanctam Romanam ecclesiam.. . . ’





such statement by either Photius or Michael, though Nicholas never left one Greek stricture unanswered.


The fact is that Nicholas only interprets in this sense the title of oecumenical Patriarch which Photius, Ignatius and all their predecessors had claimed ever since John the Faster. Nicholas could only refer to canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, and the interpretation of this canon which the Pope fathers on the Greeks seems somewhat far-fetched, since before Nicholas no Greek had ever read into it such a radical meaning.


Yet I would not presume to accuse Nicholas of having gone too far [1] and of consciously intending to throw oil on the fire, for it is quite possible that the Greek missionaries in Bulgaria had actually defended that theory to prove to the Bulgarians that the see of Constantinople was superior to that of Rome, and it is certain that discussions about the pre-eminence of those two sees were at that time in full swing in Bulgaria. After all, Nicholas himself had belittled the importance of the see of Constantinople in the Church, by placing its Patriarch after those of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, contrary to common usage as agreed to by the Roman Church : which only shows that both the rival parties in Bulgaria were apt to exaggerate.


Cardinal Hergenröther, [2] however, is inclined to think that Photius actually did proclaim such a doctrine, and attributes to him, though not without some hesitation, a writing against the primacy, which was published by Beveridge [3] among the canonical letters of Alexios Aristenos. One reads there that the Romans could not base their pretensions to the primacy on the fact that St Peter lived and died in Rome: Jerusalem, too, had at its head a great apostle, the ‘brother’ of the Lord; Peter, before settling in Rome, had been bishop of Antioch and the Apostle Andrew had founded Constantinople.


Then again, the rock on which Our Lord had built His Church (Matt. xvi. 18) was not the person of the Apostle Peter, but his faith. [4]



1. As A. Pichler seems to have done in Geschichte der kirchlichen Trennung (München, 1864), vol. i, p. 186. On the other hand, Pichler is right here as against Hergenröther, loc. cit. vol. 1, p. 656.


2. Loc. cit. vol. I, pp. 662 seq.; vol. iii, pp. 170 seq.


3. Synodicon, loc. cit. t. II, at the end of the first part; G. Rhalles and M. Potles, Σύνταγμα τῶν ἱερῶν κανόνων (Athens, 1854), t. V, pp. 409 seq.


4. Photius, Ad Amphilochium, q. 194, P.G. vol. 101, col. 933 interprets the passage in a similar sense: διὸ καὶ μισθὸν τῷ Πέτρῳ τῆς ὀρθῆς ὁμολογίας, τάς τε κλεῖς τῆς Βασιλείας ἐνεχείρισε, καὶ ἐπὶ τῇ αὐτοῦ ὁμολογίᾳ ἐστηρίχθαι τὴν Ἐκκλησίαν. He is, however, not so emphatic and prejudiced as the author of the treatise. Anyhow, Nicholas I could not take offence at Photius’ interpretation of Matt. xvi. 18, since he himself had explained the words in the same way, as appears from his letter of 18 March 862 to the Eastern bishops (M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 447): ‘When Our Lord and Redeemer had given to Bl. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, the power to bind and to loose in heaven and on earth and to close the gates of the heavenly kingdom, He deigned to erect His Holy Church on the solidity of the faith [supra soliditatem fidei suam sanctam dignatus est stabilire Ecclesiam], according to His authentic words, as He said: Verily, I say unto thee, thou art Peter. . . .’ A similar reading is found in the prayer of the Roman Mass on the Vigil of SS. Peter and Paul: ‘Praesta quaesumus omnipotens Deus ut nullis nos permittas perturbationibus concuti, quos in apostolicae confessionis petra solidasti. . . . ’





The Roman primacy is of pagan origin, having been founded by Aurelianus; and no Council ever confirmed the primacy as claimed by the Popes: the Synod of Sardica cannot be appealed to in support of the primacy. The Popes often, though unsuccessfully, rose against other bishops, whereas the Byzantine Patriarchs frequently deposed their predecessors.


Hergenröther [1] enumerates the following reasons for ascribing this treatise to Photius: two manuscripts of the Vatican Library call Photius the author of the treatise (Cod. Vat. 829 and 1150); the ideas expressed in the treatise are those of Photius; even the style and some expressions recall the Patriarch’s writings, in particular, his Synagogai.


None of these reasons is valid. That two late manuscripts should attribute the treatise to Photius proves nothing, since other manuscripts do not make such ascription. Nothing was easier than to append to an anonymous treatise the name of Photius at a time when it was associated with anti-Latin polemics more than any other. The same happened to the treatise against the Franks, which certainly was not by Photius.


Hergenröther admits himself that the leading ideas of this treatise were familiar to the Greek mentality of the twelfth century. Then why not place it in that period? It was not till after 1054, chiefly during the Crusades of the twelfth century, that animosity between Rome and Byzantium rose to sufficient heat for such arguments to have originated in Byzantium. [2]



1. Loc. cit. vol. iii, p. 171.


2. By comparing, for instance, the meaning given by the author of the treatise to Matt. xvi. 18 with that given by Photius, one can see how fast animosity against everything Roman had grown by the time the treatise was published. A new edition of the treatise has since been issued by M. Gordillo (‘ Photius et Primatus Romanus’) in Orientalia Christiana Periodica (1940), vol. vi, pp. 5-39. Additional details will be found there on the controversy concerning Photius’ authorship of the treatise. M. Gordillo produces decisive evidence against Hergenröther’s assumption and attributes the treatise to an anonymous writer belonging to the first decades of the thirteenth century.





There remains to prove that the ideas expressed in the treatise tally with those of Photius : but there is not a trace of them to be found in any of the Patriarch’s writings. Nicholas’ references to Greek attacks against the primacy are far too vague, as already stated, to justify the inference that Michael or Photius put forward such ideas as square with those of the treatise; and had Hergenröther known about the Acts of the Council of 861, he would perhaps have been less emphatic in his conjecture. The notions set forth in these Acts are poles apart from those advocated in the treatise, making it difficult to presume such c progress ’ among the Byzantines of the period, particularly in Photius, within such a short span of time, unless one be determined to make him a spineless character, always ready to deceive the public and tell lies according to the needs of the moment—an assumption that would be anything but fair. [1]


What then are we to think of Photius’ letter to the Khagan? In enumerating the Patriarchs who had attended the seven general councils, Photius every time lists the Patriarch of Constantinople first, before even the Patriarch of Rome: [2] does this not suggest that Photius assumed the superiority of the see of Constantinople over all the other patriarchal sees? No; the bearing of this passage should not be exaggerated, for at this place Photius underlines the greatness and importance of the see of Constantinople only to impress Boris. The Byzantines knew perfectly well that Boris was always leaning towards Rome and the Franks. Making too much of the Roman patriarchate would only have jeopardized Photius’ own work in Bulgaria, and the scrupulous, naïve and cunning Khagan might have thought it preferable to get his missionaries from a bishop who was superior to the Patriarch of Constantinople. [3] It is well to remember that Nicholas followed exactly the same tactics in Bulgaria towards his rival in Constantinople.



1. Cf. Th. Kurganov, ’K izsledovaniyu o Patr. Fotiye’ (Khrist. Chtenie, 1895), t.1, p. 198. He finds it, however, strange that the treatise in question should place the Council of Nicaea under Sylvester and Julius, as Photius did in his letter to Michael-Boris. But this coincidence proves nothing and cannot be quoted in support of the authorship of the treatise by Photius. Such attributions seem to have been common in Byzantium in the ninth century. Even the Synodicon Vetus, published by Fabricius-Harles (loc. cit. vol. xii, p. 370) and representing Ignatian opinion, makes the same assertion. An anonymous treatise on the Councils, preserved in the Paris-Graec. 3041, fols. 131, 132, said the same as Photius not only about the First Council, but also about the Fifth.


2. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 632 seq.


3. In his letter to Ashod, King of Armenia, Photius, speaking of the Council of Chalcedon, places the See of Rome at the head of the list. A. Finck, ‘Esnik Gjandschezian, Der Brief des Photios an Aschot und dessen Antwort’, in Zeitschrift für armenische Philologie (1904), vol. ii, p. 2: ‘Denn Rom ehrt zuerst so das vierte Konzil, wie die drei Konzilien, die diesem vorgegangen sind. Mit solcher gleichen Verehrung nimmt auch der grosse [Patriarchen] Stuhl von Alexandrien und der Stuhl von Jerusalem [es] an und tragen keine Feindschaft wegen dieses heiligen Konzils. So auch die Konzilien, die diesem d. h. dem vierten gefolgt sind, [nämlich] das fünfte, sechste und siebente.’ See the Armenian text in Palestinskii Sbornik (1892), vol. xi (Papadopoulos-Kerameus), pp. 210 seq.





Attention should also be called to the allocution by Pope Hadrian II to the thirty bishops of the Roman synod of 869, after reading the report by his experts, charged with the examination of the Acts of the Council of 867. This is what he said about this Council: [1]


After that, Photius raised his face to heaven, but his tongue came down to earth as he opened his evil-smelling mouth against divine providence which miraculously set up the primacy of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles and against the Apostolic See of the key-bearer of the same heavenly kingdom, whilst he poured out the poison of his viperish tongue against the highest dignity and power on earth. In other words, not fearing to slander the life of my blessed predecessor Pope Nicholas, nor sparing us who are his unworthy servant, not to say follower, and thinking he could curse both of us and heap blasphemies on us as far as lay in his power, he tried to trump up charges undoubtedly false and pile up incredible pythonic dreams and arguments. Yet, you all certainly know what our father was like, how great and how eminent, as you remember the qualities of his character and the triumphs of his virtues.



The first portion of this extract suggests that Photius had actually reprobated the Roman primacy as such and his choice of terms points that way, but when the Pope proceeds to substantiate his assertion, he finds no argument to produce but Photius’ criticisms of the life and actions of Nicholas: Vitam scilicet decessoris mei beatae recordationis papae Nicolai lacessere nullo modo metuens. . ., after which Hadrian lavishes high praise on Nicholas’ activities in answer to Michael and Photius.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 123: ‘Post haec vero posuit Photius in coelum os suum, et lingua eius transiit super terram, dum videlicet contra divinam ordinationem, coelitus in beati Petri principis apostolorum primatu dispositam, putridi gurgitis guttur aperuit, ac adversus eiusdem regni caelestis clavigeri apostolicam sedem, et praecipuam et summam dignitatem et potestatem, linguam suam more serpentis exacuit; vitam scilicet decessoris mei beatae recordationis papae Nicolai lacessere nullo modo metuens, nec nobis, qui eius vix digni famuli, ut non dicam sequaces, exstitimus, parcere utcumque consentiens, sed utrosque maledictis impetere, quantum in se fuit, et blasphemis inficere verbis existimans, falsitatis praestigia fingere conatus; et nescio quae Pythonica est somnia vel argumenta, compilando procul dubio, commentatus. Et certe quis ille pater noster, vel quantus aut qualis exstiterit, omnes, qui morum eius insignia, vel virtutum trophaea recolitis, plenius agnovistis. . . . ’





It is evident, then, that the Pope found in the Acts of the Council of 867 nothing but personal criticisms of Nicholas and his doings: but this is not the same as denying the Roman primacy as such any more than criticizing the conduct of Alexander VI—if we may draw the comparison without prejudice to the saintly memory of a great Pope of the stature of Nicholas—could ever be regarded as taking exception to the Roman primacy.


Photius’ manner in criticizing certain acts of Nicholas was perhaps unconventional and offensive; but then, it is also difficult, it must be confessed, to draw a hard and fast line between the Pope’s person and the high position he occupies in the Church. One can understand why Hadrian was shocked by Photius’ outburst; nevertheless, the distinction between the two notions still holds good.


To summarize what has been said about the whole incident, one can maintain that the significance of the Photian encyclical and of the synod of 867 has too often been overrated by both historians and theologians; in this they merely followed Baronius,1 who was the first to stretch Photius’ words to an attack on the Western Church and on the rights of the bishop of Rome in the Church.



Contrary to what we are made to believe, Photius spoke of the Pope, until the Council of 867, as little as possible. I have already pointed out his efforts to obtain Nicholas’ recognition and his deliberate silence after Nicholas’ reiterated refusal. It must be admitted that till 867 Photius’ attitude was perfectly dignified. Nor is it true to state that Photius had been planning his attack on the Pope ever since 864 and had sent his agents to Italy to gather materials for the Council that was to proclaim Nicholas’ downfall. Hergenröther* could produce no evidence for this assertion. Knowing the reasons for Nicholas’ refusal; knowing that his enemies’ intrigues had done their work in Rome; unable to oblige the Pope with what was expected in exchange for his recognition or to agree with his point of view, Photius remained content with keeping an obstinate but respectful silence from 861 till 867.


This was the only attitude he could adopt without prejudicing his own rights and the peace of Christendom. The information that reached him from time to time from Western countries bore out his conviction that silence and time would be the best means of breaking down Nicholas’ opposition. Photius had no difficulty in discovering that



1. Annales Ecclesiastici. .., an. 867, chs. LXVII seq. Cf. Norden, Das Papsttum und Byzanz (Berlin, 1903), p. 9. 2 Loc. cit. pp. 551 seq.





Nicholas had his antagonists among his own subordinates; and the prelates concerned volunteered the information, knowing well that the Patriarch of Constantinople also came in for some of Nicholas’ resentment: Radoald, who in 864 had made common cause with Günther and Theotgand, had certainly informed the bishops of what had taken place in Constantinople in 861 and demonstrated to them that his own point of view with regard to Photius was right whereas Nicholas’ policy was a blunder. Photius was, moreover, the only man who could have openly withstood Nicholas, without fear for his own safety.


And yet, Photius was not spoiling for a fight of this sort; nor would he have moved a finger even in 867, had the Bulgar incident not completely altered the position. His letter to John of Ravenna suggests that the last overtures made to him from the West had come that very year: it was this appeal and the Roman offensive in Bulgaria that had such a decisive effect on his change of attitude. Photius, however, exaggerated the importance and the extent of the opposition to Nicholas in the West just as much as Nicholas overrated the prestige his See commanded in the East.


These considerations may explain Photius’ conduct, though no reasons are adequate to excuse his last move, which proved so disastrous. By daring to pass judgement on a Pope, Photius committed a deed till then unheard of in history, one that endangered the unity of Christendom, for which there could be neither excuse nor justification. Rightly or wrongly, his action set a precedent invoked or imitated by all those who later were to break the unity of the Church.


Photius’ desperate move was moreover premature, inconsiderate and thoughtless; he was wrong in abandoning his attitude of patient procrastination, when Providence was busy settling things for the best. Nicholas died on 13 November, without hearing of the sentence passed on him by the Orientals. A letter from Anastasius the Librarian to Ado of Vienna, written on 14 December 867, [1] tells us that dissatisfaction with Nicholas’ policy was at the time widespread in Rome; and Anastasius, his chief collaborator, feared for the future of the great Pope’s work. The opinions of his successor Hadrian II not being known yet, Anastasius expressed his anxiety lest the new Pope should side with his predecessor’s enemies and reverse his whole policy. [2]



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 400 seq.


2. For further details cf. Lapôtre, ‘Hadrien II et les Fausses Decretales’, in Revue des Questions historiques (1880), vol. xxvii, pp. 377-431, chiefly pp. 383—402. Also, for signs of apprehension cf. the Liber Pontificalis, vol. ii, pp. 173 seq. Cf. Langen, Geschichte d. Rom. Kirche, pp. 117 seq. J. Haller, loc. cit. pp. 95 seq.





But a change seemed to be preparing even in the Papacy’s oriental policy. Zachary of Anagni, who for his feelings towards Photius had fallen foul of Nicholas, returned to favour under Hadrian and, together with some other bishops who had been dismissed by Nicholas, received holy communion from the Pope’s hands on the very day of Hadrian’s consecration. [1] The Greek monks who were refugees in Rome seemed to scent danger and ceased to come to the meal which Nicholas had daily provided for them at the Lateran. As they fought shy of Hadrian, the Pope deemed it advisable to make the first step to ease the tension and offered them a banquet on 20 February 868, [2] when he gave the refugees tokens of exceptional friendship, condescending even to eat with them and pour out the wine with his own hands. In his toast, he gave them the assurance that they had nothing to fear from him and that he had no intention of introducing any radical changes into his predecessor’s oriental policy. Theognostos must have breathed again, as anxious concern for his work had given him more than one bad night in Rome. His urgent and oft-repeated pleas to Hadrian [3] had therefore borne some fruit, though he did not have it all his own way.


It goes without saying that nothing at that moment was known of the changes in Byzantium and the Council of 867. On reading these reports, one gathers the clear impression that one move from Photius for an amicable settlement of this business would at that moment have produced the best impression and might have altered the whole course of pontifical policy.



1. Liber Pontificalis, vol. II, p. 175.


2. Ibid., p. 176: ’A cuius videlicet sanctissimi Hadriani papae collegio cum per dies aliquot quidam Graecorum et aliarum gentium servorum Dei per id tempus Romae morantium se clanculo suspendissent, sexta feria Septuagesime idem summus antistes secundum consuetudinem refectionis gratia solito pluris numeri convocavit. Quorum omnium manibus per semet humiliter aquam fudit, cibos apposuit, pocula ministravit et, quod nullum pontificum ante se fecisse noverat. . . cum illis discubuit.’ Cf. my book Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, p. 289.


3. Hadrian mentions this in his letter to Ignatius (M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 749).








Michael’s regime, Basil and the Extremists—Did Photius resign?—Basil’s embassy to Rome—Hadrian II’s reaction—The Council of 869-70—The Emperor and the legates’ uncompromising attitude—The Bulgarian incident—Was Ignatius’ recognition by the Pope conditional?



It was impossible for such a move on the part of Photius to be made, for when Hadrian took possession of the Lateran patriarcheion it was two months since Photius had vacated the patriarcheion of St Sophia. Basil had murdered Michael III on 24 September 867, [1] and the new Emperor decided to turn to Rome and to make a complete reversal of his predecessor’s religious policy. Photius had to yield place to Ignatius.


What were the reasons for this coup d'état? And why did the Emperor alter the Empire’s policy towards Rome so radically? How did this change of front bring about at the same time Photius’ downfall? Ignatian sources and histories of Constantine Porphyrogennetos’ school paint the regime of Michael III in the very darkest colours in contrast to Basil as the one man who saved the Empire from disaster. In their version, Michael’s murder was hailed with a sigh of relief and Photius’ downfall as a well-deserved punishment administered by Providence and welcomed by the whole Church of Constantinople. This point of view has until quite recently prevailed among the majority of historians.


And yet, recent discoveries on the reign of Michael III prove that the traditional view of his reign and the regime of Bardas was wrong. To judge only from some stories told by the Continuator of Theophanes and the Pseudo-Simeon, the Emperor and his uncle must have found sympathetic support, especially among the lower and the middle classes.


Michael loved to move among ordinary people to such an extent that those two writers were deeply shocked by his contempt for imperial propriety. [2] For instance, the Emperor thought nothing of holding children of the poor over the baptismal font, of visiting them in their miserable hovels; [3] and he loved sports and games at the Hippodrome,



1. For details, cf. Bury, loc. cit. pp. 177 seq.

2. Theoph. Cont. (Bonn), pp. 199 seq.; Pseudo-Simeon (Bonn), pp. 660 seq.

3. Theoph. Cont. (Bonn), pp. 172—3. Cf. Manasses, versus 5066, p. 216.





always so popular in Byzantium. [1] The anonymous author of the Patria Constantinopoleos tells a beautiful story [2] about Michael giving justice to a poor woman against the powerful official Nicephorus, and it was not the only edifying story circulating at the time in the poor quarters of Byzantium. The jaundiced descriptions by writers hostile to his memory reveal the very characteristics that must have made Michael popular among the masses. Compare their portraiture of Michael III with that found in a homily delivered in 867 in St Sophia by Photius : [3] A great Emperor, victorious and brave; a wise administrator; popular; knowing how to address the people and to put his wealth to good use; full of piety and care for the churches; a real ‘father of the country’. This picture, so different from the caricatures left by the panegyrists of the dynasty founded by his murderer, Basil I, certainly comes nearer the truth, as recent discoveries have amply shown.


As H. Grégoire [4] has been able to prove, Michael was a gifted statesman whose reign reached the high-water mark of Byzantine military



1. Theoph. Cont. (Bonn), p. 198; Pseudo-Simeon (Bonn), p. 681. It should, however, be observed that the imperial Hippodrome of S. Mammas used to be closed to the public during the races in which Michael III took an active part. None but high State officials were invited (cf. Bury, loc. cit. p. 162). Therefore annalists exaggerate in saying that Michael thereby lowered imperial dignity.


2. Th. Preger, Scriptores Originum Constantinopolitarum (Teubner, Leipzig, 1907), vol. η (Patria Constantinopoleos, vol. m, p. 27), pp. 233 seq. Theophanes’ Continuator (Bonn), p.208 and Cedrenus (Bonn), p. 1056, state that Bardas liked to dispense justice in the Hippodrome. Cf. A. Vogt, Basile Ier (Paris, 1908), p. 34. It is matter of common knowledge to every student of Byzantine history that George Cedrenus, who lived at the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth century, did not produce an original work but copied, for the period 811-1057, the work of Skylitzes, who lived in the second half of the eleventh century and wrote a chronicle extending from the reign of Michael I to that of Nicephorus Botaneiates (811-1079). Skylitzes’ work was, however, never published and has so far been known only through Cedrenus’ transcription. To simplify matters, I have preferred to quote this historical source as Cedrenus’ work. Cf. Krumbacher, Geschichte der Byzantinischen Literatur (München, 1897), pp. 365-9.


3. S. Aristarchos, Photii Orat. et Hom. vol. II, pp. 314-17. Cf. my note, ‘Lettre à M. H. Grégoire à propos de Michel III. . .’, in Byzantion (1935), vol. x, pp. 6-8.



·       H. Grégoire, ‘Inscriptions historiques Byzantines’, in Byzantion (1927-8), vol. IV, pp. 437-48 (‘Ancyre et les Arabes sous Michel l’Ivrogne’,

·       idem, ‘Michel III et Basile le Macédonien dans l’Inscription d’Ancyre’, ibid. (1929-30), vol. v, pp. 327-40;

·       idem, ‘Études sur le IXe siècle’, ibid. (1933), vol. viii, pp. 515-50).


Cf. my Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 85—112, on the Arab mission. Cf. also M. N. Adontz, ‘L’Age et l’Origine de l’Empereur Basile I, in Byzantion (1933), vol. viii, pp. 475—513; (1934)? vol. ix, pp. 223-60; idem, ‘La Portée historique de l’Oraison funèbre de Basile I’, ibid. vol. viii, pp. 501-13. The old thesis is defended in A. Vogt’s study, ‘La Jeunesse de Léon VI Le Sage’, in Revue Historique (1934), vol. CLXXIV, pp. 389—428.





power against the Arabs: by defeating them in 863, he and his gallant uncle Bardas substantially enhanced the prestige of Byzantium. Little wonder then that Michael stood high in public veneration and long did his name live in popular ‘tragedies’. Even Michael’s morals have benefited by the findings. He was no paragon of virtue, it is true. He loved drink and good cheer; he was jovial and had a weakness for coarse jokes. But he was not drunk every day and if in his younger days he permitted himself in the company of his boon companions some irreverent travesties of the liturgy, he was not for that reason either cynical or impious. He founded two churches, both dedicated to Our Lady, [1] and richly endowed the church of St Sophia. The Continuator of Theophanes, no friend of Michael’s, enumerates the rich presents the Emperor made to the principal churches of Constantinople and makes no secret of his admiration for the splendour of the gifts. [2] Photius in a homily praised the Emperor’s lavish generosity and expressed the hope to see more such marks of imperial favour lavished on the great church. [3]


Even Michael’s attitude towards his mother Theodora was not as heartless as we have been made to believe. Her dethronement, as we have seen, was dictated by political interests. She was not sent to a convent immediately after her fall : not until after the fruitless endeavour by supporters of the old regime to overthrow Bardas did her brother and her son decide to resort to this expedient. She must have been subsequently set free again, for in 863 she took her share in the triumph of her son and of Bardas, when the populace that day hailed ‘the emperor together with the august empresses who share the purple’. [4] Pope Nicholas knew that Theodora held an important position at the court, for in 866 he wrote to her as to one who might wield a salutary influence on Michael, and Theognostos had certainly kept the Pope informed about the circumstances at the Byzantine court. As he left Byzantium probably at the beginning of 862, Theodora’s reinstatement should be dated from 861, the year when the intrigues of the Ignatians and of Theodora’s old supporters were definitely foiled.


Henceforth Michael and his mother must have been on friendly terms,



1. The τῶν ὁδηγῶν and the καραβίτξιν. See Patria Constantinopoleos, vol. III, p. 277; (ed. Th. Preger), loc. cit. vol. II, p. 233. Bardas founded the church of S. Demetrius (ibid. p. 295). Cf. G. Yared, loc. cit. (1872), vol. II, pp. 561-4.


2. Theoph. Cont. (Bonn), pp. 210 seq.


3. S. Aristarchos, Φωτίου λόγοι καὶ ὁμιλίαι (Constantinople, 1900), vol. II, pp. 294, 300 seq. Cf. my ‘Lettre à M. H. Grégoire. . .’, p. 5.


4. Const. Porph., De Ceremoniis (Bonn), vol. 1, p. 333: σὺν ταῖς τιμίαις αὐγούσταις ἐν τῇ πορφύρᾳ. Cf. Bury, loc. cit. pp. 169, 284.





for we learn from the same sources as those which refer to Michael’s murder [1] that Theodora had invited her son to a dinner on 25 September 867 and that Michael sent his protovestiarios Rentakios out to hunt to provide his mother with venison for the banquet. After learning of her son’s tragic death, Theodora went with her daughters to view the body and bathe it in her tears, a touching demonstration clearly attesting that Michael had after all not been such an undutiful son to his mother.


Chroniclers’ gossip on the marriage à trois between Michael, Basil and Eudocia was given the lie in the funeral oration which Leo VI delivered in memory of his father Basil. [2] So none need be shocked at the fact that Photius gave his support to Michael. Corruption at the Byzantine court was not so bad as some would have it; [3] and besides, if Photius is to be blamed for having been associated from his youth in the life of the Byzantine court, it should be remembered that the Patriarch Tarasius, for instance, should share in the same censure; but this did not prevent the Church from honouring him with canonization. Even the most judicious scholars admit to-day that Michael III was not the ’triste sire’ who richly deserved the title of 'Drunkard’ bestowed on him by posterity. [4] As I have stated already, there was in Michael’s case the same blackening of character as in that of the Emperor Nicephorus, and in both instances the defamation came from the same quarter—the Extremists. There is, therefore, no justification whatever for pretending that dissatisfaction with Michael’s regime was widespread and that Basil’s ascent to the throne was hailed with a sense of relief. Far from this being the case, Michael’s murder alienated several classes of the Byzantine population.


What then were the reasons for Basil’s coup d'état? The main and possibly the only reason was extremely commonplace: Basil’s insensate desire to become Emperor. The same ambition that had led him to commit the previous murder, that of Bardas, this time prompted him to assassinate his greatest benefactor and friend Michael, his only excuse being the fear lest Michael, who was beginning to suspect a rival, should steal a march upon him.



1. Pseudo-Simeon (Bonn), pp. 684 seq.; Georg. Cont. (Bonn), pp. 836 seq.


2. A. Vogt, I. Hausherr, ‘ L’Oraison funèbre de Basile I’, in Orientalia Christiana (Rome, 1932), vol. xxvi; Adontz, ‘La Portée historique de l’Oraison funèbre de Basile I’, in Byzantion (1933), vol. viii, pp. 501-13.


3. For instance, Hergenröther, loc. cit. vol. 1, pp. 336 seq.


4. Cf. F. Dölger, Zeitschrift (1936), vol. xxxvi, on the subject of my ‘Lettre à M. H. Grégoire. . .’, in Byzantion, vol. x, pp. 5-9.





For all these reasons, it is only too evident that Basil, once Emperor, could no longer count on the support of the party that had stood behind Bardas and Michael, and was forcibly driven to turn to the party which in Michael’s reign formed the opposition—the Extremists; and the favours of this party were his, on condition that he should adopt its religious policy. Basil had no choice but to close the bargain. Photius’ downfall and Ignatius’ reinstatement thereupon followed as a matter of course, for it was only among the Extremists that Basil could find people ready to condone, or if need be to countenance, his crime.


But Basil’s leaning to the Extremists was of older date. As Caesar Bardas had been the Moderates’ principal mainstay, his murder not only made Basil a favourite with the Extremists, as was only to be expected, but greatly facilitated matters for him; for after the Caesar’s assassination, in which the Emperor had played a regrettable part, Bardas’ friends lost interest in the Emperor, who had not the same commanding personality as his uncle Bardas, and the Moderates’ position deteriorated. From that moment the Extremists must have been on the alert. Basil probably also made contact with their leaders before carrying out his scheme, and though the blow must have been struck sooner than anticipated, the revolution seems to have been carefully planned. [1] This brings us once more to the eternal rivalry between the two political parties, mutually jealous and ever greedy of supremacy in Church and State.



It only remains to examine the circumstances of Photius’ dethronement. Here we are faced with two different versions: the one handed down by the Continuator of George the Monk [2] presents Photius as in direct and irreconcilable opposition to Basil, going so far even as to refuse Basil holy communion and to call him a robber and a parricide. The other version is embodied in the account by Anastasius and reads: ‘Basilius Photio sacro ministerio post depositionem irregulariter abutenti throno Constantinopolitano cedere persuadet.’ [3]


Which of these two versions comes nearer the truth? At a first glance, one would be inclined to adopt the Continuator’s version, which



1. Adontz, ‘L’Age et l’Origine de l’Empereur Basile T, in Byzantion (1934), vol. ix, p. 232 is of the same opinion. Basil also initiated into his plot two bodies of military under the command of his two accomplices, his brother Marianus and Artavasdes.


2. (Bonn), p. 841. Also, cf. Leo Gram. (Bonn), pp. 254 seq.; Pseudo-Simeon (Bonn), pp. 688 seq.


3. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 6.





Hergenröther [1] naturally discards for reasons that are not valid; for he finds it strange that a man who approved Bardas’ murder could in less than no time turn virtuous enough to protest against Michael’s murder. And yet, Photius’ reply to the imperial account of what had taken place in the course of the expedition to Crete [2] could not justify the conclusion that Photius approved the murder of Bardas. Naturally enough, he accepts the official explanation supplied by the Emperor, or rather by Basil, to the effect that Bardas had been plotting against the Emperor; but in his letter to Michael one can find more than one sentence indicative of the Patriarch’s true feelings. What he regretted most was that Bardas had been killed without being given time to repent. [3] Equally sincere was his request, repeated in a second letter, urging Michael to return to Constantinople soon, there being serious fear of trouble from the loyal partisans of Bardas.


But plausible as such a line of argument is, we cannot give this version unreserved credit. In the first place, it recalls too much the story of Ignatius’ refusal to give holy communion to Bardas, as though one of Photius’ admirers had concocted the parallel story in order that his hero should not be outdone by Ignatius. Then again, why should Basil have courted the affront and risked his prestige among the population of the city, when there was no need for it? He must have known Photius’ feelings and could not but expect a rebuff ; and he was cunning enough to realize that any overtures to Photius would have lost him the good will of the Extremists, whose support he had to solicit above all things.


For all these reasons Anastasius’ version seems preferable; it is brief and truthful. It was the obvious thing for Basil to do—to invite Photius to resign—since he had to reinstate on the patriarchal throne Ignatius, the very candidate of the political party with whose assistance he intended to govern. The procedure was also canonical and true to Byzantine tradition: Photius’ resignation was sent in soon after the coup d'état, probably the day after, [4] and Ignatius’ installation took place only on 3 November, the anniversary of his first enthronement.



1. Photius, vol. iii, pp. 13 seq. Cf. vol. II, pp. 588 seq.


2. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 717 seq.


3. Cf. Bury, loc. cit. pp. 172 seq., and Rosseykin, loc. cit. pp. 341-4.


4. The crowning of Basil by Photius mentioned in the Patriarch’s letter to the Emperor (P.G. vol. 102, col. 765) did not take place after Michael’s murder. Photius merely recalls the ceremony as it was narrated by the Continuator of George the Monk (Bonn, p. 832) and which took place when Michael proclaimed Basil coEmperor. Basil, after Michael’s murder, did not have himself crowned again, but simply went on ruling alone.





After ascending the throne, Basil found himself in a somewhat delicate position: as he had announced a change of policy, he had to try to be on good terms with Rome; but, on the other hand, he had badly committed himself in the eyes of the Romans by attending with Michael the Council that had indicted Nicholas, the same Pope, so it was then believed in Constantinople, who was still in occupation of the See of Rome. Under the circumstances, one can understand that Basil should try to doctor whatever might in this respect have placed him in an unfavourable light: so he hurriedly recalled the ambassadors, who were on their way to Italy, carrying the Acts of that Council to Louis II; ordered, as soon as he was in power, a search to be made in the Patriarch’s palace, [1] and confiscated the copy of the Acts found among the Patriarch’s papers, a document it was wise to secure before it could be used against him.


Similar motives may have prompted Basil to inform the Pope at the earliest possible date of the recent change in Byzantium and to despatch the spathar Euthymios to Rome with a letter. As the envoy did not arrive till the beginning of the summer of 868, the Pope’s reply to this letter being dated August of the same year, Euthymios cannot have left Byzantium till the spring of 868, at the opening of sea traffic. Basil,, however, summarized the facts in his second letter to the Pope; it is preserved in the Acts of the Eighth Council. [2]


When Theognostos got to know of its contents, he had every reason to rejoice, for the very terms used by the Emperor made it evident that the Extremists had gained the upper hand in Byzantium. Theognostos could hardly have expected such a sudden and complete turn, and all those in Rome who had trembled for the future of Nicholas’ work breathed a sigh of relief. The news brought to Rome by Euthymios created the same sensation as Boris’ embassy in 866: the ‘Nicholases’ had scored; the great Pope’s Oriental policy had been marvellously justified by the Byzantines themselves. And there was none left in Rome to criticize it. Whatever, then, Nicholas had said or written about Photius must be absolutely true, since here was the Emperor himself to confirm it. None in Rome, of course, knew anything about the conflict between the two political currents, and Theognostos was not going to enlighten the Romans in the matter; so the sudden change was soon explained à la romaine and the whole of Nicholas’ work benefited by the explanation. This circumstance probably stiffened Hadrian’s determination



1. Nicetas, Vita Ignatii, P.G. vol. 105, col. 540,

2. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 46, 47.





to pursue in all things and as far as possible his predecessor’s policy, [1] thus leaving Anastasius henceforth to sleep more peacefully. The émigré Theognostos in one day rose to celebrity for the important services he would be able to render in Byzantium in the interests of the Papacy.


The Pope immediately made a call on his services and sent Theognostos to Constantinople with the ambassador. They carried two letters. [2] The missive to Basil expressed the Pope’s deep satisfaction on hearing that the Emperor had decided to carry out Nicholas’ verdict in the two cases of Ignatius and Photius ; also, his hope that Basil would bring the incident to a satisfactory conclusion; and ended by warmly recommending Theognostos. This recommendation is couched in warmer terms still in the letter to Ignatius, who is asked to send Theognostos back to Rome with the apocrisiaries. But the Pope is. surprised that the Patriarch should not have notified his advent to the throne sooner. However, he will never diverge from what Nicholas of blessed memory has decided against Photius and in favour of Ignatius..


Euthymios and Theognostos, who should have reached Constantinople before winter, apparently were not there by 11 December, the day the Emperor sent a second letter to the Pope, telling him of his fears concerning his first ambassador, and wondering if his letter had reached the Pope, as the writer had been waiting in vain for a reply. The letter does not, however, indicate the year of its dispatch, though it was later given the date of 11 December 867. [3] But this date is in no way admissible, for, even if Basil had sent Euthymios to Rome by the end of September 867, there was no reason for him to be surprised at not getting an answer before 11 December of the same year. If the date 11 December must be kept, then it should belong to 868, not 867.


But there is one objection against this assumption. If sea traffic between Byzantium and Rome was closed in winter, the date indicated in the letter must be a mistake, unless it be assumed that the Emperor deliberately exposed his ambassadors, owing to the importance of their mission, to the dangers of a sea journey in winter. Some particulars seem to point that way. In his reply to this second embassy, Hadrian dwells with emphasis on the dangers which the ambassadors had had to face,



1. Lapôtre, ‘Hadrien II et les Fausses Decretales’, in Revue des Questions historiques (1880), t. XXVII, pp. 383 seq.


2. M.G.H. Ep. vi, pp. 747-50.


3. Last, by F. Dölger, Regesten der Kaiserurkunden (München, 1924), vol. i, p. 58. The author omits to mention the letter committed by the Emperor to the care of Euthymios.





dangers as bad as those St Paul ran on his travels. [1] These words are only intelligible, if the journey was undertaken in winter. Even the ship that carried Photius’ delegates was wrecked, and Peter, bishop of Sardes, drowned. [2] The sources relating the incident pointedly mention that the ship Peter had chosen was brand-new, a sign that special precautions had been taken to minimize the risk the ambassadors were to run on their sea-crossing. All this is easily explained, if the journey took place at the season particularly dangerous for navigation, i.e. in winter. It also appears that the delegation travelled overland to the Adriatic coast to mitigate the danger; and the ship mentioned was wrecked, according to Nicetas, in the Dalmatian Bay.


On the other hand, it would seem most unlikely that the voyage should have lasted from December 867 till December 868. Moreover, the delegation did not include Theognostos, who went to Constantinople with Basil’s envoy Euthymios, a sure indication that the abbot was not yet in Rome when the Emperor dictated his letter. That was ii December 868. Be it also remembered that the Pope had asked Ignatius to include Theognostos among the envoys.


If our surmise is correct, the imperial embassy reached Rome towards the end of winter in 869, perhaps at the end of February or the beginning of March. The composition of the embassy clearly revealed the Emperor’s intentions: not only did he send his spathar Basil, but also a representative of Ignatius—John of Silaeon—and one of Photius— Peter of Sardes ; in other words, Basil completely accepted the terms of Nicholas, as laid down in his last letter to Michael, and remitted the whole case to the Pope’s court in Rome. He did not omit to point out in his letter that he had carried out the Pope’s wish expressed on the same occasion and had restored Ignatius to his throne. The fate of the Photian bishops is left entirely to the Pope’s discretion: all that was asked for was magnanimity in the verdict, [3] which a special pontifical delegation should communicate to the Church of Constantinople. In asking for the Pope’s decision in the Photian bishops’ case, Ignatius specially recommends to his clemency Paul, archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, a repentant Photianist.



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 758: ‘Qui tanta, postquam illinc profecti sunt, offendicula, ut didicimus, pertulerunt, ut nullum properantes pene periculorum, quae Paulus in epistolis suis dinumerat, evasisse videantur. Quapropter dignis sunt vicissitudinibus a tua pietate remunerandi, qui pro ecclesia Christi proque iniunctae sibi a majestate tua legationis consummatione tot ac talia subire promptissime consenserunt.’


2. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 7; Liber Pontificalis, vol. II, p. 178; Nicetas, Vita Ignatii, P.G. vol. 105, col. 544.


3. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 46, 47.





The Liber Pontificalis [1] gives us a detailed account of the reception given to the Greek embassy in the church of St Mary Major, where the ambassadors presented the Acts of the Council of 867 with expressions of horror at their contents and characteristically Greek gesticulations, the spathar Basil roundly accusing Photius of having forged the Emperor’s signature at the foot of the Acts: Michael signed in a fit of drunkenness. The ambassadors were unable to ascertain whether Euthymios and Theognostos had reached Constantinople and it was feared that disaster had overtaken them. The Romans must have been surprised to learn that the ambassadors knew nothing about their fate.


It was thus not until early spring in 869 that details of the Eastern synod of 867 reached Rome, when fortunately the outgoing Patriarch’s daring deed had lost its sting, since Constantinople had on its own initiative disowned and condemned it. One could therefore afford to be shocked in perfect comfort.


The Pope had the Acts examined by a commission of experts, but the imperial ambassadors urged Hadrian to expedite the examination and his own decision. [2] There was good reason for haste, as Basil was growing impatient at the pace of the negotiations, which had dragged on for eighteen months. Preparations for the Council in Constantinople had started before the ambassadors embarked for Rome and the delegates of the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch were waiting impatiently for the arrival of the Roman delegates. [3]


The synod at last took place in the first days of June, [4] as the Pope’s letters, which the apocrisiaries had to take to Constantinople, bear the date 10 June 869. Bishop Peter, the counsel for the Photian party’s defence, having perished on his way, there was no one to plead for the defendants, and though the Pope repeatedly urged the monk Methodius, the only survivor of Peter’s party, to undertake Photius’ defence, the monk, whether he felt unable to undertake the task, or because he knew the verdict to be a foregone conclusion, declined to do so. Then the Pope decided to continue the proceedings and to pronounce judgement without giving the defendants a hearing.



1. Loc. cit. vol. ii, pp. 178 seq.


2. Stated by the Pope in his letter to Basil, M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 758. In the same letter Hadrian explains the delay by the number of important items of business he had to settle before the convocation of the synod.


3. Cf. their declaration at the first session of the Eighth Council (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 25). The Roman legates failing to arrive, they wished to leave.


4. Cf. Jaffé-Ewald, Regesta, p. 370. Lapôtre, ‘Hadrien II et les Fausses Décrétales loc. cit. p. 384.





The Acts of the Roman synod are to be found in the Acts of the Eighth Council, as they were read during the seventh session. [1] The allocution which the Pope addressed to the assembly bears out what has been said about Hadrian’s irresolution in following his predecessor’s policy in every detail, as the Pope made desperate efforts to make the Nicholaites, whose confidence had received an extra fillip from the new turn in Ignatius’ case, forgive and forget his fumbling in the first days of his reign, by lavishing lengthy praise on Nicholas’ achievements and charging Photius with having, by his challenge to Nicholas, personally challenged him (Hadrian), since Nicholas’ policy was equally his. [2]


The Pope’s allocution shows that Hadrian had completely veered round to the point of view of Theognostos and his associates, then still in Rome, in Ignatius’ case. The Fathers’ opinion was expressed by Gauderich of Velletri, whose proposals were adopted and improved upon by the Pope and read out by his spokesman, the deacon Marinus. Formosus then assured the Pope that the synod agreed to everything he would judge it necessary to decide. In the third allocution, which was read by the deacon Peter, Hadrian very severely took Photius to task for daring to judge a Pope: ‘Romanum pontificem de omnium ecclesiarum praesulibus judicasse legimus, de eo vero quemquam judicasse non legimus.’ When the synod had endorsed the condemnation and interceded for those bishops who had been misled by Photius, the Pope passed sentence:


Photius’ conventicle must be put on a par with the Ephesus act of brigandage; his decrees are valueless; his Acts, as well as all the documents written by him and the Emperor Michael against the Church of Rome, must be burned; even the councils summoned by Photius against Ignatius are condemned. The third canon renewed in the most virulent terms the anathemas hurled by Nicholas against Photius; and should the ‘intruding’ Patriarch repent he will be admitted to lay communion only. The fourth canon was aimed at the signatories of the conventicle of 867, who were promised lay communion if they repented. Lastly, the fifth canon threatened with excommunication all those who



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 122-31, 372-80.


2. Cf. the passage quoted on p. 128. That is how I explain the Pope’s words. Ch. J. Hefele (Hefele-Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, iv, 1, p. 471) and Hergenröther (loc. cit. vol. ii, p. 37) offer opinions on this passage that are unacceptable; for how could Photius have possibly spread rumours to the effect that Hadrian’s opinions differed from his predecessor’s? Photius could not know of Hadrian’s election till the end of December 868, after the arrival of Euthymios and Theognostos; and who else could have reported such rumours to the Pope?





should refuse to hand over the condemned writings. The synod was brought to an end with a solemn bonfire, when the Acts of the Council of 867, brought by the imperial ambassadors, were burned in front of the church of St Peter, where the synod had met, and the volumes burned so fiercely under pouring rain that all the onlookers pronounced it a miracle. [1]


In his letter to Ignatius, which the legates were to convey to Constantinople with copies of all the letters written by Nicholas on the Photian incident, the Pope, among other things, communicated the sentence passed against the defendants. Photius, Gregory of Syracuse and those who had been consecrated by the ex-Patriarch are deposed, with the sole exception of Paul of Caesarea; the clergy ordained by Ignatius, who subsequently followed Photius, may obtain pardon, if they sign the 'Libellus satisfactionis’ which the legates will present to them; absolution for the signatories of the Acts of the Council of 867 is reserved to the Holy See; Ignatius is also called upon to justify himself against his enemies’ accusation that he refused to receive the letter of Benedict III, by having the pontifical decrees signed by all the members of the Council shortly to be summoned in Constantinople; the Acts of the Roman synod are to be kept in the patriarchal archives.


In his letter to Basil, Hadrian repeats his decisions, with special emphasis on the fact that, owing to the Emperor’s intervention, he had exercised special clemency in his judgement; the Emperor is requested to summon a great council to carry out the Pontiff’s sentence under the presidentship of his legates; the Acts of Photius’ conventicle must be solemnly burned there; lastly, the Emperor is asked to send back to Rome the Greek monks who with Photius had intrigued against Pope Nicholas in Constantinople; and the Pope concludes by recommending his legates, bishops Donatus and Stephen and Deacon Marinus, to Basil’s favour.


In comparing the contents of the letters from Basil and Ignatius to Hadrian with the decisions of the synod of St Peter’s, and the Pope’s answers to those letters, one notes that the Pope had gone far beyond the Emperor’s intentions. Basil had naturally wished to comply with Nicholas’ desire to reserve to himself the final verdict in the case, in the presence of the two parties in Rome, believing that this was the best way to curry favour with Rome and to screen his murder behind the authority of the supreme See. He needed the support of this high moral patronage to strengthen his regime in Byzantium. But it was not in his



1. Liber Pontificalis, vol. II, p. 179.





best interest to exasperate the Photianists by excessive severity and stiffen their opposition to the new conditions. Being clever enough to see that the ecclesiastical wing of the moderate or liberal party, which had identified itself with the Photian loyalists, was a power to conjure with, he only sought the Pope’s assistance in bringing about an honourable liquidation of the whole business, the very reason why he so urgently insisted with the Pope on the exercise of clemency towards the Photianists. His ambassador must have been instructed in the same sense, for he actually tried to obtain a mitigation of the sentence against Ignatius’ enemies.


In this respect, the Emperor’s attempt proved a failure, and the Pope in no way made things easier for him. His sentence was stiff and far too severe. Evidently, the Pope failed to understand Basil’s wishes in the matter; he only saw things in the light in which Nicholas had seen them, and took advantage of the Photian case to convince the Nicholaites, always ready to criticize some of his first acts, that he really was a faithful follower of his great predecessor.


On learning of Hadrian’s decision, Basil must have regretted his ignorance of the change in the See of Rome at the moment he dictated his letters. If Euthymios had arrived from Rome sooner, if Basil had known of Nicholas’ death, he would very probably have dealt with the new Pope differently, and as Hadrian was not so deeply committed in the case, he would have found it easier to induce the Pope to make concessions.


The discrepancy between Basil’s intentions and the Pope’s decisions came for the first time to the surface at the legates’ audience at court. In his speech on that occasion, the Emperor wished the legates every success in their mission for the restoration of peace and unity in the Church of Constantinople in the spirit of Nicholas’ decrees; and the legates replied that such indeed was their mission. They insisted, however, that they could admit no one to the synod, unless he first signed the ‘Libellus’ which they had brought from Rome and which had been drawn up after a formulary preserved in the Vatican archives. Amazed at this declaration, the Emperor and the Patriarch replied : Quia novum hoc et inauditum de libello proferendo asseritis, necesse est ut tenoris illius formam videamus. [1]


The ‘Libellus’ in question was a formula neither new nor unknown in the East, having been drawn up after Pope Hormisdas’ Regula Fidei, [2]



1. Liber Pontificalis, vol. ii, pp. 180, 181.

2. Mansi, vol. viii, cols. 407, 408.





a document which the Eastern bishops had been asked to sign on their abjuration of Aeacius’ schism; only, it had been slightly enlarged by Hadrian’s Chancellery, who, for the anathemas hurled at the heretics mentioned in the Regula, had substituted a long and vehement condemnation of Photius and his adherents, with, naturally, additional emphasis on the primacy of the Roman See.


Thus the 'Libellus’, though its contents were not particularly objectionable, was not a document likely to be very welcome to the Byzantines. However, Basil accepted it; but what angered him was the way the 'Libellus’ was forced on them and made a sine qua non condition for admission to the Council.


Under the circumstances, there was in fact no reason left for convoking a council, since judgement had already been passed. This did not square with the intentions of Basil, who would have liked the Council to try the case anew and the legates to give their verdict in the name of the Council and of the Pope. He had a feeling that the legates’ procedure would only complicate matters and upset all his plans.



The Council opened on 5 October with fairly disheartening prospects. This time, the legates would hear of no compromise between their instructions and the Emperor’s real intentions: the Pope’s orders were to be carried out literally. But the legates must have been painfully surprised at the meagre attendance at the first session of only twelve bishops, prelates who had always remained faithful to Ignatius, a clear indication that Rome had been labouring under a misconception of the numerical and moral importance of the Ignatian party; and had the true position among the Byzantine clergy after 861 been better known, Rome would have modified her proceedings against the Photianists. The man really responsible for the misunderstanding was none other than Theognostos with his Extremist monks, then refugees in Rome.


Difficulties grew worse. The reading of the 'Libellus’ at the first session, when the number of prelates consenting to sign the document was anything but imposing, seems to have created something of a sensation among the audience. [1] At the second session, only ten more bishops [2] came forward to sign ; and at the third session, the metropolitans Theodoulos of Ancyra and Nicephorus of Nicaea, though seemingly not unfavourable to Ignatius, refused to sign, arguing that they had vowed never to sign any documents of that nature, because such signatures had



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 30: ‘Et post completionem libelli silentio facto, surgens Bahanes. . .dixit. . . .’            2. Ibid. col. 41.





been so badly abused of late. [1] At the fourth session, thirty-six bishops came forward, with the addition of only one at each of the following sessions. At the ninth session, the number rose to sixty-six, and at the last to 103, no great achievement after all. Even Anastasius, the translator of the Acts, registered surprise. [2] There was no explaining away the fact by arguing that the prelates only dribbled in after the invitation to come, for we know that Basil had been long in preparing the Council and had certainly taken every precaution to secure an attendance. Nor should we forget that nearly two years had elapsed since Ignatius’ reinstatement, leaving his supporters plenty of time to prepare the Council and to canvass for friends among the Photian clergy. They had apparently not been very successful in that quarter.


The true reasons for the failure can be read between the lines of Anastasius’ report. They were the strength of the Photian party, the bishops’ loyalty, and the wooden rigidity of the procedure in Council. For one thing, the clergy ordained by Photius had nothing to gain by transferring their allegiance to Ignatius, as all they were promised was lay communion, and those ordained by Methodius and Ignatius, who returned to the new Patriarch, were given long and fairly humiliating penances. One has but to imagine oneself in their place: they knew much more about the whole business than the apostolic delegates and the Roman See; they knew all its details, all the intrigues of the opposition party as well as the true motives behind the hatred it heaped on their leader; and they deeply resented the fact that the Roman See and its representatives, completely ignoring issues that had nothing to do with religion and ecclesiastical discipline, had straight away condemned their master and themselves, without even giving them a hearing. Under the circumstances, the See of Rome only stood to lose part of a prestige which they and their master had willingly acknowledged.


The legates were not aware of the dreadful dilemma into which they were driving the consciences of the majority of the Byzantine clergy, and in fear of the fate of Zachary and Radoald and wishing to carry out the Pope’s orders literally, they refrained from a closer examination of the case. Obviously, things were far too complicated for anyone who had not followed them at close quarters and lived in the thick of them. In Rome, numerous facts, apparently beyond dispute, besides Basil’s own approval, seemed to warrant and vindicate the sentence that had been pronounced, but what Roman of those days could have been familiar with all the intricacies of the case?



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 45.            2. Ibid. col. 190.





Even the Ignatians attending the Council seemed to be aware of this and took exception to the legates’ procedure; for they must have felt the solidity of their opponents5 position, and so realized that the clear-cut and categorical sentence passed by Rome in their favour could only recoil on their own position in the eyes of the Byzantine public. They were after all given nothing to do in the Council, since the issue had been decided in advance in Rome and all they were asked to do was to sign the decree, a treatment humiliating for the Byzantines, which could and did make people say that Constantinople had been enslaved by Rome. One can just imagine the lively commentaries on the first seven conciliar sessions of the month of October that set all the presbyteries agog in those long winter evenings. The ‘Libellus’ signed by the Ignatian bishops was evidence enough. It also makes one understand how at the end of the Council some prelates approached the Patriarch and the Emperor to represent to them that the ‘ Libellus’ would survive as a standing token of the Byzantine Church’s subjection to Rome, and why the Emperor attempted to seize the signed copies locked up in the legates’ safe. Anastasius congratulated himself on inducing the Emperor to have the said documents, after being stolen by the legates’ servants on Basil’s own orders—so Anastasius avers—restored to them. [1]



Basil saw, of course, the difficulties in which Ignatius and his party had been placed, and, although unable to act in. opposition to the Pope, whose judgement he had asked and obtained, he tried at least to minimize the deplorable impression such a peremptory prejudgement had produced in Byzantium. Attentive reading of the Acts of the Council reveals that Basil had planned more than one unpleasant surprise for the legates.


At the first session, Baanes, a high official, who presided over the conciliar debates, first called upon the legates, to their utter amazement, to present their credentials to the assembly. Here is their reply: ‘ So far we have never come upon the practice at General Councils for representatives of older Rome to be asked by anybody for their credentials.’ (‘ Hoc nos usque nunc non invenimus in universali synodo factum, ut vicarii senioris Romae a quolibet perpendantur, utrum talem existimationem habeant.’) Not until they had been assured that no offence against the honour of the Roman See had been intended did the legates cool down—a precaution to avoid a repetition of the story of Zachary and Radoald! At the same session, Baanes asked the Pope’s representatives why Photius had been condemned without being given a hearing, [2]



1. Loc. cit. col. 29.            2. Loc. cit. col. 34.





whereupon the legates felt themselves obliged to give a lengthy answer and summarize the story of the embassies sent to Rome by Michael and Photius. Even representatives of the Eastern sees had to be called to order on the same issue.


Basil’s intentions are not difficult to detect behind this procedure: the Emperor wished to give the assembly at least a semblance of an impartial court and expected the Pope’s sentence to be pronounced again, after a minute examination. Having no wish to exasperate the Photianists, he persistently emphasized his readiness to find a compromise acceptable to all, as was made clear in the inaugural address which he sent to the Fathers and had read out by the secretary Theodore. The same was repeated in other addresses, for instance, at the sixth and seventh sessions. [1] At the fourth session, Baanes gave expression to the Emperor’s wish in almost brutal terms: The Emperor will not sign the Acts, if Photius and his associates are refused a hearing. [2]


Hence it was that the Emperor ignored the Pope’s order to have the Council presided over by his legates, a privilege the Emperor, as in other oecumenical councils, reserved to himself or to his representative, the Patrician Baanes, and forced the legates to accept. At the fourth session, the legates were asked to re-examine the case of the Photian bishops Theophilus and Zachary, a particularly unpalatable request, as the bishops soon confounded the legates by producing Marinus’ evidence to the effect that the Pope had held communion with them in 860. [3] The Emperor also imposed on the legates the obligation of giving Photius and all the bishops who supported him a hearing (fifth, sixth and seventh sessions). Among all those who attended, the fourth session created a most awkward impression.


The legates, of course, upheld their own point of view as best they could, seizing every opportunity to insist that they had not come to



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 18, 19, chiefly 93: ‘Unum solum nobis desiderium, et ad praefatos iudices, postquam illos vidimus supplicatio fuit, ne quemquam permitterent deperire, vel ab ecclesia Dei quemquam si fieri potest projici. . .quos non proprie tantum, sed et communiter hodie, omnibus videntibus, deprecamur, manum iis qui compassione opus habent porrigere, et unam ecclesiam celebrantium festivitatem perficere.’ Cf. also cols. 99, 100.


2. Loc. cit. col. 55 : ‘Si vultis ergo a nobis... in fine sanctae et universalis huius synodi exigere proprias subscriptiones per me indignum servum sanctorum imperatorum nostrorum, cuncti fratres mei et compatricii dicunt sanctissimo domino nostro patriarchae et sanctissimis vicariis. . .nisi audierimus et ab ipso Photio in conspectu nostro stante, et ab episcopis eius... ut in conspectu obstruantur ora ipsorum ex canonicis et synodicis praeceptionibus, non scribet manus nostra litteram in synodo ista.’ Cf. Vogt, Basile Ier (Paris, 1908), pp. 22 seq.


3. Cf. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 77, 88, 97, 98, 100. See pp. 72 seq.





listen to the arguments of the ex-Patriarch and his associates, but to pronounce the sentence passed in advance in Rome by Nicholas and Hadrian. [1] Their words were plain and always the same: Do you acknowledge Rome’s judgement? Will you sign the ‘Libellus’, yes or no? They interrupted Baanes and even Basil, as they cross-questioned Eulampius. At the seventh session, when the iconoclast Crithinos came up for trial, the legates asked, not for the reading of the decisions of the Seventh Council against the iconoclasts, but only for Nicholas’ decree on images.


As matters stood, the Emperor’s efforts were doomed to failure. Photius had, to the legates’ exasperation, kept an unbroken and dignified silence. Zachary tried to plead for Photius and his cause at the sixth session, and Metrophanes replied, but when Zachary rose to answer Metrophanes, the legates cut him short : A truce to words and to procrastination! Submit, or else you will be committed to eternal fire and flames. [2]


After that, it need surprise no one that at the seventh session Photius and Asbestas should have urged the legates to do penance. [3] From their point of view, the legates’ procedure was nothing but an exhibition of partiality and unfairness. The Photian bishops, who were quick in detecting the incompatibility between the Emperor’s and the legates’ standpoints, summed up the debates of the seventh session in these words: ‘Quid volumus dicere? Si dixerimus justitias nostras, non fient.’ By interrupting during the debate between these bishops and Baanes, the legates only provided their words with the corroboration they needed. They stopped the debate and ordered the reading of the whole dossier containing the sentence against Photius and its confirmation by Nicholas and Hadrian. In their opinion, the incident was closed, and there was no going back on the judgement. And that is how the trial of Photius and his followers was concluded. On his refusal to sign his own condemnation, Photius was, on a proposal by the legates, excommunicated. [4]



1. Photius hit off the legates’ state of mind in his letter to Theodosius (P.G. vol. 102, col. 893). There he quotes the legates as saying: ἡμεῖς οὔτε κρίνειν συνήλθομεν, οὔτε κρίνομεν ὑμᾶς· ἤδη γὰρ κατεκρίναμεν· καὶ δέον στέργειν τὴν κατάκρισιν. . . . This letter, the letter that precedes it in the Hergenröther-Migne edition and is addressed to the same person, Photius’ letter to Michael the Protospathar and two letters to Michael of Mytilene, give a good idea of what Photius thought of the council summoned against him (loc. cit., cols. 889-92, 948, 860).


2. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 87-92.


3. Loc. cit. col. 98.


4. Nicetas (loc. cit. col. 545) states that the bishops signed with pens dipped into Our Lord’s Blood. This anecdote seemed ‘too tall’ even to Hergenröther, loc. cit. vol. ii, p. 109.





The legates’ intransigence in the literal execution of their mandate was equally conspicuous at the ninth session, when the officials guilty of deposing Ignatius at the Council of 861 came up for trial. [1] As only thirteen out of seventy-two State functionaries concerned answered the summons, the legates insisted that the other officials should also be put on trial, when Baanes interposed with the request that Ignatius should be given power to absolve them, whenever they should apply for absolution. The protocol of this session made it abundantly clear that the government had no wish to go to extremes, for fear of exasperating the State service and of swelling the ranks of the opposition. It should be added that Ignatius understood and promptly rallied to the proposal.


Strangely enough, the legates even failed to carry their point with the Fathers in a matter that interested them most. As they tried to gain their point in every detail of the decisions of Nicholas and Hadrian, the Fathers just yielded to their claims as far as these tallied with their own point of view, but they refused to vote for a canon designed to stress those two Popes’ ideas on the primacy. There is, in the speeches, a startling repetition of the doctrine on the pentarchy, i.e. the five Patriarchs’ rule over the Universal Church; [2] and the definitions voted by the assembly show a certain tendency to place the five Patriarchs on the same footing, or at least to hold them as equally important. [3] Even canon XXI, which condemned Photius’ indictment of Nicholas, was certainly not worded after the legates’ wishes, for the Fathers contrived to insert after the Pope’s name the names of the other Patriarchs, which undoubtedly emasculated the canon for the purposes of the Holy See.. The insertion is not so alarming as it looks at first sight, but it has its importance. [4]



1. Loc. cit. cols. 150 seq.


2. Cf. the discourse by Elias of Jerusalem, Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 82, 341, of Metrophanes of Smyrna, ibid. cols. 82, 344; of Basil, ibid. cols. 86-9, 95, 356· of Baanes, ibid. cols. 99, 360, 140, 141; also, what Hergenröther (loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 132-49) says on this doctrine from a theological point of view. We may also quote, for instance, Baanes’ declaration made at the eighth session (loc. cit. col. 140), which sounds very characteristic: 'Posuit Deus ecclesiam suam in quinque patriarchiis,, et definivit in evangeliis suis, ut numquam aliquando penitus decidat, eo quod capita ecclesiae sint: etenim illud quod Christus: Et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam. .. hoc demonstrat. . . .’


3. Chiefly canon XVII. Cf. also canons XVIII, XIX, XX. Vide Hergenröther,, loc. cit. vol. ii, p. 139.


4. A similar tendency is shown in the writings of the Greek summarist of the Acts, who also belonged to the Ignatians’ extreme wing. In summing up the Libellus, he omits whatever in the original Latin is too glaringly in favour of the Roman primacy; also, the scriptural argument (Matt. xvi. 16-17) in favour of the same (Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 316). Cf. Hergenröther, loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 64-8 on other abbreviations less pertinent to our subject; also, what he says about the two versions of the canons that were voted (pp. 68 seq.). I shall presently, pp. 271 seq., discuss the author of the summary.





What is the explanation of such undisguised resistance? One might be tempted to say that in putting such stress on the orders received from Rome and in opposing on principle any new investigation of the trial, the legates had given offence to the Fathers, who instinctively retaliated by taking exception to the Roman thesis for its being presented, to their way of thinking, in a manner too blunt for their consumption. [1] One feels somewhat embarrassed in comparing the results secured in Constantinople by Radoald and Zachary in 861 with those registered by the legates in 869-70, for the declarations by the Fathers of the Council of 861 are far more pro-Roman than those made in the Ignatian Council. It only goes to prove that, with a spirit of conciliation and a better regard for the feelings of the Byzantine Church, it was possible to obtain far more from the Greeks than by peremptorily laying down the law. [2]



At the very moment when the legates saw success within their grasp, another defeat awaited them, for a Bulgarian embassy reached Constantinople in February,



1. Animosity against the West was so bitter in Byzantium that even Louis II’s embassy had to bear the brunt of it, and the ambassadors feared for their own safety. Cf. on this matter M.G.H. Ss. vol. hi, p. 526.


2. Hergenröther, loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 47-63, dwells at length on Photius’ recognition by the Eastern Patriarchs and on their representatives at the Ignatian Council. Those representing the patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem may have been armed with the full necessary powers. As to their assertion that their respective Churches had never recognized Photius, that is another question altogether. The letters of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theodosius, and of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Michael, say nothing about Photius (Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 25-7, 145-7), these Patriarchs being unaware of what had happened in Constantinople. How then could they possibly have refused Photius their recognition? As the latter had been in correspondence with the titular of the See of Antioch, Eustathios (P.G. vol. 102, cols. 821-3), and had sent his enthronement letter to all the Patriarchs, there was no reason why they should have refused to acknowledge him; and as their living depended on the Byzantine Emperors’ favour, such a refusal was not within their power. The same motive influenced the representatives of Jerusalem and Antioch at the synod of 869 and prompted them to say what they knew would please Basil. Moreover, when they realized the true position, they drew up the letter (Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 30-3) anent the incident, which condemned Photius, in Constantinople. With regard to the representatives of the same patriarchates, who attended the Council of 867 and were tried during the eighth session of the Ignatian Council, one gathers the impression that this Council was not dealing with the same persons as were in Constantinople in 867. What the imperialists had to say about this council should be treated with caution, as it was in Basil’s interest not to make too much of what happened at this synod. It was as easy for Michael to provide himself with representatives of those patriarchates in 867 as it was for Basil in 869. Neither Michael nor Photius had therefore any real need to resort to fraud.





just in time to attend the last session of the Council [1] in its official capacity. Its arrival on such an occasion was the crowning achievement of Byzantine diplomacy in Bulgaria, for the ambassadors had come to ask the Council for a decision upon which patriarchate their country belonged to. We know that Boris was a very scrupulous man—at least in certain matters—who loved to make a show of his anxiety to keep clear of every possible ecclesiastical transgression. This step, however, was taken not only to relieve the conscience of a good Christian, but because Boris was angry with Rome for refusing to pander to his fads and give him an archbishop of his own choice. [2]


A passage in the Liber Pontificalis, [3] where we find a detailed account of the incident, may also hint at some family difficulties which worried Boris at the time and were possibly due to his son Vladimir. In fact, when Boris handed over the government to Vladimir and retired, Vladimir inaugurated a pagan revival and had to be replaced by Simeon. It is possible, even likely, that Boris was afraid of Byzantium taking advantage of his son’s ambition, to overthrow him. At any rate, the Byzantines missed no opportunity to sever Boris from Rome. Here again, one realizes how thoughtless was Photius’ move against Nicholas, after the latter had ousted the Greeks from Bulgaria; it was a time when not everything was lost, and Photius had but to watch his chance and let the imperial agents do their work. It is also possible that Boris’ move had been planned by Photius and Michael in good time and that the decisions of the Council of 867 against the Latin missionaries had, after all, made some impression on the scrupulous and astute Khagan.


The Byzantines knew how to strike while the iron was hot: a conference was immediately summoned, in which the representatives of all the patriarchates, including the Bulgarian envoys, took part under the chairmanship of the Emperor, to discuss this important item of business. Anastasius [4] has recorded this meeting in detail, though he had not been invited to attend it, a slight for which he never forgave Basil.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 158.


2. Cf. my book, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle, pp. 193 seq.


3. P. 185 : ‘Vulgarorum rex expectationum moras diutius ferre non valens, quanta esse quam a Graecorum imperatore, quoniam natorum thororum [suorum?] occasione alterna regna sibi alternatim rapere machinabantur abductus, eundem Petrum quem a Roma sine desiderii sui effectu sero reciperat, cum aliis e latere suo Constantinopolim. . .emisit. . . .’


The passage is very faulty. Cf. L. Duchesne, ibid. p. 190: ‘The biographer apparently meant that this prince, impatient of all these delays, threatened with a family feud, deemed it inadvisable to make an enemy of the Greek Emperor, by resisting his demands.’


4. Liber Pontificalis, vol. Ii, pp. 182-5; Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 10-13.





The legates vehemently protested against the procedure, arguing that the Council had been closed and that they had no mandate to discuss such matters. To their great chagrin, they were not invited to the discussions; the issue had to be decided at one sitting and the representatives of the Eastern Patriarchs were to arbitrate in the matter.


The enormity of it did not escape the legates. They had seen in the course of the Council how subservient to the imperial will those same representatives had always been, and they were glad at the time, as it served their own interests; but in this case, they had a good idea of what those legates would decide under the circumstances. Basil had set his trap with care. But what irritated the legates more than anything was that the Greeks and the Orientals should presume to pontificate in a business that concerned only the Holy See, against the very principles which Hadrian had formulated and which they were commissioned to uphold in Constantinople. No wonder they exclaimed with some heat: ‘The Holy Apostolic See has not chosen you to sit in judgement over it, because you are its subjects, nor has it commissioned us, since the whole Church is under its sole jurisdiction.’


In vain did they protest: the Oriental legates decided that Bulgaria belonged to the Byzantine patriarchate. [1] It was then that the Roman representatives produced a letter from Pope Hadrian, in which he forbade Ignatius to attempt anything in Bulgaria against Rome. Ignatius did not even trouble to read it. [2]


On this letter the Liber Pontificalis is intensely interesting. The document has been lost; and as in the other letters, which the legates had brought to Constantinople, there is no reference to the Bulgarian affair,



1. The decision was not as unfair to Rome as the legates pretended. Canonically, the Byzantine claim was legitimate, since Bulgaria included only a small portion of Macedonia which had been under Roman jurisdiction, and included a great part of Thrace which had always been under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.


2. Liber Pontificalis, vol. II, p. 184: ‘...teque reum, patriarcham Ignatium, auctoritate sanctorum apostolorum principum, coram Deo suisque angelis omnibusque presentibus contestamur, ut secundum hanc epistolam sanctissimi restitutoris tui domini Hadriani summi pontificis, quam tibi ecce offerimus, industria tua ab omni Vulgariae ordinatione immune nullum tuorum illuc mittendo custodias; ne sancta sedes apostolica, quae tibi tua restituit, per te sua perdere videatur. Quin potius si, quod non credimus, iustam te habere querimoniam estimas, sanctae Romanae ecclesiae restitutrici tuae solemniter suggerere non omittas. Tunc patriarcha Ignatius apostolicam epistolam suscipiens, licet magnopere monitus eam legere distulisse respondit: Absit a me ut ego his praesentibus contra decorem sedis apostolicae implicer, qui nec ita iuveniliter ago ut mihi subripi valeat, nec ita seniliter deliro, ut quod in aliis reprehendere debeo ipse admittam. Hoc fine locutio ista finita est.’





it must be supposed that the Pope had written another letter in which he forbade Ignatius to trespass on Bulgaria, and which the legates were not to produce, unless the interests of the Roman See in Bulgaria should be in peril.


The Liber Pontificalis also gives in the same place some interesting particulars on the way the Latin missionaries were ousted from Bulgaria. Boris took things very seriously, and only wished piously to carry out the decisions of a very holy oecumenical council; he thereupon invited the Latin priests to quit his territory. And yet, Boris had been exceedingly generous to Grimoald, the leader of the Roman mission, for Anastasius, the writer of this portion of the Liber Pontificalis, saw the bishop arrive in Rome. ‘Romam ditissimus remeavit’, he writes about him with ill-disguised envy and regret, never having had such good fortune himself. His feelings happened to be shared by other confederates of his, so much so that Grimoald was suspected of having been too lenient to Boris. Possibly, the bishop of Bomarzo, seeing that his mission was a complete failure as far as Rome was concerned, chose at least to make a profit out of it for his personal benefit. It would of course have been absurd to pose as a hero, and to be unceremoniously pushed over the frontier by the Bulgarian police.


Grimoald may have arrived in Rome before the legates, who had been captured by the Narentine pirates and set free only in December 870 ; and Anastasius, who must have been in Rome at the beginning of the summer of the same year, [1] may have seen them arrive. The Pope duly protested against the violation of his rights in a letter written in November 871, and asked the Emperor to order Ignatius to recall from Bulgaria the bishops he had sent there. [2]


But this letter to the Emperor appears to have been preceded by another addressed to Ignatius, for we find in the anti-Photian Collection, as an addition to the Greek summary of the Acts of the Eighth Council, a fragment of a letter from Hadrian to the Patriarch. [3] In this fragment, the Pope refers to a letter from Ignatius: ‘You wrote to us’, he writes, ‘that our priests were ignominiously and shamefully expelled from Bulgarian territory and how even the bishops were dismissed in disgrace. . . . ’ All this, the Pope continues, happened without the Roman See being consulted.


If you object that we ourselves had previously forbidden priests of the diocese of Constantinople to celebrate the liturgy in the above-mentioned territory,



1. Cf. my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, p. 269.


2. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 760. 3 Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 413; M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 762.





we are not going to deny it; for they were in communion with Photius and were priests of his ordination. These we forbade to exercise any priestly functions and still do so, not only on Bulgarian territory, but throughout the Church. Knowing this, you should not have interfered in Bulgaria.



The Pope then adds that, on information, Ignatius committed other breaches of ecclesiastical law; for instance, he raised some laymen to the diaconate without the canonical intervals, a thing forbidden even by the last Council, as it was by such transgressions that Photius had set out on the road of injustice.


This letter is all that remains of the correspondence exchanged between the Pope and the Patriarch after the Council on Bulgaria. On hearing from Grimoald, Anastasius and the legates what had happened in Bulgaria and Constantinople, Hadrian must have addressed a letter to Ignatius, severely rebuking him for what he had done, to which Ignatius replied that not he but the Emperor was responsible. Besides, Rome had done the same by expelling Greek priests from Bulgaria. The fragment above mentioned is an extract from the letter by Hadrian in reply to Ignatius.


We are thus able also to explain why the Pope wrote to the Emperor on this matter so late. The letter to Basil previously mentioned was meant to put pressure on Ignatius, but proved to be a failure, for the Emperor was evidently keener than the Patriarch on the Greek priests staying in Bulgaria.



To return now to the letter which the legates handed to the Patriarch after the representatives of the Eastern Patriarchs had voted against the Roman interests in Bulgaria, we must examine whether our explanation was exact. This is important, because if we are right, Ignatius’ recognition by Hadrian was conditional on his behaviour in Bulgaria. Luckily some letters written by Hadrian’s successor, John VIII, give us more detailed information.


Among the remnants of John VIII’s register preserved by the Britannica we find an extract from a letter of John to Boris, which was dispatched between December 872 and May 873: [1]


If Greek perfidy does not refrain from trespassing on your territory, which naturally belongs to our diocese, as ancient documents testify, know that we shall once more punish the Patriarch Ignatius, who recovered his throne by our favour,



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 277.





with anathema and deposition for temerity and defiance. As regards the Greek bishops and priests who are there, we shall not only depose, but excommunicate them, as most of them are said to be of Photius’ ordination, his associates and followers. . . .



In a letter, dated about the same period, to Domagoï, a Croat prince, John VIII writes that Ignatius had already been several times excommunicated owing to his encroachments on Bulgaria: [1]


We remind you how, acting through the person of Ignatius, the perfidious Greeks did not fear to take possession of the country of the Bulgarians, who belong to our jurisdiction and are now again under our authority. Repeatedly excommunicated, Ignatius not only did not desist, but even sent there some schismatic with the title of archbishop.



More important for our investigation is the letter dispatched by John VIII to Michael-Boris towards the end of 874 or at the beginning of 875, in which, after reminding Michael that the Church of Rome was founded by Christ on the rock of Peter and that therefore the decisions of that Church were the decisions of the Founder, the Pope exclaims: [2]


Ignatius was absolved by our predecessors on this condition that should he ever violate apostolic rights in connection with Bulgaria, which not even Photius ever attempted to do, he would despite his acquittal remain under sentence of his previous condemnation none the less. Therefore, he either stands acquitted if he respects the rights of the Apostolic See, or if he does not, he falls back under the previous ban.



The implication of this letter is that Pope Hadrian had acknowledged Ignatius as the legitimate Patriarch on condition that he should undertake nothing contrary to Roman interests in Bulgaria; that, should he be daring enough to do so, he would be severed from communion with Rome, and therefore be excommunicated. In no other sense could these words of John VIII be explained. We therefore have here indisputable evidence that the Bulgarian issue played a leading part in all dealings with Photius by Nicholas, since his successor makes his recognition of Ignatius conditional on the latter’s attitude towards Roman interests in Bulgaria. This condition was laid down in the letter which the legates handed to Ignatius at the time of the conference that met after the Ignatian Council to settle Bulgaria’s fate; and the legates were



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 278.

2. Ibid. p. 294.





not to produce the letter except in the urgent case of Roman interests being actually at stake.


This helps us to explain the enigmatic passage in the Pope’s letter to Domagoï, referring to Ignatius as having been repeatedly excommunicated as a result of these offences. If Ignatius’ recognition by Hadrian had been made to depend on his attitude towards Bulgaria, and if the Patriarch had been threatened with excommunication if ever he dared to trespass on Roman rights in Bulgaria, then John could treat Ignatius as excommunicated, as soon as it became clear that Ignatius had failed to observe the condition. [1]


Yet, on the other hand, because John VIII did not wish to close the door upon a possible settlement, he put off passing public sentence on Ignatius as long as there remained the least hope of the Patriarch acknowledging his fault. He must therefore have twice appealed to him before the last summons, the only one attested by a papal letter. It is worded in very resolute terms : Ignatius will be excommunicated, if he does not recall the Greek priests from Bulgaria within thirty days. [2] In another letter to the Greek clergy of the same country, the Pope confirmed the sentence of excommunication once pronounced against them by Hadrian. [3] But should the bishops and priests not quit Bulgarian territory within a month, they would all be suspended and excommunicated.


The sorry experience which Hadrian’s successor, John VIII, had with



1. Regarding the identity of the bishop consecrated by Ignatius for Bulgaria, consult the penetrating study by H. Grégoire, ‘Une Inscription datée au Nom du Roi Boris-Michel de Bulgarie’, in Byzantion (1939), vol. xiv, pp. 227-34, in which he published an important inscription of Cerven (near Roustchouk) which he discovered in the Sofia Museum. The inscription is of 5 October 870. It mentions not only Boris-Michael, by giving him the Byzantinized title τοῦ εὐκλειοῦς καὶ φιλοχρίστου ἄρχοντος, but also a bishop of Bulgaria, Nicholas, probably the first bishop of that country. Unfortunately, we know nothing definite about the number of bishops sent to Bulgaria by Ignatius.


2. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 62, 63: ‘secundo iam sedis apostolicae litteris probaris admonitus et per missos eius contestatoriis conventus hortatibus. . . . Unde merito post primam et secundam comminitionem a nostrae te debueramus communionis contubernio sequestrare. . .sed quia sedis apostolicae moderatione utentes spiritu lenitatis. . . ecce tertio canonice per missos et syllabas commonemus et hortamur et protestamur.’


Among the extracts from the register of John VIII is found a fragment of a letter from John VIII to the Emperor (ibid. p. 296), in which the Pope complains of Ignatius’ encroachment in Bulgaria, and states that he had summoned Ignatius to Rome to justify himself against the charges. This letter has been lost. It all shows that not all the correspondence between John VIII and Ignatius has come down to us.


3. Ibid. pp. 66 seq.





Ignatius completed the failure of the pontifical mission to Constantinople in 869-70. They scored a victory, it is true, but only a Pyrrhic victory. They were able to present the Pope with the 'Libelli’ signed by a hundred or more bishops; it had cost them and Anastasius much trouble to preserve these, and whatever else they carried with them had been seized by the Narentine pirates; but they escaped with their lives and their belated and inglorious entry into Rome faithfully symbolized the advantage they claimed to have secured in Constantinople.








Ignatius’ difficulties—Basil’s change of policy and his reconciliation with the Moderates and Photius—Ignatius and Photius on friendly terms—John VIII, Basil and Photius—Papal letters analysed—Pourparlers with the legates in Byzantium— The ‘Greek edition’ of the pontifical letters—The first five sessions of the Council—Authenticity of the sixth and seventh sessions—John VIII’s alleged letter on the Filioque—The legates and the primacy.



But this was not all by any means. The judgement against Photius and the clergy, so solemnly delivered by the legates and the Council, could not be upheld for very long. The Ignatian Council had in no way eased the tension in Byzantium, for the Photian clergy remained loyal to their leader and left Ignatius to face the very difficult problem of providing for the spiritual needs of the faithful. Difficulties must have been so overwhelming, that the Emperor considered it necessary once again to apply to the Pope for a certain mitigation of the sentence passed on the Photian clergy. In a letter, dispatched towards the middle of 871 and transmitted by Theognostos, [1] Basil asked the Pope in Ignatius’ name for a dispensation in favour of the chartophylax Paul and bishop Theodore, whose services were particularly valuable. Later he again applied for more lenient treatment in favour of the many Readers ordained by Photius and his bishops, a similar request being addressed to the Pope by Ignatius.


The choice of Theognostos for this embassy made it evident enough that both the Emperor and the Patriarch were keen on a more satisfactory solution of the whole business; but though Theognostos did everything in his power—Hadrian himself vouched for it [2]—to induce the Pope to come to terms, Hadrian, in a letter dated 10 November 871, refused to go back on Nicholas’ decisions and his own. It is safe to say that Ignatius’ attitude in the Bulgarian imbroglio had something to do with the Pope’s point-blank refusal, but nothing is heard again of a second attempt on the part of the Emperor and the Patriarch. We unfortunately possess no definite information on the way the Gordian knot was cut in Byzantium, but a compromise was apparently reached, though not on the lines of the Ignatian Council’s decisions.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 203, 204.

2. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 761.





In fact, Hadrian soon expressed surprise that Ignatius should fail to observe the prescriptions of his own Council by abruptly raising laymen to ecclesiastical honours; [1] which only shows that Ignatius was merely trying his utmost to find a sufficient number of ecclesiastics to meet the needs of public worship ; he was, in fact, very much in the position in which Methodius once found himself and getting out of it as best he could.


But John VIII had worse to lay to Ignatius’ charge. In a letter to Boris, written between December 872 and May 873, [2] John VIII alleges that the Greek clergy sent to Bulgaria by Ignatius were most of them, as rumour had it, of the Photian ordination, a startling statement for the Pope to make, as we know that these clergy had been suspended by the decisions of Nicholas, Hadrian and the Ignatian Council. Was the Pope’s information correct?


It seems, on the face of it, very unlikely; but a letter from Photius, probably written in the first days of his exile, shows that a certain collaboration between the Photian clergy and Ignatius in the Bulgarian incident had really taken place. Addressing his loyal friend, the monk Arsenius, [3] Photius expresses satisfaction that the young Bulgars who desired to join monastic life had been confided to his care. Be it noted incidentally that Ignatius admitted the validity of Photius’ ordinations, since he asked the Pope for dispensations in favour of some priests who had been ordained by the ex-Patriarch.


In this connection, it is significant that Ignatius did not share the radical opinions of Photius’ bitterest enemies, who treated the Patriarch as a layman and considered his ordinations as null and void : in this case, it would not have been impossible for Ignatius to let a portion of that clergy work in Bulgaria. Bulgarian needs were urgent, and where was Ignatius to find priests in sufficient numbers to meet all the requirements? As the Bulgarian mission was of the utmost importance to both Church and State, it was the Photian clergy’s duty to support Ignatius in this particular work. Nor should we forget that the very first Greek missionaries to work in Bulgaria actually were priests ordained by Photius, and pastoral wisdom prompted the use in this enterprise of men who knew the work and were acquainted with the Bulgars. [4]



1. M.G.H. Ep. vi, p. 762.

2. See pp. 155 seq.

3. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 904, 905.

4. John VIII, in his letter addressed to Basil in 874 or 875 (M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 296), also blames Patriarch Ignatius for transgressions other than that of sending Greek clergy to Bulgaria. Maybe he is referring to his negligence in carrying out the decisions of the Ignatian Council in the matter of the Photian clergy.





If all this information proves correct, we find here new evidence of the pontifical legates’ failure at the Ignatian Council and of the miscarriage of Pope Hadrian’s Oriental policy. The Pope’s, and chiefly the legates’ wooden methods in Constantinople exasperated not only the Emperor but even the Patriarch and the more reasonable of his friends.



We can now examine how the last traces of the legates’ ‘achievement’ were obliterated and how Photius was reconciled with Basil and Ignatius. The successive stages of this development can easily be followed in the exile’s correspondence. Photius had been fairly harshly treated, at least in the first days of his banishment, for in his letter to the Emperor he details a long catalogue of sufferings he underwent in his retreat. But what he felt most was the loss of his library. [1] In another letter to Arsenius, Photius bitterly complains that there is no longer any justice in this world. [2] But, he goes on, Arsenius must not despair, despite the trials that beset them, for it is Providence who sends us sufferings. [3] The letter is exceptionally touching for its beautiful thoughts on suffering and trust in Providence, Photius concluding by urging his correspondent frequently to invoke the Blessed Virgin, who understands their tragedy, is full of compassion and will know how to relieve their burden. The letters to the exiled bishops also contain an eloquent passage on suffering. [4]


Some other letters by the ex-Patriarch throw light on some of the material difficulties that worried the deposed bishops, and Photius recounts them in his letter to the spathar Nicetas. Left without any resources, the bishops had to borrow money from usurers, live on their friends’ bounty, and for the rest submit to extreme want. Photius recommends to his correspondent the metropolitans of Cyzicus and Laodicea, whose needs were particularly urgent; [5] John of Heraclea, Euschemon of Caesarea, George of Nicomedia and Michael of Mytilene were also the objects of exceptionally harsh treatment; [6] and the Patrician John is requested to help a friend of Photius whose life is in danger. [7]



1. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 765-72.

2. Loc. cit. col. 901.

3. Loc. cit. cols. 897-900.

4. Loc. cit. cols. 764, 765. Cf. ‘Ad Amphilochium’, qu. 172, P.G. vol. 101, cols. 869-73, a fine passage on Providence and suffering.

5. Loc. cit. cols. 981, 984.

6. Loc. cit. cols. 821, 836, 860, 861.

7. Loc. cit. col. 961. Cf. what Hergenröther, loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 207-28, 241-58, has to say about the correspondence of Photius in exile. Even he has to confess that pages of exceptional beauty and words from the heart are to be found in this correspondence.





Photius’ correspondence shows that the ex-Patriarch had kept a host of friends among the higher officials, who had succeeded in keeping in office under the new government, the danger of 'apostasy’ in these circles naturally being greater, as material considerations tempted many functionaries to join the party actually in power. In several letters, Photius endeavours to stimulate the loyalty of his lay friends. [1]


The clergy, with few exceptions, remained loyal to Photius, which made it appropriate to speak of two Churches within the Empire, as in some places the Photian bishops had remained at their posts. In his letter to the monk Arsenius, Photius speaks of a schism within the Church; [2] and to the exiled bishops, of‘ his Church’. [3] Gregory Asbestas is urged to go on organizing the Church ; he must ordain new ministers for the altar, open new churches and administer the sacraments; [4] Photius continues to rule his Church, answers questions put by his followers and distributes advice. The monks, taithful to Photius, continue to recognize him as Patriarch and ask for counsel. The Metropolitan Zachary of Antioch in Pisidia asks Photius how to carry out the decrees regarding the length of the novitiate and Photius in reply mentions persecution as sufficient ground for relaxing some prescriptions: the bishop must follow his conscience. [5]


One realizes how the position must have embarrassed the Emperor: it was not what he had intended. The Roman See’s assistance which he had deemed indispensable to prop up his regime had not come up to expectation, since the legates had refused every compromise. It also appears that Basil did not get such a warm reception from the army, which remembered the victories won over the Arabs by Bardas and Michael too well to idolize their murderer. This would explain Basil’s negotiations with the Emir of Syria and the encomiums lavished on the pacific regime inaugurated by Basil in the propaganda writings on the new reign. Not being quite sure of the bulk of the army, Basil could not afford to run any risks in military adventures.


The complete failure of the pacification of the Byzantine Church seriously aggravated the position, and the radicalism of the die-hards



1. Cf. letters to the stratege of Hellas, the Patrician Michael, the Logothete Leo, the spathar John, who all had prevaricated, and to the lawyer Constantine (loc. cit. cols. 944, 949, 941, 933, 935, 945, 960, 961).

2. Loc. cit. col. 900.

3. Loc. cit. cols. 757 seq.

4. Loc. cit. cols. 832, 833.

5. Loc. cit. cols. 841-5. Cf. Hergenröther, loc. cit. pp. 207 seq. on the organization of the Photian Church.





of the reactionary party must have seemed ill-advised and dangerous, whereas the Photian clergy’s steadfastness revealed the Moderate party’s enormous strength.


It was going to be extremely difficult to govern, if this party persisted in its opposition. But Photius had from the first adopted an extremely shrewd policy, when he and his bishops seized every opportunity to pledge their loyalty to the Emperor, making it difficult for Basil to deal severely with the bulk of a clergy that was friendly to the dynasty and would never dream of overthrowing the new regime. In this the Moderates were wise not to imitate the tactics of their rivals, when they were turned out of office by Bardas and Michael.


The manœuvre was to be completely successful. In reply to Photius’ letter, written in exile, Basil ameliorated the ex-Patriarch’s treatment, as attested by a second letter from Photius to the Emperor. [1] The concession was exploited by Basil’s agents who jumped to the conclusion that Photius was ready to come to a compromise with the opposite party, no doubt to its benefit, as appears from a letter from Photius to Gregory, deacon and chartophylax of Amasia, [2] for he mentions there idle rumours of peace shortly to bring together the two parties, and calculated to deceive and mislead the simple and the righteous. In another letter, addressed to Leo and Gaton, imperial asekretis, Photius also states that the rumours about Basil’s total change of feelings towards him are premature and unfounded. [3] But Photius was not going to act in a hurry, and the spathar and drungary Helias is urged to be very cautious in his efforts in favour of Photius; [4] the same advice is given to Theodore of Laodicea. [5] Photius, indeed, knew the position and the Emperor’s character too well: confident of final victory, conscious of his rights and knowing that time was on his side, he was in no need to hurry; and that is why he denounced in his letter to his bishops6 the man who put it about that the ex-Patriarch had forgotten past happenings and was only anxious for reconciliation. [7] This talk, which at the time was all over Byzantium, at any rate pointed in the direction of Basil’s efforts from the first to discover a compromise.


Photius’ calculation proved correct, and reconciliation with Basil could not be far off.



1. P.G. vol. 102, col. 772.

2. Loc. cit. cols. 872, 873.

3. Loc. cit. col. 968. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, p. 249.

4. Loc. cit. col. 965.

5. Loc. cit. cols. 845. Cf. letter to the bishops in exile, cols. 741 seq.

6. Loc. cit. cols. 741 seq.

7. Loc. cit. cols. 744 seq.





We have no accurate information on the date of the suspension of hostilities, which in any case could not be later than 873. The Emperor received Hadrian’s reply in the negative to the request made at the beginning of 872, and this letter must have been instrumental in Basil’s ‘conversion’. In the spring of 871 Basil sent to Louis II [1] the notorious letter in which he forbade him the use of the imperial title, which, if it did not imply a complete break with the West, meant at least that the Emperor thought himself strong enough to do without its friendship. Hadrian’s refusal completed the severance, the main reason why the Emperor had to deal gently with the Pope having vanished. Henceforth, i.e. after 872, it became more imperative for Basil to find his allies among the Moderates, since, unlike the Extremists, they had lost none of their power. Photius’ recall from exile was the first step in this direction.


We are, of course, not going to look for the true reasons of Basil’s change of feelings for Photius in the gossip of Nicetas, the so-called biographer of Ignatius, or that of Simeon Magister. [2] A learned study by an Armenian scholar [3] has thrown light on Basil’s famous genealogy, Photius’ alleged forgery, to which he owed the recovery of the Emperor’s favour. But the story seems to be a replica of a similar ‘ discovery ’ made for the benefit of the Emperor Theophilus and designed to explain the origin of Theophilus’ regard for the future restorer of image-worship, the Patriarch Methodius. Photius was naturally interested in the history of Basil’s family, since he himself, like Basil, had Armenian blood in his veins: Photius’ mother, Irene, was in fact Arsaber’s (Arsavir) [4] sister. But the forging of the fabulous genealogy of Basil by Photius had nothing to do with this reconciliation. The real reason was different. Basil, no longer in need of pandering to the Extremists in deference to Rome, and disappointed at the meagre results of his policy in favour of that party, altered his line of action, and transferred his friendship to the Moderate side, whose ideology, if we may use the word, appealed more to him than that of the Extremists. Photius then became his intimate friend; Basil entrusted to him the education of his children and gave him an apartment in the imperial palace.



1. See bibliography in F. Dölger’s Regesten der Kaiserurkunden, vol. I, no. 487. Cf. also W. Henze, ‘Über den Brief Kaiser Ludwigs II an Kaiser Basilius I’, in Neues Archiv (1910), vol. xxxv, pp. 661-76.


2. P.G. vol. 105, cols. 565 seq.; (Bonn), pp. 689 seq.


3. M. N. Adontz, ‘L’Age et l’Origine de l’Empereur Basile T, in Byzantion, vol. ix, pp. 232-59.


4. Theoph. Cont. (Bonn), p. 175.





Photius must also have resumed his lectures at the Magnaura University, for it was there that the Emperor had reserved his rooms. [1]


Photius’ peace with the Emperor must have raised heartburnings among some of his followers, for we find a reference to this in the ex-Patriarch’s correspondence with the monk Nicephorus, when Photius announced to him a certain improvement in his condition and invited his correspondent to come and see him. As Nicephorus hesitated and expressed misgivings about the change, Photius sent him a long letter to assure him that his feelings had not altered, and only after this explanation did Nicephorus understand. [2]


Other friends of the ex-Patriarch urged Photius not to rest content with the compromise offered by the Emperor, but to take advantage of his change of mind to overthrow Ignatius. This Photius mentioned in his speech at the second session of the Council of 879-80, [3] and there was justification for the statement. It was only to be expected that the radical wing of the Moderate party should find the compromise unsatisfactory: they demanded complete vindication; but Photius was too intelligent to tempt fortune. He knew how to pause after a first successful round for fear of risking the game by any extravagant claims; he knew that the interests of the Empire and the Church stood more to gain by a reconciliation between the two parties than by open hostilities. It is also likely that the Emperor gave the Moderates to understand that he looked upon Photius as the legitimate successor of Ignatius in the event of the latter’s death.


In the same speech, Photius stated that the Emperor had decided on this step by himself and of his own accord, a statement that disposed of all the stories in circulation in Byzantium on the motives of Basil’s change of mind, though a slight exaggeration on the part of Photius, stressing Basil’s contribution to his own reinstatement, may be admitted. But it is only right to observe that Photius could not have made such an assertion to an audience that must have known the true position, if he had been unable to substantiate it. Time and the State’s altered circumstances had been on Photius’ side. Nor did the Moderates remain idle; and they certainly knew how to turn the Extremists’ failure to their own profit.



1. Theoph. Cont. (Vita Basilii) (Bonn), pp. 276, 277. We recall a similar case with Leo the Philosopher, who after his dismissal from the see of Thessalonica was appointed to lecture at this High School.


2. See letters of Photius, P.G. vol. 102, cols. 905-17.


3. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 424.





An echo of this change of front can be found in the correspondence between Photius and Baanes, an official who, it will be remembered, had made himself prominent at the Ignatian Council. In a letter addressed to him in the first days of the prelate’s exile, [1] Photius complained that Baanes had refused leave for medical attendance in his recent illness. Baanes may have been carrying out instructions too literally; but directly he became aware of the changing mood at court in favour of Photius, he sent him a letter to assure him of his secret friendship, somewhat reminiscent of the feelings of Joseph of Arimathea for Our Lord. Conscious of his stock being high at the Imperial Exchange, Photius in reply [2] advised Baanes to display his friendship in open daylight, as Joseph did after Our Lord’s death. Baanes’ adaptability afforded a suggestive illustration of the mentality of Byzantine officials, who switched their sympathies and antipathies as the wind blew from the imperial palace. It also explains why Emperors could afford to alter their political programmes without fear of boycott from the imperial bureaucracy.


Photius had the same experience. Abrupt as the change in his favour had been, to the surprise even of the Extremists’ leaders, they could hardly blame the Emperor, since Ignatius was still installed in the patriarcheion. Basil’s variation was therefore put down to Photius’ intrigues. The stories about the fabulous genealogy invented by Photius, the intervention of Theodore Santabarenos and the sprinkling of the imperial bed with water specially treated to act on the Emperor’s feelings, were concocted only after the event, as explanations of the startling change.


Did the exiled bishops benefit by it? It is difficult to say how far Basil meant to go. It certainly did not suit his plans to provoke any violent reaction among the Extremists, who had backed him in the first critical days of his reign—a reaction that was a dead certainty, had Basil ventured too far in his condescension to Photius and his party. For these reasons, all the proceedings taken against the bishops by the Ignatian Council could not have been cancelled by the Emperor at that particular moment. Photius also stated in the speech already quoted that he had laid down as a condition for consenting to his reinstatement on the patriarchal throne after Ignatius’ death that all the exiled bishops should be recalled and reinstated in their functions. Therefore, not all the bishops were set free at the same time as Photius, though their conditions must have been bettered.



1. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 952, 953.            2. Loc. cit. col. 949.





As regards the number of exiles, it is hard to state anything definite; but the Emperor had apparently only selected the more zealous and dangerous of Photius’ supporters for banishment, [1] the others being merely deposed; though, wherever the Moderate party was felt to be too influential, the Photian bishops seem to have been maintained in their functions. None dared to touch them.



Peace with Basil did not necessarily imply peace with Ignatius, although Photius emphatically stated on the same occasion that he made friends with his rival after his return to the imperial palace. These were his words :


As long as Blessed Ignatius was alive—and we call him Blessed, having made friends with him in his lifetime, a friendship God preserve me from ever denying—as long as he was alive, we say, we refused at all cost to take possession of his throne, though many urged us, or tried to force us, to do so. There were other things more important than this—the captivity, the persecution, the banishment of our brothers and fellow-ministers. However, we refused to resume possession [of the see], as all here present well know. . . . Instead, we tried every avenue to the restoration and growth of peace. We both fell on our knees, asked each other’s pardon and forgave each other for any mutual offence we might have given. Later, when he fell ill and asked to see us, we visited him, not once or twice, but frequently, doing everything we could to relieve his suffering ; and if words could convey any consolation, this consolation we have given him too. Thus did he gather sufficient conviction of our good intentions to recommend to our special care his most intimate friends, that we should take responsibility for their safety and security. None of his friends will ever blame him for lack of devotion. . . .



Ignatian sources flatly deny the fact of the two rivals’ reconciliation. Nicetas [2] asserts that Photius, once back in the Emperor's favour, unceasingly and secretly worked against Ignatius with the assistance of Theodore Santabarenos, and tried every move to recover his see. Photius also, according to Nicetas, approached Ignatius to claim reinstatement in his episcopal functions; but the Patriarch, in obedience to canonical prescriptions, refused to hear of it; for whoever had been condemned by a synod cannot be rehabilitated but by another synod of a higher authority. Disregarding, however, all canonical laws, Photius comported himself like a bishop and a Patriarch, setting up exarchs and presiding at ordinations.



1. S. Aristarchos, loc. cit. vol. 1, p. ξαʹ, enumerates twenty-four Photian bishops replaced by Ignatian bishops after Photius’ dismissal.


2. P.G. vol. 105, cols. 568, 569.





He did everything he could to harm the Church and hurt the Patriarch; gained the confidence of the Emperor and of the court and, driven by his mad ambition, forced an entry into the church of St Sophia three days after Ignatius’ death to get possession of the patriarchal throne; then he turned against the friends and intimates of Ignatius, sending them into exile and to prison.


Stylianos [1] also records that Photius, once restored to Basil’s favour by Theodore Santabarenos’ incantations, ordained priests in Ignatius’ lifetime. Once, he even invaded the church of St Sophia, accompanied by friends and soldiers, whilst the sacred mysteries were being celebrated, and the priests busy officiating fled before concluding the service. Photius and Santabarenos, with the Emperor’s support, went on intriguing against Ignatius. Stylianos so describes Ignatius’ death as to give the impression that it was the result of these intrigues; after which Photius took possession of the patriarchal throne and promoted Santabarenos over the heads of the other bishops.


To turn now to the third source—the compiler of the anti-Photian Collection—let us hear what he has to say about the relations between the two prelates : [2]


Some people would have it that Photius expressed regrets to Ignatius for what he had done to him and that the latter replied: God forgive you for what you have done to me: but what you have committed against the Church, God will not forgive you, unless you stop injuring her and cease to exercise the priestly functions. As for me, I will write to the Patriarchs, and if they absolve you from your ban, I, too, will dispense you.



But Photius himself, with the Emperor’s complicity, prevented Ignatius writing to the Patriarchs, knowing well that it was impossible for him to be absolved and allowed to carry out his priestly functions. Since then, he never ceased raising enmities against the Patriarch. Even when installed in the Magnaura of the palace, he conducted ordinations, and severely punished or banished any who dared to protest. He also prevailed on the Emperor to forbid his magistrates to proceed with Ignatius’ burial, if he should meet with a miserable death, as a result of these intrigues. Three days after the end, Photius entered the church with noisy display; and as the priests, who were busy celebrating the sacred mysteries, saw him, they fled, leaving the sacred vessels standing.


What is one to think of these different and contradictory accounts? The Ignatian reports themselves give one to understand that pourparlers



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 429, 432, 433.            2. Ibid. cols. 452, 453.





in view of a reconciliation did take place between Photius and Ignatius, but that possibly Ignatius first wished to comply with the decisions of the Council of 869-70 and actually intended to apply for dispensation in favour of Photius. But to such a procedure Photius could not agree, since he looked upon the decisions of that Council as utterly unjust and valueless. Here the Emperor may have intervened and concurred with Photius. So much of the report from Ignatian sources may thus correspond to fact. Photius may also have taken possession of his see three days after Ignatius’ death, and the priests who at that moment stopped their liturgical service were Ignatians belonging to the extreme wing of this party. But it should be noted that Stylianos’ account differs from the versions of Nicetas and of the compiler of the anti-Photian Collection: Stylianos, by asserting that this ‘irruption’ into the church was made by Photius in Ignatius’ lifetime, gives evidence of being less conscientious in the presentation of facts than the other Ignatian writers.


As regards the actual fact of reconciliation, there is not the least room for doubt. Photius’ own evidence is borne out by another contemporary witness, one who might in a way be called neutral—the Emperor Leo VI, son and successor of Basil. In his funeral oration on his father, and in summarizing the story of the schism and the part played by Basil in its settlement, Leo spoke as follows : [1]


There was raised among the ministers of God an absurd conflict and schism, whose beginning went back to the days before his [Basil’s] advent, but by the inscrutable judgement of God, had grown worse, when the most peace-loving of men came to imperial power. Those who should have been for their people the preachers of peace, waged against each other a merciless war; those who should have set the flock an example of charity and union, bred hatred. He who struck hardest was considered the best priest. The whole thing was absurd: pontiffs and priests fighting with priests and pontiffs ! The evil seemed to defy every cure, until this man of mighty thought, summoning the full energy of his intelligence, or rather raising it to God and deliberating with Him upon what was to be done, found at last the solution to this great evil and restored concord among the clergy. The whole Church being in exile with its archbishop, he ordered his recall, and all, finding themselves together, shook hands, when these long dissensions ended with the symbol of holy charity, the sacred kiss of peace. And as the ruler of the Church at that time had gone to his abode beyond, the archbishop, recently



1. A. Vogt, I. Hausherr, ‘L’Oraison funèbre de Basil Ier’, in Orientalia Christiana, vol. XXVII, pp. 62-9.





returned from exile, [1] received the throne and the government of the priestly body. There was then, in accordance with the Gospel, one flock, one pastor: no longer were they divided, one with Cephas, another with Apollo, a third with the Lord knows whom, but all were really in Christ, the first cornerstone that gives unity to the whole construction of the Gospel. [2]



Taking into consideration the circumstance that this document is a solemn speech, a panegyric by a son in memory of his father, and that therefore some exaggerations and inaccuracies must be allowed for, we must admit that at least with regard to the fact of the reconciliation before Ignatius’ death, Leo’s attestation is fairly clear and it would be difficult to question its cogency. The way Leo recounts the adjustment between the two dignitaries forcibly recalls what Photius said about it in his speech at the Council of 879-80: their pacification was sincere and lasted till Ignatius’ death. [3]


When did the reconciliation take place? I am inclined to place it in the year 876, as we possess a letter from John VIII to Basil, dated April 878, [4] which presupposes another letter by the Emperor, sent to Rome in the course of the year 877, to reach its destination probably towards the end of the summer. In it, Basil asked the Pope to send to Constantinople legates for a new pacification of the Byzantine Church; but as the dispatch of legates took some time, one can understand that the Pope did not reply till the spring of the following year, at the first reopening of sea-traffic.


Now the pacification mentioned in Basil’s letter and referred to by the Pope could only mean the settlement of the Photian schism, for the Pope wrote:


On hearing, beloved, that the scandals of controversy are still rife in the Church of Constantinople and that many religious are still scattered far and



1. ὁ ἄρτι τῆς ὑπερορίου φυγῆς ἀνεθεὶς ἀρχιερεύς. These words suggest that Photius had been recalled from exile shortly before Ignatius’ death, though I have no wish to press their bearing unduly. Leo speaks oratorically, summarizing the facts for rhetorical effect. The date 873 I propose for Photius’ recall from exile is not incompatible with this passage in the speech. Besides, Photius and Ignatius made peace later, perhaps in 876.


2. It was A. Vogt’s special merit to discover and publish this document, though the true import of it escaped him. Read what he says about the passage, loc. cit. pp. 18 seq.


3. Note that in his Synagogai Photius calls Ignatius ἁγιώτατος and ὁ ἐν ἁγίοις. This declaration by Photius flatly contradicts Nicetas (P.G. vol. 105, col. 572), when he alleges that Photius reordained those of Ignatius’ ordination. Photius apparently, as a token of peace, handed them priestly vestments blessed with his own hands.


4. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 64 seq.





wide and are treated harshly, we are naturally pained and full of sorrow. What we feel most is that peace, which we thought the many efforts of the Apostolic See had restored, is disturbed there in endless bickering and that a number of men in holy orders who, we hoped, were safe from all oppression, have been subjected to various indignities.



The exiled and persecuted ecclesiastics could be none but the Photianist bishops and priests, since there were no other exiled priests in Byzantium in 877.


It seems then evident, judging from the contents of the pontifical letter, that Basil was anxious to efface the last traces of dissension in the Byzantine Church, and this before Ignatius’ death. [1] But the Emperor’s attempt had not a chance to succeed, unless Photius and Ignatius concurred in the matter. Peace then may well have been made in 876 and Basil’s move in the spring of 877 may have been its first result.


Thus, the Pope’s letter indirectly confirms the fact that Photius and Ignatius were at one. They also agreed, with Basil’s approval, to settle their differences once for all and prepare a revision of the Council that condemned Photius and his friends. But it was a pity that Ignatius should have died before the final covenant, which he himself had assisted in negotiating, for, had he been alive, the legend depicting Ignatius as an obstinate old man, more reactionary than his supporters, would never have arisen. The description of him by his opponent Photius before the Fathers of the Council of 879—80 totally differs from the portrayal by his so-called biographer Nicetas-David. Ignatius was far more human than would appear from his ‘biography’, for he knew how to sacrifice his self-love in the interest of the Church over which he ruled. It was not an old man’s bodily weakness that made him yield to Photius, as we are asked to believe, but the magnanimity of an ascetic, not well versed in the ways of life, but ready, in the long run, to acknowledge his own shortcomings and to stretch out his hand to an adversary. Had the revision of the decisions of the anti-Photian Council been completed in Ignatius’ lifetime, and on Ignatius’ initiative, the essentials of the rupture would have been better understood in Rome



1. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, pp. 289 seq., alleges that this letter was written or dictated by Photius after his restoration, and that he deliberately omitted to mention Ignatius’ death. But this allegation is inadmissible. Ignatius died on 23 October 877. It would have been difficult for Basil, given the risks of the voyage, to send legates to Pmme in December, as journeys by sea were most unusual at this time of the year. Basil tried the experiment only once (in 869), with anything but encouraging results.





and opinions that had gained general credence since Nicholas and were in reality nothing but Theognostos’ tittle-tattle would have been similarly revised.


As things were, it is quite possible that Photius actually exercised patriarchal functions in the last months before Ignatius’ death, to which, after peace was made, no objection could be raised, since Ignatius, as stated before, considered Photius’ ordinations to be valid. He certainly agreed likewise to Photius’ right of succession. [1] As, however, by tradition in the Eastern Church, a sentence passed by a Council could only be reversed by another Council, it was actually arranged to convoke it, as is proved by Basil’s request to John VIII concerning the sending of legates.


John VIII acceded to Basil’s demand all the more readily, as he had hopes of definitely settling the Bulgarian problem on the same occasion, and throughout his correspondence we can guess the outlines of his scheme. The legates, Paul and Eugene, were to hand a very energetically worded letter to Ignatius, [2] this letter, to which previous reference has been made, to be the third and last summons served on Ignatius to withdraw his priests from Bulgaria; and refusal to obey it would carry the severest sanctions against him.


The document suggests that the Pope felt something in the situation in Constantinople had altered. Basil did not tell everything in his letter, in the hope of coming to an understanding with the legates in Byzantium, the very reason why he asked that the legates should be acquainted with the position, and even proposed to the Pope certain names, among them probably that of Zachary of Anagni. [3] Though we do not know exactly what the Emperor said in his letter, it certainly gave the reader to understand that Photius’ conditions had altered for the better and that the Emperor meant to have the ex-Patriarch’s position regularized. Was that not the best moment for the Pope to try some pressure on Ignatius?


The pressure may have looked all the more effective, as the Pope— or rather his collaborator Anastasius—had been busy paving a way leading straight in the direction of Photius. A letter from him to Anastasius [4] intimates that the Librarian had got into touch with Photius,



1. Photius would in this way have been a sort of ‘coadjutor cum iure successionis’; and as a matter of fact there was after Ignatius’ death neither synod nor election of a new Patriarch, Photius automatically taking possession of the throne.


2. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 62, 63.


3. Ibid. p. 64: ‘Quia vero Deo amabiles viros, quos nominatim litteris expetitis, quibusdam incommodis impeditos destinare nequimus, misimus Paulum et Eugenium. . . .’


4. P.G. vol. 102, cols. 877, 880. Cf. what I have said in my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 315 seq.





very likely after the latter’s recall from banishment; for Anastasius followed the march of events very closely and overlooked nothing that might further his master’s interests.


The legates were also to present to Boris a new request definitely to declare for Rome; [1] Greek bishops and priests were to be intimidated with threats of excommunication and degradation, should they refuse to leave Bulgaria within a month. [2] Thus the offensive was well planned. Everything seemed to go in the Pope’s favour and fervent wishes saw the legates off on their way to Byzantium. Such was the irony of fate that the last remnants of the so-called success scored by the pontifical legates at the Ignatian Council were to be swept aside by the Greeks themselves on the initiative of Ignatius.



However, things did not get quite as far as this. When the legates passed under the gates of Constantinople, Ignatius was no longer alive, having died on 23 October 877, and Photius, after the agreement between the Emperor, Ignatius and himself, had resumed possession of his throne, leaving the legates to face, to their utter embarrassment, the situation they had least expected. Everybody in Constantinople expected the legates to make immediate contact with the new Patriarch; unfortunately, John VIII had not counted on such a turn of events nor given the legates any instructions to that effect; and Paul and Eugene remembered too vividly what was thought and said in Rome about Photius to deem it advisable to open negotiations with him. The fate of Radoald and Zachary served as a painful reminder and the thought that they might be condemned to share it came as a nightmare to trouble their sleep on the banks of the Bosphorus.


This gave Basil his second unpleasant experience with the Roman legates : it was exactly what he had feared and the very reason why he had hoped to welcome to Byzantium men who like Zachary knew the position. But there was nothing for the moment he could do, except once again to get in touch with John VIII, and that was what Basil and the Patriarch did. Already in April 879, the Pope had heard of the Emperor’s intentions through the Primitiarius Gregory, [3] who in 877 was in command of the imperial fleet at Beneventum, and he immediately notified Count Pandenulf of Capua [4] of the imperial embassy’s proximate arrival,



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 65, 66.

2. Loc. cit. pp. 66, 67.

3. Loc. cit. p. 142. Cf. John’s letter to Gregory sent in April 877, ibid. p. 45.

4. Loc. cit. p. 141. On the dates of these letters, cf. E. Caspar, ‘Studien zum Register Johanns VIII’, in Neues Archiv (1910), vol. xxxvi, p. 153.





requesting him to have the ambassadors taken to Rome : there they must have arrived in May. [1] They explained the new circumstances in Byzantium and presented letters from the Emperor, the clergy of Constantinople and the Patriarch Photius. The Emperor in his letter asked for recognition of the new Patriarch and for the convocation of a Council to regularize the position in Byzantium; the letter from the clergy of Constantinople made it clear that Photius had been all but unanimously acknowledged.


Thereupon, John VIII summoned a synod of eight bishops, including his most intimate collaborators, for the purpose of sanctioning the results of his pourparlers with the ambassadors. These details and what happened at that synod we learn from the letters which the Pope sent to the Emperor, to the clergy of Constantinople and to the leaders of the Ignatian party. [2]


In his letter to Basil, the Pope begins by expressing satisfaction that Basil should submit to the authority of the Roman See an authority confirmed by the Founder of that See, when He said to St Peter, ‘Feed my sheep’. He also notes with pleasure that Basil acknowledged this See to be the head of the whole Church. In deference to the Emperor’s wishes, although Photius had resumed his see without Rome’s consent, the Pope is agreeable to his being the legitimate Patriarch; but Photius should apologize before the synod and make amends for his previous conduct. In the exercise of his powers to bind and loose, the Pope releases Photius and his bishops from the ecclesiastical censures imposed on them. It is the Roman See’s right to judge Patriarchs; and as the condition of his recognition by Rome, Photius must no longer exercise any ecclesiastical powers in Bulgaria. The Emperor must honour Photius and give no ear to his detractors. Basil must also receive all the Ignatian bishops returning to Photius, and those who refuse to accept the new state of things are threatened with excommunication.


The letter addressed to the bishops of Constantinople and to the three Eastern Patriarchs, whose letters of assent Photius had forwarded to John VIII, expresses the Pope’s great satisfaction to note the unanimity of the episcopacy’s feelings towards Photius. The Pope also, in virtue of the authority vested in the successor of St Peter, approves his nomination to the patriarchate; but, as previously Pope Hadrian I had



1. Cf. V. Grumel, ‘Qui fut l'Envoyé de Photius auprès de Jean VIII?’, in Échos d'Orient (1933), vol. xxxii, pp. 439-43. Photius' envoy was Theodore, bishop of Patras.


2. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 166-87.





laid down certain conditions for his recognition of Patriarch Tarasius, who had been raised without the canonical intervals from the lay state to patriarchal dignity, so John VIII considers himself bound to stipulate certain conditions for the recognition of Photius. They are as follows: Photius is forbidden in future to promote in the Byzantine Church any laymen to the episcopacy; he must restore Bulgaria to the Roman See; he must apologize to the Council; he and his bishops must endeavour to induce the Byzantine clergy to accept the new conditions in the Byzantine Church.


In the letter addressed to Photius, the Pope praises his wisdom, humbly confesses that the compliments addressed to himself by Photius are undeserved and expresses satisfaction at the concord established in Constantinople on Photius’ appointment. And yet, the Pope should have been informed of the fact. Dismissing this in a few words and happy over the return of peace, he recommends to Photius the utmost condescension towards his adversaries, restores him to his dignity, provided he apologizes before the Council, and adds that the legates have received special instructions contained in a Commonitorium.


This Commonitorium had been sanctioned by the synod and signed by all present; it was also read to the Fathers of the Photian Council at the fourth session. [1] We do not possess the Latin text of this document. As the tenth clause of the Commonitorium orders the legates to proclaim the suppression of the Eighth Council and of the synods held against Photius, it has generally been assumed that this clause was inserted into the document by Photius, an assumption which has rendered the whole contents of the Commonitorium suspect. The fact is that none of the other letters of the Pope makes mention of the suppression of the Ignatian Council, which would justify the general suspicion in which this passage and the whole document are held.


We should, however, draw attention to the Pope’s last letter on Photius’ recognition, a letter addressed to the principal leaders of the Ignatian opposition, the Patricians John, Leo and Paul and bishops Stylianos of Neocaesarea, John of Silaeon and Metrophanes of Smyrna. [2] After urgently exhorting them to foster peace and union with Photius, the Pope concludes:


Let none of you on turning back find excuses in writings on the subject, since all fetters are unfastened by the divine power which the Church of Christ has received, whenever what is bound is undone by our pastoral



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 468-73. Cf. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 188 seq.

2. Loc. cit. pp. 186, 187.





authority; for, as the saintly Pope Gelasius says, there is no tie that cannot be unfastened, except for those who persist in their error. For if you refuse to listen to our apostolic warnings which so many divine attestations have confirmed, and decide to remain obdurate, know that we have instructed our legates to deprive you of all communion with the Church as long as you refuse to return to the unity of the Body of Christ and to your Patriarch.



It is evident that the Pope refers here to the Acts of the Eighth Council : these Acts and documents, which were read before the Fathers, should not serve as a pretext for the die-hard Ignatians to refuse communion with Photius. When pastoral authority looses what is bound, then, in virtue of the divine power the Church of Christ has received, all fetters are undone. To judge from the context, the Pope pointedly refers to the same Acts when he writes: ‘Cuncta solvuntur vincula.’ Therefore, even the fetters that bound Photius were undone. How then could fetters that were undone keep the force of law that was revoked by supreme authority? The Roman synods of 863 and 869 as well as the Council of 869-70 were summoned solely against Photius and the Patriarch’s condemnation was virtually the only topic of their deliberations: if these decisions are declared to be valueless, what is left of the synods? Hence, the version of this clause of the Commonitorium, such as was read before the Photian Council,1 corresponds roughly to what John VIII intended to convey; and if the passage was altered, in accordance with the compromise arranged with the legates, the alteration must have left its substance untouched. It may be that the original text was worded in terms more abrupt and that instead of three declarations, there was only one, on the synod’s annulment. In fact, the last sentence of the text seems to reflect Byzantine mentality; Rome was not so keenly concerned as Constantinople about counting synods.


What mainly leads one to think that his passage remained substantially unaltered is the phrase in the Greek text—ἀπὸ τοῦ παρόντος (‘from this very moment’)—words that stand exactly for the point of view on the Photian affair that had prevailed in Rome since Nicholas. The expression, in fact, conveys the view that these synods had kept their full value till that very moment, because the sentence they had passed on Photius was considered well justified. John VIII, although better



1. Mansi, vol. xvil, col. 472. Θέλομεν ἐνώπιον τῆς ἐνδημούσης συνόδου ἀνακηρυχθῆναι, ἵνα ἡ σύνοδος ἡ γεγονυῖα κατὰ τοῦ προῤῥηθέντος πατριάρχου Φωτίου ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς τοῦ Ἀδριανοῦ τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου πάπα ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ, καὶ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει ἀπὸ τοῦ παρόντος ᾖ ἐξωστρακισμένη καὶ ἄκυρος καὶ ἀβέβαιος, καὶ μὴ συναριθμῆται αὕτη μεθ᾿ ἑτέρας ἁγίας συνόδους.





disposed towards Photius than his predecessors, was still, at least in 879, of their opinion, and that is why, speaking in other places on the Photian business, he still used the words ‘absolution’, ‘dispensation’ and ‘pardon’ to be granted by the Holy See. [1] How could the Photian point of view have been adopted in Rome at that moment and in its completeness, since there had been neither time nor opportunity to know the exact state of affairs in Byzantium? Nicholas’ prestige was then still paramount in Rome. It is even surprising that Photius should have made no reference to these words, which, fundamentally, did not accord with his own position.


The Pope had also to mention those synods in the instructions he gave to the legates and to make it clear that they had lost all value, owing to the Ignatians5 refusal to acknowledge Photius, and their appeal to the very same synods. It was necessary that his words should be sufficiently precise to obviate every possible pretext on the part of the Ignatian clergy. But the Commonitorium, in the version known to us, is the only document in which the Pope mentions this matter : it therefore cannot substantially differ from the original.


A passage in the letter from John VIII to Basil reveals the Pope’s true feelings with regard to the Eighth Council fairly clearly. He writes : [2]


For even the legates of the Apostolic See who were sent to Constantinople by our predecessor, the eminent Pontiff Hadrian, gave their well considered assent to the synod held there ‘with the approval of their Pontiff’, nor did they wish to remain severed from the Apostolicus [the Pope], since the See of St Peter, the key-bearer of the heavenly kingdom, has after due consideration power to absolve prelates from all ties. It is well known that many Patriarchs, Anastasius and Cyril of Alexandria, Flavianus and John of Constantinople and Poly chronius of Jerusalem, who were condemned by synods, were promptly acquitted and reinstated by the Apostolic See.



Do these words not imply that even the synod of 869-70 would remain legally valid only so long as the Pope considered it expedient? When a synod loses its legislative value, it may be said to be suppressed. And incidentally, the prelates mentioned by the Pope in the same letter were all men who had been unfairly condemned by synods.


All things considered, this passage of the Commonitorium need no longer be considered suspect; at most can it be said that Photius, in agreement with the legates, only worded more emphatically and pointedly what the Pope actually said.



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 170, 171.

2. Loc. cit. p. 171.





With regard to the other chapters of the Commonitorium under discussion, their contents reveal still more unmistakably the style of the Pontifical Chancellery of that period and recall the Commonitorium given by Pope Stephen V in 885 [1] to the legates dispatched to Moravia for the settlement of its ecclesiastical problems after Methodius’ death. The first part of this Commonitorium, like the document of 879, also deals with questions of protocol. Another analogy is to be found in the Commonitorium which John VIII gave in 873 to Paul, bishop of Ancona, who was sent as ambassador to Louis the German, and to Moravia. [2]


What in my opinion enhances the historical value of this document and corroborates its authority is the fact that other instructions given to the legates correspond nearly word for word with certain passages of the pontifical letters. For instance, chapter v, which concerns the reception of the Ignatian clergy who would consent to submit to Photius, tallies with what the Pope says in his letter to Basil and to Photius. [3] It is true that the Commonitorium draws a distinction between those bishops who had been ordained under the first patriarchate of Ignatius and must be restored to their sees, and those bishops who were ordained under the second patriarchate and are told to take their living from their former dioceses. But this is no proof that this passage was added by Photius and that this chapter of the Commonitorium was altered. We are told how at the second session of the Council the legate Peter understood the pontifical letters that had been read at the meeting: they ordered the Ignatian bishops who accepted Photius to return to their sees. Peter said : [4]


You see, most holy Patriarch, how the most holy Pope wishes all the dispersed bishops to be recalled again and to be treated by your Holiness with mercy and pity: so that those who were ordained first should recover their sees, and those who were ordained later should receive living and upkeep from those same churches until they re-enter into possession of their old or of other sees.



The copyist whose extract from the Acts was used by Deusdedit adopted the same reading, for he writes : [5]


The letter of the most holy Pope John directs that all the scattered bishops should be summoned together and be treated with mercy and compassion;



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 352 seq.

2. Loc. cit. pp. 283-5.

3. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 175, 184.

4. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 417.

5. Wolf von Glanvell, loc. cit. pp. 614 seq.





that those who were first ordained be received into their own sees, and those who were ordained later should receive food and clothing from their churches until they recover either the same or other sees.



There is then no reason for assuming that this passage of the Commonitorium was altered by Photius because he did not admit the legitimacy of the second patriarchate of Ignatius. [1]


The excommunication of priests refusing after two summonses to obey the pontifical orders, as threatened in chapter vii, is likewise held out in the Pope’s letters. The two following chapters concern the prohibition to raise laymen to episcopal dignity without the intervals, and Bulgaria, but the latter topic is underlined in the Commonitorium where Photius is threatened with severe canonical censures, should he refuse the Pope’s request. [2]


Only chapter iv in the Commonitorium has been substantially altered by Photius, for its original text certainly contained the Pope’s order, expressed in all his letters, that Photius should apologize to the Council. This order is suppressed and in its stead is found a feeble invitation addressed to Photius to be thankful for what has happened to him and to give due credit to the Roman Church. This is the only portion of the Commonitorium that has been completely altered; but the alteration is connected with another problem that calls for special treatment.



The Commonitorium was to be conveyed to Constantinople by Cardinal Peter, who had been selected by the Pope as the additional member of the delegation that was waiting in Byzantium for further orders. Peter had also to deliver to Paul and Eugene a letter from the Pope expressed in somewhat severe terms. This is the text: [3]


You have acted against our will. After reaching Constantinople and examining the conditions of ecclesiastical peace and unity, you failed to carry out the mission with which we had entrusted you. We should really not entrust you with another, but to show apostolic kindness and mercy we are giving you as an additional member of the second mission, which this time you will have to carry out faithfully, Peter, a pious priest, cardinal and our personal friend,



1. Cf. Grumel, ‘Lettres de Jean VIII pour le Rétablissement de Photius’ in Échos d'Orient (1940), vol. xxxix, p. 153.


2. Observe a similar passage contained in the Pope’s letter to Photius (M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 185), with similar threats of censure, but omitted from the Greek edition of the letter.


3. Loc. cit. pp. 188-90.





so that you may do what is best for the peace and unity of God’s Church, in accordance with the instructions of our apostolic authority and the tenour of our Commonitorium, which is divided into chapters. Act with intelligence and judgement and try by faithful loyalty to regain our favour, which you have exasperated by your previous disobedience.



I have quoted the whole of this document, because the letter decisively influenced the legates during the first negotiations that preceded the Council. I stated that the attitude of Paul and Eugene had exasperated the Emperor and the Patriarch, when the legates, for fear of committing themselves, had abstained from all action and waited for further orders. To John VIII this seemed absurd, since it left him without a true and accurate report on the position in Constantinople and compelled him to rely on the accounts by the Emperor and the Patriarch, with presumably a letter from the delegates. Note that the Pope here blames his legates for their lack of initiative in an unexpected emergency and tells them to follow the tenour of his instructions with ‘intelligence and judgement’; so that they could not but read into the Pope’s recommendations an injunction not to limit themselves to their standing orders but to act on their own responsibility, were they ever to find themselves in a similar position.


When Peter arrived with the Byzantine ambassadors in Constantinople, pourparlers between the Patriarch and the legates on the procedure of the coming Council were resumed, and it soon became evident that the points of view of the Pope and of the Patriarch radically differed on one item: the Pope wanted the Patriarch to apologize for his past conduct to the Council, and Photius flatly refused. He and his partisans looked upon the measures taken against them by Nicholas and Hadrian as utterly unfair and canonically unjustifiable. To their way of thinking, the synod of 867 was only an act of self-defence against Nicholas’ interference in the domestic life of their Church. If on that occasion they went beyond the limits of self-defence, they had been sufficiently punished by the Council of 869, when, from the Photian point of view, the papal legates also exceeded their powers by condemning Photius and his friends without any preliminary legal examination. Moreover, Photius had made peace with Ignatius before his death. All that the Council about to be held in Constantinople was asked to do was to sanction the position as it had existed since Ignatius’ death and to give Photius and his friends due satisfaction.


This placed the legates once more in the quandary which had so puzzled Radoald and Zachary in 861.





Like them they could see that in Byzantium things had gone contrary to what was thought in Rome, where Theognostos’ reports still remained the only source of information. What was more, they saw that in the opinion of Photius and his friends the Ignatian Council was the main bone of contention, and that there was more to be said for Photius’ standpoint than they had thought at first. They were also aware that in view of conditions in Byzantium their mission was doomed to failure, if they persisted in their demand that the obnoxious condition should be fulfilled ; in which case, the two Churches would sink back into schism and John VIII would lose his last chance of recovering Bulgaria. For they knew how keen the Papacy was on this item of foreign conquest achieved by Nicholas I. Their master also expected other things from the Emperor, to wit, his military aid against the Arabs. What were they to do? A second recourse to Rome was out of the question, for the Emperor was getting impatient, and besides, the Pope had blamed them for their lack of initiative.


The legates apparently demurred to the Emperor’s solicitations for some time; finally, yielding to common sense, they consented to the suppression, on their own authority, of John’s condition, but in return asked for the cession of Bulgaria.



The logical consequence of the understanding between the legates and the Patriarch was that the Pope’s letters could not be read to the Fathers of the Council as they stood. When writing them, the Pope was, as stated above, under the influence of ideas about Photius that had been current in Rome since Nicholas I. John VIII, like nearly everybody else in Rome, was also convinced that Nicholas’ proceedings against Photius were perfectly justified. No doubt, the unpleasant experience he had had with Ignatius in connection with Bulgaria and the fact that the see of Constantinople was in reality vacant at the moment inclined the Pope to condescension towards Photius. He had also heard the imperial envoys’ explanations with more sympathy. But all this was not enough to dispose of old prejudices. Not even the intervention by Zachary of Anagni could dissipate all doubts, for since the time of his mission something had happened of which even the new Librarian, successor to Anastasius, was at a loss to afford adequate explanations— the condemnation of Nicholas by the synod of 867. John VIII therefore considered himself quite in order, when he asked Photius for apologies before he would annul the sentences passed by the anti-Photian synods.


But as soon as the legates perceived that the prejudices prevailing in Rome against Photius were not wholly defensible, it became necessary





to delete the passages reflecting this prejudice. It was the usual procedure in Byzantium; and similar action had been taken at the Eighth Council,, at the synod of 861 and had been tried again without success in 869. As rapid communication with Rome was out of the question, the legates had no option but to take the responsibility on the spot and, after the Council, to justify their action with the Pope as best they could.


Alterations made by the patriarchal chancellery in the pontifical letters were fairly numerous, and as the practice has for centuries raised severe criticism and some embarrassment among historians, let us examine these alterations more closely and emphasize some features which have so far not received the attention they deserve. [1]


In the original pontifical letter to Basil, the Patriarchal Chancellery first paraphrased the introduction, which wTas too severe, and considerably improved upon the Pope’s compliments paid to the wisdom of the Emperor and of his sons. This is not very material; but what is curious is that the Pope’s emphasis on the primacy of his See has scarcely been touched. This is what we read in the Greek version:


It was then that, wishing to establish and possess this concord, you have addressed, through your legates and your godly letters, the Holy Roman Church, firmly confident that she would help you in your work and give you energetic support. In this you did not take the initiative but followed and imitated the excellent example of those who ruled the Empire before you. But it is worth asking who taught you to act thus. It was certainly the first Apostle Peter, whom the Lord placed at the head of all the Churches, saying : Feed my sheep. Not only St Peter, but also the sacred synods and constitutions, the sacred and orthodox decrees and declarations by the Fathers, as testified by your saintly and godly letters. You act thus, in order that your faith, already firm and renowned, may shine the more brightly.


The original text is more explicit in its proclamation of the Roman primacy, [2] but the Greek text does sufficient justice to the Pope’s leading idea. Is it not surprising that the man who till then had been looked



1. Cf. Mansi, vol. xvi, cols. 396 seq. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 166 seq.; Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, pp. 396-416; Hefele-Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, vol. iv, pp. 570 seq.


2. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 167: ‘Romanae sedi reverentiam more praedecessorum vestrorum piissimorum imperatorum conservatis et ei cunctam subicitis auctoritatem, ad cuius auctorem, hoc est apostolorum omnium principem, domino loquente praeceptum est: Pasce oves meas. Quam esse vere omnium ecclesiarum caput et beatorum patrum praecipuae regulae et orthodoxorum principum statuta declarant et pietatis vestrae reverentissimi apices adtestantur.’





upon as the bitterest enemy of the primacy should have left such a compromising passage untouched?


Later, the Pope referred to the imperial letter in which Basil asked for recognition of Photius, a request that was duly granted by the Pope, who says in the authentic version :


Knowing that the Patriarch Ignatius has departed this life and having considered all the circumstances mentioned in your letter, we decree that Photius may be forgiven whatever he is known to have done in the past, although he usurped functions that were forbidden him without reference to our See; and we decree this without prejudice to the apostolic statutes or the rules of the holy Fathers: rather do we act on the strength of those rules and their manifold authority. . . .


Then, after quoting canon 2 of the Council of Nicaea, a decree of Gelasius, Leo, Felix and Innocent, John VIII declares that he acknowledges Photius in common with the other Patriarchs and bishops who were consecrated by Methodius and Ignatius, on condition that he should ask pardon before the Council. In virtue of the same supreme power to bind and to loose, given to Peter, the Pope relieves Photius and his clergy of all censures.


This passage could of course not remain in the Greek version of the letter and was thoroughly overhauled: mention of Ignatius, of the Eighth Council and of the apology is suppressed, but curiously enough, even the Greek version, for all its doctoring, has preserved some expressions endorsing the Roman thesis of the primacy, which John VIII appealed to in the original. This is for instance what Photius makes the Pope say: ’As we considered it advisable to pacify the Church of God, we sent our apocrisiaries to carry out your will, although your own piety had already anticipated us, i.e. our legates’ arrival, to reinstate that man. But we accept him [none the less], not by our authority, though we have the power to do so, but in obedience to the apostolic institutions.’ And later on:


After receiving the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven from the first great Pontiff Jesus Christ through the intermediary of the first of the Apostles, Peter, to whom He said: I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shah bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, this apostolic throne has the power to bind and loose all, and in the words of Jeremiah, to uproot and to plant. For this very reason, we also, by the authority of the Prince of the Apostles, Peter, announce to you with our entire Holy Church, and through you, to your dear confrères and co-ministers, the Patriarchs of Alexandria,





Antioch and Jerusalem, and the other bishops and priests and to the whole Church of Constantinople, that we agree and consent with you, or rather with God, to your request. . . . Accept that man without hesitation. Let no one seek pretexts for refusal in the decisions of the iniquitous synods that met against him; let no one—as many simple people think they can do—appeal to the decrees of our blessed predecessors, Nicholas and Hadrian, for they never credited what was alleged against the very saintly Photius. Let no one use your signatures against him as a pretext to sever communion with him or with you. Everything is over, everything repudiated, everything annulled and whatever was done against him has lost all validity. All these things, we, however unworthy, have handed to the Coryphaeus, to be laid on the shoulders of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who remits the sins of the world.... Intensify your love, your faith, your obedience, your reverence in Him and by Him in the Holy Roman Church. Whoever refuses to accept him also refuses to accept—this is evident—either our decrees or those of the Holy Roman Church; and he declares war, not on us, but on the very holy Apostle Peter, or rather on Christ, Son of God, who so honoured and glorified His Apostle as to give him power to bind and to loose.



The words are as clear as those used by the Pope himself. What is more, Photius’ words so appealed to the canonists of the post-Gregorian period that they were quoted word for word by Ivo of Chartres, [1] and many canonists who copied them from him, who fully understood their significance and quoted them precisely for the purpose of exalting papal power and of proving that the Pope can annul any sentence—a fact which, unfortunately, has so far not been sufficiently realized.


The other conditions of Photius’ reinstatement as laid down by the Pope are translated fairly accurately in the Greek version of the letter. Mention is made of the Pope’s prohibition in future to elect Patriarchs from among the laity, with the additional remark that this canonical rule has not always been observed. The order forbidding Greek priests to be sent to Bulgaria is worded in the form of a request; Photius at the same time making the Pope imply that the Greek priests may stay in Bulgaria in anticipation of the compromise that would afford a solution. Photius also suppresses the threat of excommunication uttered in the original letter in the case of disobedience in this particular matter.


The Pope’s letter to the Eastern Patriarchs and to the Fathers of the Council is less important than the letter addressed to the Emperor, and the alterations introduced by Photius are less glaring, though even here



1. P.L. vol. 161, cols. 56-8. Cf. pp. 302 seq.





the Patriarch has left nearly intact the words by which the Pope means to vindicate his rights. To quote the passage after the Greek version: [1]


... It was then your saintly and solicitous zeal, quoting the Blessed Prince of the Apostles, Peter, that appealed to our love and asked us to embrace the very saintly Patriarch Photius, after his reinstatement in the countries of the Church of Constantinople, and that we should join you in accepting him. This we have done with joy and promptitude, observing what was said in the Gospel to the first pastor, to whom the Lord said: ‘I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail; and you, once converted, confirm your brethren.’ Inspired by these divine words and possessing full power to succour all Christians, as far as we can without incurring blame or damnation —a power whose fame has reached the confines of the world—and following the example of our predecessors, we have acknowledged Photius. . . . Let this very saintly and pious confrère of ours, the Patriarch Photius, not take it ill, if we ask him to do honour before the synod to our grace and favour, or rather, to the heart of the Roman Church. For we have conferred on him our brotherly favour and acknowledged him as the legitimate Patriarch, raised to that dignity according to the canons, and as associate of the Blessed Peter the Apostle. And the whole Roman Church, after the example of our predecessors, has opened her heart to him.... For many bishops, who lost, and were expelled from, their sees, recovered them by apostolic intervention. ...



Obviously, Photius deleted the Pope’s order to apologize before the Council, but without tampering with the essentials of the text in reference to the pontifical primacy.


There was no equivalent passage in the original of the papal letter to Photius, who paraphrased the opening lines; made the Pope say that the see in which he was reinstated belonged to him by right; accentuated the reference to the Ignatians who should refuse to acknowledge him; attenuated the Pope’s order to apologize before the Council; removed allusions to the Ignatian Council, the threats of papal censures and the order to recall the Greek priests from Bulgaria; and, lastly, put into the Pope’s mouth the solemn declaration that the Councils held against him were null and void. [2]


On the whole, therefore, all the alterations concerned the differences of Roman and Byzantine views regarding Photius’ case : some amplifications are rhetorical and superfluous; the compliments addressed to Photius and to the Pope are in every case touched up to create an



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 452 seq.; M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 177 seq.

2. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 412 seq.; M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 181 seq.





impression of perfect understanding between Rome and Byzantium and to underline the cordiality of the tone, which, in fact, is evident even in the original. Let this Photian ‘impudence’ shock people to their hearts’ content, as it has done with a vengeance; nevertheless it is clear that in these avalanches of fiery and indignant criticisms, critics have been too excited to notice that Photius nowhere interfered with essential passages expressing John VIII’s views on the primacy of the Roman See—a point of capital importance.


It must also be admitted that Photius and his friends could not possibly accept the Roman view of their own affairs : it was that of their enemies, and had been injected into the Romans by Theognostos, Photius’ bitterest opponent. This was common knowledge in Byzantium and was well summed up by an unknown Latin cleric who in Gregory VII’s reign prepared an extract from the Acts of the Photian Council to document the canonical writers.


I shall have occasion in the first chapter of the second part of this work to deal with those intermediary collections of canon law from which the great canonists of the period derived materials for their modernized canonical collections. Two of the Gregorian and postGregorian canonists, Deusdedit [1] and Ivo of Chartres, [2] have preserved in their Collections some extracts from the Photian Council. There we read a curious passage which differs from the corresponding version found in the current edition of the Acts of that Council. Here it is: ‘Nullus sanctorum praedecessorum meorum Nicolai et Adriani sententias contra eum causetur. De ipso enim sur reptum est illis.’ (Let none allege against him the sentences passed by my holy predecessors Nicholas and Hadrian, since [what they said] about him was surreptitiously obtained from them.) [3]


Here the author has grasped better than the Acts the idea which inspired the Fathers of the Council by suggesting that Popes Nicholas and Hadrian had been misled on the true state of affairs by a third person (the Fathers had Theognostos in mind), who acted surreptitiously, or by fraud.



1. W. von Glanvell, loc. cit. p. 614.


2. P.L. vol. 161, col. 57.


3. It is inadmissible to translate the word ‘surripere’ by the word ‘suppress’ (abroger in French), as does M. Jugie, ‘Schisme Byzantin’, in Dict. de Théol. Cath. (1939), vol. XIV, col. 1341; ‘Les Actes du Synode Photien de Sainte-Sophie’, in Échos d'Orient (1938), vol. xxxvii, p. 98; Le Schisme Byzantin (Paris, 1941), p. 129. Nor is there any reason why the word ‘sententiis’ should be added after ‘surreptum est illis’, since the text is perfectly intelligible without the addition. The word ‘surripere’ always connotes fraud or dolus, and none would suppose that in the author’s meaning the suppression of the sentences against Photius was obtained by fraud.





The Greek original insinuates the same: ’They never credited what was alleged [rather, plotted] against Photius.’ [1] Now the author of the extract from the Acts faithfully rendered the thought of Photius and the Byzantines by the words ‘surreptum est illis’. This does not mean that Deusdedit and Ivo of Chartres used a version of the Acts which differed in many ways from the version we know. As we shall see in greater detail, both used an extract from the Acts which must have circulated in their days in so-called intermediary Collections of canon law.


Let us remember that what embittered the Photian bishops’ feelings against Rome and put their consciences to such a hard test was that the Popes should have so uncritically adopted Theognostos’ view of their case. Of this we find reliable information in a speech which Zachary of Chalcedon, one of the persecuted Photian bishops, made at the first session of the Council, when he said at the beginning of his address that the troubles of the Church of Constantinople were due to Ignatius’ simplicity. [2] Strange as this appreciation may sound, it faithfully reflects, what the Photianists thought about Ignatius. It may even surprise some to hear a Photianist as prominent as Zachary expressing so moderate an opinion about his master’s leading opponent.


After a lengthy paean in praise of the address of the Patriarch Photius, too long and rhetorical to suit our modern taste, Zachary went on: [3]


We have restored to the Church what belonged to her and she has recovered her spouse. Whatever was done against him is now treated as insensate and futile; and when this came about, many promptly rallied to the decision,, whilst many others did so later. But a few, no friends of the peace of the Church, have yielded to their self-love, and when asked why they had severed themselves from the common body of the Church, were ready to answer in their defence: ‘The Roman Church ordered it so.’ But they only behaved like church thieves and murderers, who on being charged with their misdeeds, would answer: ’I did it by permission of the Romans.’ And that Church [the Roman], which so far has enjoyed peace and to the best of her ability radiated that peace to others, is made—if not truthfully, at least in their mouths—the cause of all the troubles, conflicts and scandals, nay all the evils that have afflicted our Church.



1. See p. 184. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 401: μηδεὶς. . . τὰς τῶν πρὸ ἡμῶν μακαρίων ἀρχιερέων, Νικολάου τέ φημι καὶ Ἀδριανοῦ, καταψηφίσεις αἰτιάσθω· οὐ γὰρ ἀποδείχθησαν παρ᾿ αὐτῶν τὰ κατὰ τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου Φωτίου τυρευθέντα. . . .


2. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 384: οὐδὲ πρότερον ἀστασιάστου ταύτης οὐσης τῇ τοῦ κρατοῦντος ἁπλότητι. . . .


3. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 385 seq.





And that is why our very pious Emperor has summoned you [legates] here. You are gathered here to rebut all the imputations and charges which nearly everybody levels at you by making you responsible for the evils that have undeservedly afflicted us. Truth to tell, this synod has been summoned for your sakes;—for you, our brothers and Fathers, for the very Holy Roman Church, for your honour, lest the last remaining schismatics should accuse you of being the authors of all these dissensions and disorders. Now everything is at last satisfactorily settled without any further need for correction, all by the grace of God, by the action of that lover of Christ, our Emperor, by the prayers of our very saintly Patriarch, by the agreement and collaboration between the three Eastern pontifical sees and by the godly prayers and supplication of the very saintly Pope John. You can hear for yourselves that what I say is not only my voice, but that of this numerous synod.



After energetic and reassuring applause from the Fathers, their protestations of loyalty to Photius and their protests against the dissidents, Zachary continued :


In fact, those who have clung to their schismatic errors deserve reprobation; for, apart from other crimes they are committing, they are guilty of a paradox, the very thought of which is revolting to me. What is it? They are trying to enslave the Roman Church, which for centuries has kept her freedom unbroken. How? By saying: ‘Nicholas’ and Hadrian’s decisions we accept; but we repudiate the decisions of the very holy and blessed Pope John. Why? Because those two Popes submitted to our will, whereas this one, instead of obeying our orders, expects us to obey his.’ This only means one thing, that they refuse to obey the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs and would force those great and admirable men to obey their own behests; they accept the Roman decrees they have dictated in advance, and reject those that clash with their own prejudices. You may repeat those decrees a thousand times, they may be true to the canons and reflect superior inspiration—those men will in their pride have their own way: could there be greater folly? Hasten then, beloved, and gallantly stand up to liberate the Holy Roman Church from this dreadful barbarian slavery. Wipe away the dishonour and disgrace that ding to you and substitute the glory of working for the universal peace of all the Churches.



Hergenröther chose to be deeply shocked by this Lügengewebe; [1] and yet, Zachary’s words faithfully reflected the mind and the opinions of the Photian clergy on the part played by the Holy See in this business. The Photian clergy were at the time in an overwhelming majority and



1. Photius, vol. II, p. 468; cf. also M. Jugie, Le Schisme Byzantin (Paris, 1941), p. 122.





their opinions deserved respect, unless the Roman Church was ready to risk the prestige she had commanded in the East. The legates could not but see the importance of the issue and the danger that again threatened the peace of the Church; and as Photius was ready to make many concessions to the legates and the legates could ill afford to exasperate the Byzantine clergy by ill-advised rigidity, a compromise was arrived at and the Council could meet.



It has always been a surprise to many that this Council should have been presided over, not by the Emperor, but by Photius; this has led to him being suspected of a desire to occupy the supreme position in the Church, but the suspicion is unfounded. There was a precedent in the Seventh Oecumenical Council, when the conciliar debates were directed by Tarasius. Imperial officials were also present, but unlike Baanes at the Eighth Council, did not participate in the debates. Evidently, Tarasius officiated for the Emperor for the simple reason that at that time the Empire was ruled by Irene, when it would have been inconceivable in Byzantine eyes for an oecumenical council to be directed by a woman. It should also be remembered that as Tarasius, before being a Patriarch, had filled the important post of president of the Imperial Chancellery, he knew the routine; and Photius, before being a Patriarch, had occupied the same post as his uncle. So it was no matter for surprise that the Emperor should appoint him to the chair at the Council in his own name and allow him to exercise the rights hitherto reserved to the Emperor, when he himself could not perform the function.


The reason for the Emperor’s absence was also a natural one: Basil had just lost his eldest and favourite son Constantine. The chroniclers who record this painful accident make it clear how deeply Basil must have felt the loss; [1] and as the death must have occurred shortly before the opening of the Council, [2] one can understand that the Emperor, in mourning over the greatest loss of his life, could not appear in public at such an important function.


The outstanding event of the first session occurred at the Church of St Sophia at the beginning of November—the exact date of this session not being given in the Acts—the great speech by Zachary, mentioned before, and the presentation of the legates. The second session,



1. Theoph. Cont., Vita Basilii (Bonn), pp. 345 seq.; Leo Grammaticus, ibid, p. 258; Pseudo-Simeon, ibid. pp. 692 seq.; Georgius Monachus Cont., ibid. p. 844.


2. Cf. Vogt, Basile Ier, pp. 58, 155, 333.





summoned for 17 November, opened with the reading of the pontifical letters, of course in their revised and corrected version. After the reading of Pope John’s letter to Basil, Procopius of Caesarea in Cappadocia expressed the Fathers’ satisfaction at Pope John’s conciliatoryattitude towards Photius and asked the legates to induce the dissidents, few as they were, to rally to the Patriarch. Peter, the Cardinal, then emphatically promised in the legates’ name to do whatever was in the apostolicus’ (Pope’s) delegation’s power in that direction, in accordance with the Pontiff’s instructions. [1]


After the reading of the Pope’s letter to Photius, the Cardinal once more summed up the leading points of the letter with regard to the Ignatian bishops. To this Photius replied that the Emperor had banished no more than two bishops, accused of civil disturbances. [2] One of them moreover had publicly insulted Pope John; but the Patriarch undertook to apply to the Emperor for the recall of these two bishops, so that they might be persuaded by the legates to unite with the Church.


The Cardinal then asked for explanations of the Pope’s request on the subject of Bulgaria. In reply, Photius stated that since his accession to the throne he had refrained from sending the pallium to Bulgaria or making ordinations there, and that he had declared himself ready to make any sacrifice for the sake of peace and unity. He then added these striking words :


We once even went so far as to reply to Pope Nicholas, who claimed some sees and some dioceses as his own, to the following effect: ‘What your Holiness claims is only within the powers of the Emperor of the East. Were my great love for God not hampered either by imperial orders or by other canonical considerations—even the clergy under me would agree with me in this—I should be only too ready to hand over on demand not only the sees which you say once belonged to the Roman See, but even those that were never under it, as far as it would be necessary to keep your friendship.’



The Metropolitan of Caesarea in Cappadocia stated that there would be a redistribution of the dioceses under the various patriarchates, once the Emperor had finished subjugating all the peoples to his power. Gregory of Ephesus then rose on a point of order, observing that the Council had not been summoned to solve that question. [3] This discussion is interesting for its revelation of public opinion in Byzantium.



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 409.            2. Ibid. col. 417.            3. Ibid. cols. 417, 420.





After all, Photius declared his readiness to accept a compromise : what that compromise was to be, we shall see presently.


The legates then examined the circumstances of Photius’ recovery of his see, emphasizing that he became Patriarch for a second time, before the Church of Rome was duly informed. To this Elias, legate of Jerusalem, replied: ‘Each of the three patriarchates of the East has always had its own Patriarch, and in this instance nearly all the bishops and priests of Constantinople wanted him [Photius] as their Patriarch : who then was to stop him from returning to his see?’ By these words, the Patriarch’s legate meant to vindicate the right of the Eastern Church to elect its own Patriarchs and bishops without the intervention of , Rome : it was an ancient custom in the Church, and to that extent the Fathers did not accept the Roman claims as put forward by the Pope’s legates.


Photius then considered it necessary personally to explain how he became Patriarch again, and emphasized his attitude towards Ignatius. [1] Then the letters from Michael of Alexandria were read; these had been brought by his delegate and addressed to Photius and to the Emperor, and their main contention was that the persons representing his patriarchate at the Eighth Council had no mandate from his see. Moreover, Thomas of Tyre had confessed his sin and sent to the Council a Libellus Poenitentiae, which gave the Fathers great satisfaction. Photius thereupon pardoned him. Then followed the reading of the letters sent by the Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Antioch.


The third session [2] began with the reading of the pontifical letter to the Fathers of the Council. The various points contained in the letter were agreed to in the course of the debate. Procopius of Caesarea and Zachary of Chalcedon tried to prove that the order forbidding the elevation of laymen to episcopal honours was not absolute.


Then followed a letter to Basil from the delegate of Theodosius of Jerusalem, who was duly cross-questioned by the legates to make sure that his mandate was genuine. After a solemn protestation by the legates that they had not been bribed into their recognition of Photius, there followed the reading of the Pope’s Commonitorium.


On Christmas Eve and in the course of the fourth session, the reading of the letters from the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, brought at the last moment by the Metropolitan of Martyropolis, Basil, enabled the Fathers to make it clear that Photius would have become Patriarch even without the consent of the Eastern Patriarchs. [3]



1. See p. 167.

2. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 449 seq.

3. Loc. cit. col. 484.





This declaration by the bishops of Constantinople, made a second time in the course of the Council, was meant to vindicate their right to elect their own bishops without the intervention of any other power, and their insistence showed how jealously the Church of Constantinople stood on her rights. This part of the session ended with lengthy tributes, paid by Elias of Jerusalem and by the Cardinal, to Photius’ address; Photius, they said, was like the sun, illuminating the world and other constellations.


The legates then rose to ask for two Patricians, who till then had refused to recognize Photius, to be admitted to penance. There followed the examination of the principal items of the Pope’s letter to the Emperor and of the Commonitorium. The Pope’s request about Bulgaria was discussed chiefly by Procopius of Caesarea, Theophilus of # Iconium and Nicetas of Smyrna, who concluded that only the Emperor could decide, and that since John and Photius were agreed and loved each other like brothers, there was no point in bringing in the question of a redistribution of dioceses.


The question of the elevation of the laity to episcopal honours met with severer criticisms than in the preceding sessions; but clauses 4 and 5 of the Commonitorium, pronouncing the suppression of the antiPhotian synods and the excommunication of recalcitrant Ignatians, received general approval. On a proposal by the legates, it was decided that the perfect unanimity prevailing among the Fathers of the Council should be symbolized by everyone joining with Photius in the celebration of the sacred mysteries on Christmas Day. [1]


The fifth session, held on 26 January, was particularly important. Photius first proposed that the Council should officially confer on the second synod of Nicaea the title of Seventh Oecumenical Council, and the Cardinal threatened to excommunicate any who should refuse to number that synod among the oecumenical councils. The legates of the other sees concurred.


Then, on the proposal of the apostolic legates, the Council decided to send three bishops to Metrophanes of Smyrna to urge him to declare himself openly for Photius before the Council. After giving an evasive reply and excusing himself on grounds of ill-health from appearing before the Council, Metrophanes was excluded from the Church until such time as he should change his mind.


Metrophanes’ case being settled, the Council voted on the first canon, which was proposed by the pontifical legation and worded as follows: This Holy and Oecumenical Synod has decided that the clerics or



1. Loc. cit. cols. 475-92.





laymen or bishops of Italy, living in Asia, Europe or Libya, and having been suspended, deposed or excommunicated by the very Holy Father John, be regarded as such, i.e. as either deposed, or anathematized or deprived of communion; also, that the clerics, laymen, bishops or priests, of whatever diocese they be, who have been excommunicated, deposed or anathematized by our very Holy Father Photius, be likewise regarded as such by the very Holy Pope John and by the Church subordinated to him, i.e. as subjected to the same punishment, without any prejudice whatsoever to the privileges of the very Holy Roman Church or its bishops, either now or in the future. [1]


When this canon had been adopted by the representatives of the other patriarchates and by the Fathers, a vote was taken on the second canon, on a motion by Photius, forbidding bishops who became monks to resume their former dignity and functions. The third canon voted by the assembly anathematized any layman who, with or without provocation, should strike a bishop, this canon being intended to put an end to abuses that had spread in Constantinople during the recent conflicts between the two parties ; of these both Ignatian and Photianist bishops had been victims.


The items on the agenda being exhausted, the legates proposed that the conciliatory decisions should be signed by all present. Paul, bishop of Ancona, signed first in the following terms :


I, Paul, unworthy bishop of the Holy Church of Ancona, legate of the Holy Apostolic See and of my master, Blessed John, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church and oecumenical Pope, accept, in accordance with my mandate, order and consent of the very Holy, Apostolic and Oecumenical Pope John, and with the assent of the Church of Constantinople and of the legates of the three other Patriarchs and with the approval of the same Holy and Oecumenical Synod, this venerable Photius, legitimate and canonically elected Patriarch, to his patriarchal dignity, and I am in communion with him in accordance with the tenour and the terms of the Commonitorium. I repudiate and anathematize the synod that was summoned against him in this Holy Church of Constantinople. Whatever, in whatever manner, was done against him at the time of Hadrian, of pious memory, then Roman Pope, I declare abrogated, anathematized and rejected in accordance with the Commonitorium, and that assembly I in no way reckon among the sacred synods. Whoever shall attempt to divide the Holy Church of God and sever himself from his own supreme pastor and oecumenical Patriarch, the saintly Photius, must himself be severed from the Holy Church of God, and until he returns to her, communicates with the Holy and



1. Ibid. col. 497.





oecumenical Patriarch and submits to the judgement of the Holy See, must remain excommunicated. Moreover, to the holy and oecumenical synod which met for the second time in Nicaea on the subject of the sacred and venerable images, at the time of Hadrian I, Roman Pope of blessed memory, and of Tarasius, the very holy Patriarch of the Church of Constantinople, I give the name of Seventh Council and number it with the six holy synods. Signed with my own hand.



The two other pontifical legates signed in the same way. There followed the signatures of the representatives of the Oriental sees and of the 383 bishops who had attended the Council. Thus concluded the Council’s weighty deliberations.


One important, and all but essential, item was still lacking in the Acts of the Council, the Emperor’s signature: without it, the conciliar decisions could not become laws of the Empire, obligatory on all citizens. The Emperor had attended none of the conciliar sessions and his officials had attended in fewer numbers than was usual on such occasions; one looks in vain in the Acts for a list of imperial functionaries after the bishops’ names. The Emperor and the court were in mourning, and in this the prescriptions of Byzantine ceremonial seem to have been followed to the letter. But as the Emperor’s presence at one meeting at least was indispensable, a special session in the Emperor’s presence was arranged, opening on 3 March in the triclinium of the imperial palace.


This session, the seventh on the list, was especially remarkable. First, its opening apparently did not coincide with the closing of the court mourning. It is not known exactly when Basil’s son died: all we know is that it was towards the end of 879, possibly at the beginning of October, in which case it is likely that the Emperor’s and the court’s mourning lasted six months, from the beginning of October till the end of March.


Then again, the session took place, not at St Sophia, but in the imperial palace, which on the face of it meant that the Emperor still refused to make his appearance in public. Out of respect for his feelings and his loss, the Fathers went to the imperial palace, but not all were admitted to the session: only the Patriarch, the legates and the eighteen metropolitans and archbishops were present to represent the 383 Fathers of the Council; the others were summoned ten days later to St Sophia, to hear the reading of the protocol of that session and to signify their agreement with what had already been decided.





It has been a matter of general surprise that these two sessions, short as they were, should have been held in a manner apparently so irregular, after the debates on the most important problems had been closed. Following the example of a Greek scholiast, who in a marginal note preserved in some Manuscripts of the fifteenth century cast doubts on the authenticity of the last two sessions, [1] many have thought they were only a fabrication by Photius. But Hergenröther [2] has already pointed out the flaw in this argument. By taking into account the Emperor’s mourning for his son Constantine and the Byzantine customs that governed general councils, we have seen many difficulties vanish or yield to simple and straightforward explanations.


On closer examination, the proceedings of these two sessions disclose nothing that might invalidate their authenticity. The canons of the Council had been proposed and voted at the fifth session; but each Council required its horos or Symbol of faith, a practice introduced by the first four Councils and followed by all the great oecumenical councils; and apart from the definitions of the first five Councils, the Sixth, the Seventh and even the so-called Eighth Council invariably proclaimed their Symbols. [3] This rule was certainly followed by the Photian Council in 861 and must likewise have been observed by the Council of 879-80.


This time the proclamation of the horos was held over till the session that was attended by the Emperor, who presided and proposed the Symbol of the Council of Nicaea and of Constantinople for adoption as the Symbol of faith of the present synod. After a dogmatic introduction, the Symbol was read out by the protonotary Peter, after which the Fathers firmly forbade any alteration, addition or suppression to be made to the Symbol. The Emperor then, together with his sons, signed the Acts of the Council and the Symbol. A short speech of thanks, delivered by the Metropolitan of Ancyra, Daniel, and the usual acclamations brought the session to a close.


The seventh session, with Photius in the chair, met only to report to the Fathers what the delegates of the Council, the legates and the Patriarch had done at the imperial palace. The horos was adopted by acclamation, and after the usual compliments addressed to the Emperor and to Photius by the protonotary Peter, the pontifical legates and



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 512.

2. Photius, vol. ii, pp. 528-39.

3. Mansi, vol. xi, cols. 633 seq.; vol. xiii, cols. 376 seq.; vol. xvi, cols. 179-84 (after the vote on the canons of the Council).





Procopius of Caesarea, the synod was formally terminated with a second anathema against any who refused to acknowledge Photius and the customary acclamations.


There was, therefore, nothing to justify any misgivings about the authenticity of these two last sessions of the Photian synod, and they yielded nothing which the pontifical legates could not have signed or which might have given offence to the Romans at the time. Nowhere was the doctrine of the Filioque questioned: the only objection was to the addition of the formula to the Symbol. It is well known that the Roman Church in those days still recited the Symbol without the addition. Photius also clearly referred to the sixth session of this Council and to what was said and done there in his letter to the Archbishop of Aquileia, [1] confirming the same in the Mystagogy. [2] These two documents, belonging to the period that followed the Council almost immediately, afford all but unimpeachable evidence in favour of the authenticity of these two sessions; and if credit is refused to Photius’ word, we have other proofs which completely dispose of the latest attempt to question their authenticity. [3]



1. P.G. vol. 102, col. 820: ’Also at a synod of certain ecclesiastical leaders, holy Pope John’s legates, who had been sent to attend it, subscribed, as though Pope John had been present and joined us in professing the true doctrine of the Trinity, to the symbol which is professed and believed at the conclusion of all General Councils in conformity with the word of the Lord, and they confirmed it in the same sense and with the same conviction, in writing and in speech and with their own signature.’


2. P.G. vol. 102, ch. 89, col. 380: ‘My own John (he is also mine for other reasons and because he took my defence more vigorously than any)—so my John, so manly in thought and piety, so virile in attacking and castigating every injustice and disloyalty, so strong on sacred and civil law and on the restoration of order, this gracious Pontiff, I say, through his saintly and illustrious legates Paul, Eugene and Peter, prelates and priests of God who came to our synod, accepted the symbol of faith as the Catholic Church of God and his predecessors on the pontifical See of Rome had ever done, subscribed to it through the medium of the minds, the voice and the sacred hands of those worthy and saintly men and signed it. Moreover, his successor, the saintly Hadrian, in sending us his synodical letter according to ancient custom, professed the same faith and taught that the Spirit proceeds from the Father.... ’


3. Cf.

·       V. Grumel, ‘Le Filioque au Concile Photien de 879-880’, in Échos d'Orient (1930), vol. XXIX, pp. 257-64; also

·       V. Laurent, ‘Le Cas de Photius dans l’Apologétique du Patriarche Jean XI Beccos au Lendemain du Deuxième Concile de Lyon’, ibid. pp. 396-415 ;

·       my book Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 324 seq.;

·       Laurent, ‘Les Actes du Synode Photien et Georges le Métochite’, in Échos d'Orient (1938), vol. xxxvii, pp. 100-6;

·       V. Grumel, ‘Le Décret du Synode Photien de 879-880 sur le Symbole de Foi’, ibid. pp. 357-72;

·       V. Grumel, Les Règestes des Actes du Patriarcat de Constantinople, pp. 106 seq. (cf., however, A. Michel’s criticism of the same in Byz. Zeitschr. (1938), vol. xxxviii, pp. 452-9).


E. Amann, whose merits in Photian researches I have noted, as also those of Lapôtre, in my book Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 314, 320, 324, expressed in his study on Photius (Diet, de Théol. Cath. (1935), vol. xii, cols. 1536-1604), the best and most recent study on the Patriarch, the opinion that the doubts cast on the two last sessions of the Council were not justified (loc. cit., cols. 1589, 1590). I note with satisfaction that M. Jugie is ready to admit the authenticity of the Greek Acts, including the last two sessions: ‘Schisme’, in Dict. de Théol. Cath. (1939), vol. XIV, cols. 1340 seq.; ‘Les Actes du Synode Photien’, loc. cit. pp. 89-99; Le Schisme Byzantin (Paris, 1941), pp. 126-30. On pp. 383 seq. I set forth evidence which proves decisively that the authenticity of the two last sessions can no longer be questioned. I here call attention to the short, but judicious exposé of the Photian affair and the main problems connected with it, by E. Amann in vol. vi of Histoire de l'Eglise, edited by A. Fliehe and V. Martin (’l’Époque Carolingienne’, Paris, 1937, pp. 465-501).





But we cannot be so emphatic about the authenticity of a letter from John VIII to Photius regarding the addition to the Symbol and which was published by Mansi at the end of the Acts of the Photian Council. In this letter the Pope complains of unfriendly rumours spread in Constantinople about the Church of Rome. Lest these rumours should raise suspicions in Photius’ mind, the Pope hastens to assure him that the Symbol has always been recited in Rome without any addition or suppression and that it does not at all contain the ‘article’ that had caused so many scandals in the Church. He severely condemns all those who dared, ‘ in their short-sightedness’, to insert it and compares them to Judas. He observes, however, that it is not easy to persuade the bishops of the Roman patriarchate to abandon a practice which is, in fact, quite a recent one. The Pope himself refuses to believe in the use of force and thinks it better to proceed cautiously in trying to suppress the usage. It is anyhow false to accuse the Pope of the innovation, and at the end of the letter he requests Photius not to allow himself to be scandalized by the practice and to help the Pope in suppressing it.


Hergenröther, who specifically dealt with this problem, came to the conclusion that the document was a forgery, whose author might be Photius or rather some Greek polemist of the fourteenth century.1 In agreement with Hergenröther’s finding, I have placed the forgery in the fourteenth century and know of no reason for revising this conclusion. But I should draw the reader’s attention to some particulars that deserve consideration.


First of all, this document nowhere touches on the doctrine of the Filioque,



1. Photius, vol. II, pp. 541-51. Cf. M. Jugie, Theologia Dogmatica Christ. Orient. (Paris, 1926), vol. 1, pp. 247-56, where the author mostly copies the Cardinal’s arguments. Cf. also Amann, ‘Jean VIII’, in Dict. de Théol. Cath. vol. viii, cols. 609—11.





as Hergenröther seems ready to admit:1 all that the author is concerned with is the addition of the Filioque to the Symbol. Once this is clearly realized, there is no difficulty in admitting that whatever is said in the document roughly corresponds to fact, barring a few expressions that could never have been written by John VIII : the particular passage in which the writer compares the initiators of the innovation to Judas certainly did not issue from the Pontifical Chancellery. Then again, the fact that the existence of this letter was never referred to either by Photius or by any of the Greek polemists before the fourteenth century is not so extraordinary as might seem at first sight, for the Greeks always preferred to quote conciliar decisions, naturally with papal attestations, in support of doctrines and standards that were common to the whole Church. Granted this mentality, declarations by the legates of John VIII at the sixth session of the Photian Council had in their estimation far greater value than any letter from the Pope.


On the whole, it is not absolutely impossible, but most unlikely, that John VIII should have written to Photius on the addition to the Symbol; and certainly the letter could never have been couched in the terms alleged. Even if the possibility of such a letter be not ruled out, one must admit that it was drawn up in such vague and general terms that it failed even to attract the attention of the Greek polemists, who preferred to quote the legates’ declarations at the sixth session of the Photian Council rather than this letter. If not wholly an invention, it was at least, as is well known to-day, thoroughly altered by some polemist of the fourteenth century.



To return once more to the Acts of the Council, it remains to examine the pontifical legates’ procedure in the course of the Synod. Western historians have in general been very hard on them and blamed them for grossly departing from pontifical instructions, for adopting the Greek point of view throughout and for being too complimentary, nay servile, to Photius. I have tried to show why the legates had to adopt the Photian view in the settlement of the dispute, for, had they insisted on the Pope’s orders being carried out to the letter, their mission would have collapsed completely. A full examination makes it clear that they



1. Ibid. p. 541: ‘Er, der Papst, nehme jene Lehre, um derentwillen Spaltung zwischen beiden Kirchen entstanden, nicht nur nicht selbst an.... ’ The original Greek has: περὶ τοῦ ἄρθρου τούτου. . . ὅτι οὐ μόνον οὐ λέγομεν τοῦτο. The word τὸ ἄρθρον does not mean ‘doctrina’ but ‘articulus’, i.e. part of a sentence. Hergenröther’s summary is therefore very inaccurate.





honestly tried on every possible occasion to do justice to the Roman views on the pontifical primacy.


For instance, Cardinal Peter, addressing the Fathers, declared at the opening of the first session: ‘Like a good father and a good pastor, the holy Pope constantly exhorts and visits you by his letters and his legates; and wishes to see the whole Church united into one flock with one single pastor.’ The words did not appeal to John of Heraclea, who retorted that the Byzantine Church had achieved that unity, before the Pope ever made his exhortation. [1]


Without allowing himself to be disconcerted by the interpellation of the Metropolitan of Heraclea, the Cardinal repeated towards the end of the session in more solemn words that the purpose of his legation was to establish peace and union in the Byzantine Church. [2] After that, he presented the gifts the Pope had sent to Photius, including the pallium. What this meant for the Romans, we know; but the Byzantines saw in it only a token of friendship for their Patriarch on the part of the Pope.


At the beginning of the second session, Peter conceded to his interpellator of the first session that peace had indeed been restored in the Byzantine Church before the legates’ arrival, but added emphatically that the Emperor and the other Patriarchs had never ceased to beg the Pope to set his seal to this peace. [3] To this Procopius of Caesarea retorted again that peace had been restored before the Pope’s admonition. But Peter was not to be thwarted and repeated the same statement in nearly the same words; then calmly proceeded to detail the procedure to be followed in dealing with those who refused to acknowledge Photius. After the reading of the Pope’s letter to the Byzantine Patriarch, Peter asked several questions regarding the manner of Photius’ resumption of office, making it therefore perfectly clear that he wanted to assert himself before the Fathers as judge and arbiter. After the Patriarch had given his own explanations, Peter again rose to declare that the Holy See had restored several Patriarchs and bishops to their sees, and that John only followed their example in restoring Photius to this throne. [4]


When the Fathers had heard Thomas of Tyre’s Libellus Poenitentiae and pleaded with the Patriarch for the repentant prelate’s pardon, the pontifical legates objected that this case would have to be submitted to the Pope personally,



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 384.            2. Ibid. col. 389.            3. Ibid. cols. 393, 408, 409.


4. Ibid. col. 428: ἀπέδωκε τῇ ἁγιωσύνῃ ὑμῶν τὸν οἰκεῖον θρόνον.





since they had no powers to absolve such a grievous sin. On the Fathers and Photius expostulating with them, the legates relented from their rigidity, whereupon the Fathers asked Photius to decide for himself, since he alone was the aggrieved party in the case. Photius then pronounced the absolution of the repentant prelate and the legates at once rallied to his decision. [1]


It has already been stated that the legates had only consented to such alterations in the Commonitorium as were absolutely necessary to effect a compromise. If read with care, the document expresses with sufficient clearness the views held at that time in Rome on papal powers. [2] In the fifth chapter the Pope orders the bishops to acknowledge Photius; in the next chapter, he makes his legates declare that the Roman Pontiff had the care of all the Churches, a principle often reiterated in pontifical documents of the period; in general, the Pope adopts the tone of a master giving orders and these orders are preserved, even after the modifications made by the Patriarchal Chancellery in agreement with the legates.


At the fourth session Peter unequivocally stated that the Pope was the head of all the Churches, [3] and at the fifth session the Cardinal’s assertions in the same sense were still more explicit. Whatever has been said to the contrary, the first canon voted by the assembly had been drawn up by the legates, and the clause added to the canon was meant to guarantee the privileges of the Roman Church : those who read into the canon an infringement of the Roman See’s powers [4] only wasted their breath, for the Greek canonists [5] read into it exactly the reverse, and their opinion was well worth having. In the course of the debate on methods of procedure with those who might alter their minds and join Photius, the Cardinal said: ‘Pope John, oecumenical and apostolic, who received his powers from Peter, Prince of the Apostles, has conferred the same powers of binding and loosing on the very saintly Patriarch Photius.’ [6]


The above instances should suffice to show that the legates did not, in the course of the Council, deviate from their duty to the extent it has generally been believed, but remained faithful to the instructions they



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 440, 441.            2. Ibid. cols. 468-71.            3. Ibid. col. 480.


4. For instance, Hefele-Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, vol. iv, p. 600; cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. ii, p. 506.

5. Balsamon (ed. Beveridge), Synodicon, vol. i, p. 360; Zonaras, ibid. p. 361.

6. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 501.





had received on the essential point which the Pope valued most highly— the primacy of the Roman See. [1] One may be shocked by the extravagance of some of the compliments paid to Photius, but the legates had sufficient perception to see that they were dealing with a really extraordinary man and that the Patriarch had actually conquered the hearts of the whole Empire and of the whole Byzantine Church.



1. Cf. Jugie, Theologia Dogmatica Christ. Orient. vol. I, pp. 229-44: ’De iis quae in actis synodi Photianae primatui Romanae Sedis favent. . . et in detrimentum ac irrisionem cedunt.’








Photius’ letters to the Roman bishops—John VIII approves the Acts of the Council—Basis of the compromise concerning Bulgaria—Anti-Photian Collection and the legend of Photius’ second condemnation by John VIII—Photius, Marinus I and Hadrian III—Stephen V and Byzantium—Stephen’s letters on the Photian incident.



The legates arrived in Rome with somewhat heavy hearts: it is true, their mission had succeeded, the two Churches were once again at peace, but only at the cost of their disregarding some of the Pope’s strictest orders. Would John VIII be satisfied with their explanations? Would he be convinced that Byzantium was not exactly what it was imagined to be in Rome? Would he believe that they could not possibly have acted otherwise? Their predecessors, Radoald and Zachary, had also achieved a signal success in Constantinople in 861, but with what fatal results to themselves! And now their only hope lay in that very same Zachary of Anagni, who had succeeded at the Pontifical Chancellery to the post of Anastasius the Librarian, the man who certainly had had something to do with the revision of Pope John’s Oriental policy.


It also appeared that Zachary had had a long talk with Cardinal Peter before the latter’s departure for Byzantium and had handed him a letter addressed to Photius, explaining to the Patriarch the true circumstances in Rome and apologizing for his inability to do more for him at the Pope’s court: this much at any rate can be inferred from the Patriarch’s letter to Zachary which the legates handed to him: [1]


It is told of one of the ancients—I think it was Theodektes—that he had asked a friend for the gift of something he needed at the time; but his friend, instead of giving only what he had been asked for, decided in a free-hearted moment to add something equally desirable. Isidorus—for that was his name —perhaps wanted to make a show of his munificence, but that did not suit his friend, who took the addition as an insult and returned the whole parcel. He did not regard it as a sign of true friendship, that when one modestly



1. We owe the last edition of this letter to A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Photiaca (St Petersburg, 1897), pp. 6 seq. See ibid. pp. 7 seq. on previous editions. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, pp. 556 seq.





asked a friend for less than one’s needs, the friend should in fact give a great deal more. But what becomes of the law of friendship, if friends must condemn each other either for excess of gifts or for lack of trust?


For fear the same should happen to us, we have sent you, dearest friend, no more than the proofs of old and true friendship you asked for; and if ever you should need more—but perhaps these very words are a breach of the rules of friendship—you will find us as ready to oblige you as we are now. Though your efforts did not meet with the success they deserved, we welcome the zeal you displayed on our behalf as gratefully as if it had benefited us; for we know that results must be left to the decision of time and are often frustrated by events.


But the law of true friendship knows how to value struggles, zeal and favours, not by their appearances, but by the energy of their mainspring. For you know without my telling you—I would not tell you, if I feared to be suspected of not trusting my friends with the whole truth—that things happened not only differently from, but contrary to, our intentions. As for the rest, we wish you, saintly soul, the best of good fortune and safety from all attacks and threats, from enemies visible and invisible, by the intercession of our Glorious Lady, Mother of God and all the saints. Amen.



Zachary may have cautioned the Patriarch against some particularly dangerous personalities at Rome, whose intrigues might defeat his friends’ efforts at the pontifical court. Foremost among these was Marinus, bishop of Cere, the same who played a leading part at the Council of 869-70. Photius had understood his friend, for to disarm Marinus he sent him a letter, offering his friendship. The document which the legates were asked to deliver to Marinus is indicative of Photius’ intentions and feelings : [1]


When you presided as a judge in the case that did us such injustice, you were evidently put to a severe test; but you refused to submit to that test, when it pleased God to vindicate us against our aggressors. Had you had the courage to face us, God is our witness that you would have severely condemned not only your first judgement, but also your present hesitation, under the pressure not of revenge, but of the friendship of which you would have been the object. Lest you should mistake these words for empty vapourings, I have sent to your holiness, as first evidence of my vengeance, the particles of the Holy Cross framed in gold. Fare you well, and do not forget that the bonds of true friendship are often forged, not in joy, but in pain, as the words of the Lord, great and divine words, confirm it. I will ask you for a favour—see how far we dare venture—but a favour of which I need not be ashamed, and which if granted will benefit you: should anybody at



1. Loc. cit. p. 5. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, pp. 553 seq.





any time hurt or offend your feelings, intentionally or not, for such things do happen among men—take my attitude to you as a pattern for your attitude to the sinner and inflict on him the same punishment as our humility has inflicted on you.



It is difficult to see why, following Hergenröther, we should find in this letter nothing better than ‘ the Byzantine Patriarch's deeply wounded pride' (den ganzen schwer gekränkten Stolz des byzantinischen Patriarchen). Far from this being the case, the letter is good evidence of Photius’ goodwill, with all the dignity to be expected from a Byzantine Patriarch : it is the letter of one who feels at last rehabilitated and sends the good news to those who contributed to his downfall. He does not stoop to flattery to bring an old enemy round to his cause, but is the first to stretch out a friendly hand. It is at once the beau geste of a priest and the master-stroke of a shrewd diplomat.


Another close associate of John VIII was the bishop of Velletri, Gauderich, who had been spokesman for the bishops summoned to Rome by Hadrian II before the legates’ departure for Constantinople in 869. [1] It was he, too, who in the name of the assembled bishops urged the Pope to take the most drastic steps against Photius and his supporters. But Gauderich also attended the Roman synod of 879 which was called to rehabilitate Photius, and his signature was found at the foot of the Commonitorium. [2] The following is the gist of a letter from Photius to Gauderich : [3]


Those who are joined in bonds of friendship unspoiled by past quarrels and misunderstandings usually take their mutual good feelings for granted, and though afraid of any possible breach, are fairly lenient in cherishing their friendship ; but those who become friends after earlier quarrels, especially if the offended party is chivalrous enough to make the first advance, act so as to ease a feeling of shame (which is only right) and find in past regrets an incentive to keep the laws of friendship. That is why those who were the main cause of old scandals try not only to remove similar provocations in the future, but also to let bygones be bygones. We then—and you would say the same, if you looked squarely at the truth—invite you, after the misunderstandings that severed us, to a true friendship in the Holy Spirit. It would be your task to intensify and quicken the flame of divine love, not to extinguish it by inconstancy or foster the bad feelings which uprooted the law of love and banished it from our thoughts and memories.



1. Mansi, vol. xvi, col. 124.

2. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 473; M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 189.

3. Photiaca, pp. 5, 6. Cf. Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, pp. 555 seq.





That is why I embrace your holiness in these lines as with the lips of the purest feelings and wish to be bound to you by the bonds of cheerful friendship by the gift I send to you as a symbol of friendly welcome.



It is possible that Photius sent similar letters to others whose names had been submitted to him by the legates; but it is also evident that Photius and the legates took every precaution, a lesson they had gathered from the unpleasant experiences of Radoald and Zachary, and that they did everything in their power to forestall similar surprises on the part of the Pope.



After receiving the legates in the summer of 880, John VIII carefully studied their reports, the Acts of the Council and the letters from the Emperor and the Patriarch. The reply to these letters, dated 13 August of the same year, [1] shows fairly clearly how the Pope reacted to the happenings in Constantinople. As his letter to Photius is extremely important for a true estimate of Photius’ case, I translate it from the original and quote it in full :


It has always been the object of our endeavours, labours and wishes that for the maintenance of the orthodox faith and for the peace and welfare of all the Churches of God for whose care we are responsible, we should strive to reunite what is scattered, to preserve what is united and to watch over whatever is wrong or objectionable among the things which the providence of God has committed to us. For this purpose, true to apostolic custom and taking pity on the Church of Constantinople, we have decided that the advantage of one should not be the detriment of another; rather, that every one should be of spontaneous assistance to all.


After summoning our Church, urged by the necessity of the times, we have turned our attention to the Church of Constantinople in the exercise of our apostolic authority and power and instructed our legates to proceed cautiously. We rejoice at her unity of peace and concord and abundantly praise Almighty God and, though we cannot sufficiently thank One who has bestowed so many benefits on His servants, we bless Him and try to give Him unstinted glory. Glory, praise and virtue be to Him by whose majesty and praiseworthy grace crooked things are made straight, evil is mended, obstinacy broken, humility exalted, dissension uprooted, goodness intensified and all scandals thrown aside. Let us therefore not glory in ourselves but in God, rejoice and exult in His mercy who says: ‘Have confidence, for I overcame the world’; and elsewhere: ‘You can do nothing without Me.’ But though we have determined to deal with you in writing and speech with exceptional restraint, it is a wonder to us why so many things that we had



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 227, 228.





decided should have been obviously altered, transformed and, we do not know through whose mistake or design, distorted.


Moreover, you have hinted in your letter that at your suggestion only those should ask for mercy who have done ill. We also charitably agree that we should thus deal with those who say they do not know God. Yet we do not wish to exaggerate what has been done, lest we should have to judge according to deserts. So, let such excuses be dropped, for fear they should come under the condemnation : ‘ It is you who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts ; for what is great in the sight of men is abominable in the eyes of God. ’


Therefore, let your wonderful prudence, which is reputed to know humility, not take offence that you should have been asked to sue the Church of God for mercy, but rather to humble yourself that you may be exalted and that you may learn to give brotherly affection to one who showed mercy to you ; and if you try to increase in devotion and loyalty to the Holy Roman Church and to our insignificant person, we also embrace you as a brother and hold you as the closest friend.


We also approve what has been mercifully done in Constantinople by the synodal decree of your reinstatement and if perchance at the same synod our legates have acted against apostolic instructions, neither do we approve their action nor do we attribute any value to it.



What conclusions emerge from this document? First, we discover that the Pope, before writing this letter, had carefully studied the Acts of the Photian Council and seen with his own eyes the alterations which the patriarchal chancellery had introduced into his own letters: 'Sed cum nos scriptis et verbis misericorditer tecum specialiter agendum esse decrevimus, mirandum valde est, cur multa, quae statueramus, aut aliter habita aut mutata esse noscuntur.5 It is, however, important to note that the Pope confines himself to these few words, without insisting on the non-compliance with his orders ; he is even loath to point out the culprit responsible for the alterations, and with the utmost discretion fastens the responsibility on Photius, without naming him, 'nescimus cuius studio’, and on the legates, 'vel neglectu variata monstrentur’. He is surprised at such daring, but refrains from denouncing the fact.


The same text informs us that Photius had, in the letter delivered by the legates, drawn the Pope’s attention to the alterations and explained the reasons for them: the Patriarch chiefly objected to the Pope’s command to sue for the Council’s mercy. The Pope reproves Photius for his lack of humility. Photius, says the Pope, is not an unbeliever, but a bishop from whom more is asked and expected than from one who has not the faith. Yet, Photius must have explained to the Pope





why he looked upon the injunction as impossible, and his reasons must have made a certain impression on the Pope, for after his solemn exhortation to humility, addressed to Photius, John VIII hastens to apologize for having imposed on him such an obligation : ’Igitur laudabilis tua prudentia, quae dicitur humilitatem scire, non moleste ferat, quod ecclesiae Dei miserationem iussa est postulare, quin potius se, ut exaltetur, humiliet.’


Contrary to what has been believed to this day, these words do not in the least convey that Photius had actually asked the Council Fathers’ pardon and that the Acts were later tampered with by the Greeks, for in the version extant to-day there is not a trace of such a capitulation by the Patriarch, [1] and the Pope’s letters authorize no such assumption.


The sentence in the pontifical letter means on the contrary that the Pope, after reading the legates’ report, the Acts and the letters from the Emperor and the Patriarch, realized that he had ventured too far on ground which was not nearly so firm as he had thought, and discovered, as a good strategist, that to cling to his position would risk the fine victory he had scored in Constantinople: so he beat an honourable retreat, screening his strategic move by exhortations to humility addressed to Photius. It is clear that in this sentence the Pope meant not to insist further on such a trifle, for he says to Photius: ’if you persevere in your loyalty and devotion to our Holy Roman Church, we embrace you as a brother and as our dearest relation.’ ’Nam et ea’, he goes on, ’quae pro causa tuae restitutionis synodali decreto Constantinopoli misericorditer acta sunt, recipimus.’


These last words distinctly imply that the Pope agreed to everything done at the Council of Constantinople for Photius’ rehabilitation. Now, what did the Council actually do in the matter? The Patriarch was reinstated without begging the Fathers for mercy; those who refused to acknowledge him were excommunicated and all the synods held against Photius were annulled. This was done ’pro causa Photii restitutionis synodali decreto Constantinopoli’, and all this was put down in the synodal decrees: therefore, all this was agreed to by John VIII. No other conclusion is logically tenable.


But the Pope’s declaration ends on a sentence that has puzzled the historians : 4 Si fortasse nostri legati in eadem sinodo contra apostolicam



1. It was in this sense that I interpreted the letter in question in my book, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode, pp. 324 seq., in the light of Father Laurent’s researches, ‘Le Cas de Photius. . in Échos d'Orient, vol. xxix, pp. 396-415. His conclusions are, however, erroneous. See pp. 180 seq. for my evidence.





preceptionem egerint, nos nec recipimus nec iudicamus alicuius existere firmitatis.’ What is the proper interpretation of these words? Taken literally, they would mean that the Pope here withdraws what he has just agreed to in a previous sentence: for the legates did go against the Pope’s orders by allowing Photius to be reinstated without the apologies and by tolerating the alterations in the Pope’s letters and in the Commonitorium. It was all done ‘pro causa Photii restitutionis synodali decreto Constantinopoli’. This would imply a strange contradiction and a procedure at variance with every precedent in pontifical diplomacy.


We must then conclude that the last restriction laid down by the Pope did not refer to the points which John VIII had just agreed to in the same document, those points being, to sum them up again : Photius’ reinstatement without apologies, the annulment of the Anti-Photian Councils, the alterations in the pontifical letters and the excommunication of all those who refused to submit to Photius.


In the light of the above, we can only interpret the sentence as a precautionary clause, designed to safeguard the rights of the primacy: if after a close examination of the whole case it should ever become evident that the legates had exceeded their mandate and disobeyed their instructions to a degree incompatible with the rights of the Papacy, the possibility would be left open of shifting the responsibility on to them and declaring the concessions null and void.


On the whole, therefore, the legates came off better with their master than their colleagues of 861 ; but on one thing John VIII refused to go back: not a single clear hint can be found in this letter to suggest that he looked upon his predecessor’s policy to Photius as mistaken. The legates, of course, had arrived at this conclusion consistently with their action at the Council in Constantinople; but John VIII, even supposing that he concluded from their report that the case called for revision, hesitated to venture that length. In this very document, one can discern a trace of the same opinions on Photius’ case as the Pope had expressed in his letters to Constantinople before the convocation of the Photian Council and he still persists in looking upon Photius’ rehabilitation as an act of gratuitous condescension on the part of the See of Rome. The words ‘misericorditer tecum specialiter agendum’ and ‘quae pro causa tuae restitutionis. . .misericorditer acta sunt’ are clear enough. As was to be expected, the Pope was not as explicit as in his previous letters, and in this respect he did veer round. At the same time, it would have been awkward, if not impossible, for John VIII to unsay and set aside whatever had been thought about Photius in Rome : such a disclaimer





would have cast a slur on the memory of a great Pope, and the Pontifical Chancellery is not in the habit of overriding previous declarations. Better to leave certain things severely alone, the more so as the aggrieved party had not insisted on such abjuration.


Pope John’s letter to the Emperor Basil reveals why the Pope went as far as he did and why he agreed to all that had been done at the Photian Council for the Patriarch’s reinstatement. After thanking Basil and his sons Leo and Alexander for their keenness on the restoration of peace in the Byzantine Church, he goes on :1


Now, after God, we thank your Serenity for having displayed such sincerity and devotion to the Church of St Peter and our own paternity not only in words but in striking deeds ; we thank you for having sent your fleet and placed it at our service for the defence of the land of St Peter; second, because filled with divine inspiration and reverence for the Prince of the Apostles you have restored to our jurisdiction the monastery of St Sergius which was founded in your royal city and formerly belonged by right to the Holy Roman Church; third, we thank you profoundly for having for the love of us, though it was only fair, allowed St Peter to re-enter into possession of the Bulgarian diocese. Hence, we urge you for your own comfort in every way to help and to defend the Holy Roman Church in these critical days, so that your imperial glory may increasingly shine over the world with the help of our apostolic prayers and receive a great reward from the Almighty.


We also urge you to persevere in the feelings of good will and piety which for the love of God you have for the Church of Christ, for it is with the love of a father that we hold your Exalted Highness in our arms, venerate you with due honour and by constant prayers poured out near the sacred bodies of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul try to ask the Almighty, for all the great services you are rendering to St Peter, ever in this world to keep your holy Empire in increasing prosperity, to bless it with glorious victories and give you eternal glory and happiness with His saints and elect in the Heavenly Kingdom. We also approve what has been mercifully done in Constantinople by the synodal decree of the very reverend Patriarch Photius’ reinstatement and if perchance at the same synod our legates have acted against apostolic instructions, neither do we approve their action nor do we attribute any value to it.



These words are significant, and disclose the great joy the Pope feltover the reconciliation with Byzantium and his sincere gratitude to the Emperor. And he had excellent reasons for being thankful to Basil, for the military aid which the Emperor had sent him was substantial and



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 229, 230.





well-timed, and the Pope knew better than anyone in Rome or in Italy that without Byzantium’s assistance it would have been impossible to ward off or even to take the sting out of the Arab threat. The gift of the convent of St Sergius was a free donation on the part of the Emperor ; but the permanent transfer of Bulgaria to the Roman patriarchate was the best part of the transaction. John VIII could now boast of having secured what the great Nicholas had had so much at heart and what for over twenty years had been the main bone of contention between East and West. After securing such concessions from Byzantium, could the Pope have refused to endorse the Constantinople settlement, and could anyone seriously believe that John VIII, after agreeing to all the Constantinople decisions, could in the same breath make such reservations as would unsay what he had said? The assumption is too absurd. A careful analysis of the Pope’s letter to Basil drives us to the same conclusion: the Pope cancels the conditions he had laid down for Photius’ rehabilitation; he agrees to the annulment of all the antiPhotian decrees issued by his predecessors and by the synod of 869-70, and he sanctions the Acts of the Photian Council brought to him by the legates in the version as we know it to-day.



The main objection to the above conclusion has been drawn from the fact that Bulgaria, after all that was said and done, remained as before under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine patriarchate; hence, it is contended that the concession made by Basil and Photius was only a blind and that the Pope was again duped by the astute Byzantines. As soon as he perceived the fraud, John VIII is alleged to have withdrawn his consent by falling back on the safety clause that qualified his two letters.


But the objection does not hold water. The Bulgarian concession was sincere and was actually carried into effect, for we find that from that time onward Bulgaria ceased to be listed among the dioceses belonging to Byzantium in the official catalogue or the ninth-century episcopal directory,1 a fact significant enough to be taken into account. In this respect, the Byzantines were always punctilious.


But how was it that Photius and the Emperor could make such a concession to Rome in all seriousness, seeing how fiercely the government of Michael III and Bardas had fought for the conquest of that province and that Basil had followed his predecessors’ policy to the very last? Did Bulgaria lose overnight its importance in Byzantine eyes? Certainly not. Then how can we explain the fact?



1. Cf. J. Gay, L’Italie Méridionale et l’Empire Byzantin (Paris, 1904), p. 124.





Some light can be thrown on the problem by the terms of the compromise arrived at by the legates and the Emperor after the Council in Byzantium. Photius, in his speech at the second session of his synod, [1] clearly showed he was quite aware of the importance of the issue to John VIII; nor did he overlook the fact that reconciliation with Rome would be a hopeless proposition without some concession from his side on the Bulgarian issue. That is why he so pointedly stated that since his accession to the throne he had refrained from sending the pallium to Bulgaria and holding ordinations there, just to demonstrate to the legates his readiness to come to an agreement on that very issue.


What Photius stated may have been correct for, as a matter of fact, the Byzantine bishops in Bulgaria made their own provision for the spiritual needs of their flocks. If after Photius’ accession to the patriarchal throne no change occurred among the higher clergy, Photius had in fact no opportunity for sending the pallium to anybody.


John VIII defined his own point of view best in his letter to Photius : [2]


Furthermore, as it is your duty to lend strength to your will, so it is our will that our Bulgarian diocese, which the Apostolic See received by the efforts of the blessed lord Pope Nicholas of apostolic memory and held at the time of blessed Pope Hadrian, be restored as soon as possible; and by apostolic authority we forbid any ecclesiastical ordinations to be performed in the same diocese by the heads of the Church of Constantinople. You will see that the bishops consecrated there and all lower clergy leave the country and refrain from entering our Bulgarian diocese. If you give them the pallium, perform any ordination or communicate with them, as long as they refuse to obey us, you will fall under the same excommunication as theirs.



The Pope, therefore, maintained the same general attitude to the Greek clergy operating in Bulgaria as he explained in April 878, in his letters to Ignatius, Basil and the Bulgarian bishops; [3] but it was less resolute. There is one particular sentence in the letter showing that the Pope leaves a door open to a compromise : ‘Si tu. . . donec nobis obediant, cum eis communicaveris’, a broad hint that a simple transfer from one patriarchate to the other would be acceptable in Rome and that agreement on the future of the Greek clergy working in Bulgaria would be possible.


This portion of the letter was completely suppressed in its Greek edition. The pontifical letter to Basil has a similar passage, only more



1. Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 417, 419.

2. M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 185, 186.

3. Loc. cit. pp. 62-5. See above, p. 157.





pointed, in which the Pope, after recalling Nicholas’ efforts to gain the confidence of the Bulgarians, says : [1]


If the Patriarch... refrains from claiming or retaining possession of the Bulgarian diocese, performs there no ordination of any degree (there seem to be some bishops or priests there who were illicitly ordained by either the Patriarch or the archbishop) and does not send them the pallium which prelates wear at solemn Mass. . . .



These words suggest possibilities of a compromise and Photius was quick to detect the Pope’s drift. This is how he translates them in the Greek edition of the letter:


And yet, some people were bold enough to appropriate by force a province that did not belong to them, made ordinations there, consecrated churches and did, in short, what they had no right to do. Besides what we have said already, be warned also of this, that if we hear of any bishops over there damaging our interests and if we proceed against them with ecclesiastical penalties, let them not find sanctuary with you, but behave in a way apt to convince us that on this point you think as we do and agree with our opinion. [2]



This, then, was the basis of the compromise between Rome and Byzantium: as long as the Bulgarians were ministered to by Greek clergy and remained culturally dependent on Constantinople, the danger to Byzantium of a Bulgarian Empire rising at its very gates could easily be dealt with; but Byzantium could never tolerate the proximity of a Bulgaria drifting under the cultural influence of the Franks and the spiritual ministrations of a Latin and Frankish clergy: yet for all that, the Emperor could allow the Bulgarian archbishop to apply for his pallium to Rome instead of Byzantium.


This also goes to prove that the desire for a real and permanent entente was perfectly sincere on the part of both John VIII and Photius, since both made substantial sacrifices for the lasting peace of the Church.


The above reading of the facts has to this day escaped the experts, who have allowed themselves to be mystified by the fragment of a letter from John VIII to Boris, erroneously attributed to the year 882. [3] The following are the words of the fragment: ‘Si ab his quos excommunicatos habebamus sacramenta quaecumque suscipitis, constat quia idololatriam, non ut Catholici essetis, sed ut schismatici efficeremini, reliquisse videmini.’



1. Loc. cit. pp. 173 seq.

2. Mansi, vol. xvii, col. 405.


3. P.L. vol. 126, col. 959. Zlatarski, in his History of Bulgaria (Istoria na Big. Drzhava, Sofia, 1927), vol. ii, pp. 200 seq. infers from the passage that the Pope had excommunicated not only Photius, after detecting his deceit, but also the Bulgarians. Cf. M. Jugie, Theologia Dogmatica Christ. Orient, vol. I, p. 145. See my study, ‘Le Second Schisme de Photios’, in Byzantion (1933), vol. viii, p. 435-





But this fragment does not belong to the period generally postulated; and in the new edition of the letters and register of John VIII brought out by E. Caspar, [1] it is placed where it belongs, at the end of a letter which the Pope dispatched in 874-5.


We possess two letters by John VIII belonging to the period that followed the Photian Council and addressed to Boris, both indirectly bearing out what was said above on the Bulgarian compromise between Byzantium and Rome. The first of them assumes the transfer of Bulgaria under the jurisdiction of Rome, as arranged between the Pope and the Patriarch, and even leads one to suspect that the Pope had made other attempts to obtain Boris’ consent to the arrangement. John VIII had used as his go-between the Croat bishop of Nin, Theodosius, an individual specially equipped for such a mission. As head of the Roman party in Dalmatian Croatia, Theodosius had proved in 879 a valuable supporter of Duke Branimir in his revolt against his rival, Prince Zdeslav, the Byzantines’ special protégé. [2] This revolution, besides restoring the Dalmatian Croats’ independence, also checked the expansion of the Byzantine patriarchate in that region. In 880 Theodosius went to Rome for his consecration as a bishop, on which occasion the Pope charged him with a mission to Boris. Theodosius carried it out so well, that the Khagan promised to send his ambassadors to Rome; but as they never arrived, John VIII had to remind Boris of his promise by letter. The document bears no date, but must have been written in the latter half of the year 881. As the Pope’s reminder fell on deaf ears, John sent another letter to Bulgaria the following year, [3] more impetuous in tone and bearing evident traces of exasperation at Boris’ obstinate silence.


Neither of these two letters makes mention either of Photius or of the Greeks and the Pope has no complaint to make about Emperor or Patriarch: the correspondence clearly shows that if Bulgaria did stay under the influence of the Byzantine patriarchate, none but Boris must bear the responsibility, for in a second fit of obstinacy he refused even to hear of Rome, which had once refused to pander to his moods.


But this time, Boris’ refusal to submit to the Pope was not inspired by any caprice of his.



1. M.G.H. Ep. vii, p. 295.

2. Cf. my book, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siècle (Paris, 1926), pp. 229 seq.

3. See the text of these letters in Mansi, vol. xvii, cols. 211, 217; P.L. vol. 126, cols. 919, 938; M.G.H. Ep. vii, pp. 260, 266, 267.





Anxious to make his country as independent as possible, and weary of the endless bickerings between the two patriarchates, Michael-Boris saw his opportunity to take another step towards the realization of his old dream—a Bulgarian Patriarch ; and by his refusal to bring his country directly under the patriarchate of Rome Boris actually laid the first foundation of the Bulgarian National Church. The work, thus started by the shrewd Boris, was to be completed by his son Simeon in 918 by the erection of an autonomous and independent Bulgarian patriarchate. In 927 the Bulgarian Patriarch was officially acknowledged by the Byzantine Church. [1]


It is interesting to note how circumstances helped Boris in his schemes. Death prevented John VIII from pursuing his Bulgarian designs with his customary doggedness and his successors followed each other too rapidly to gather up the threads of a policy initiated by their great predecessors, with the result that relations between Bulgaria and the Holy See came to be completely suspended. Even Formosus, though still remembered in Bulgaria, did not, on becoming Pope, renew contact with that country, which at that time was rapidly progressing towards the status of a great power.


And yet, the very reverse is often taken for granted, and it is believed as a matter of course that Formosus tried to wrest Bulgaria from the Byzantines. This would explain why they kept such unfriendly recollections of this Pope. There is in a letter from the Bulgarian Prince Caloyan, addressed to Pope Innocent III, a vague reference to Simeon as one of the Bulgarian Tsars who applied to Rome for the imperial crown, this being taken as evidence that relations between Rome and Bulgaria were renewed under Formosus, were continued by the Tsar Simeon and that Rome had agreed to the foundation of the Bulgarian Empire and the national patriarchate. [2]


But the reference to Simeon in Caloyan’s correspondence with Innocent III is extremely vague and warrants no such conclusion.



1. Cf. Zlatarski, loc. cit. vol. II, pp. 399-401, 529 seq. Also idem, ‘Blgarski Arkhiep.-Patriarsi Pryez prvoto Tsarstvo’, in Izv. Istor. Druzhestvo (1924), kn. vi, pp. 1-22; Gelzer, ‘Der Patriarchat von Achrida’, in Abh. d. kgl. Sächs. Akad. (Phil.-Hist. Kl. 1902), Bd 20, p. 3.


2. D. Farlati, J. Coletti, Illyricum Sacrum (Venetiis, 1751—1819), vol. viii, p. 194; Hergenröther, Photius, vol. II, p. 694.


3. The following are the passages under discussion: In his first letter to the Pope, Caloyan writes (P.L. vol. 214, col. 1113): ‘Imprimis petimus ab ecclesia Romana matre nostra coronam et honorem, tamquam dilectus filius, secundum quod imperatores nostri veteres habuerunt. Unus fuit Petrus, alius fuit Samuel et alii qui eos in imperio praecesserunt, sicut in libris nostris invenimus esse scriptum.’


No conclusion can be drawn from this text. In his second letter (P.L. vol. 215, col. 290) Caloyan seems more definite, but even this passage warrants no such conclusion: ’. . . ut impleret desiderium imperii mei sanctitas tua, secundum consuetudinem praedecessorum meorum, imperatorum Bulgarorum et Blachorum, Simeonis, Petri et Samuelis progenitorum meorum et caeterorum omnium imperatorum Bulgarorum.’





Simeon, moreover, felt in no need of permissions, for he adopted in 918, long after Formosus’ death, the title of Emperor and founded the Bulgarian patriarchate.


Bulgaria’s surrender by Constantinople, of which Rome could not take advantage, only stimulated, as we have stated, Bulgaria’s dreams of independence, and from that time onward we can watch Boris acting as a sovereign, even in the country’s religious problems, asking leave from neither Rome nor Byzantium, and after the expulsion of the disciples of St Methodius from Moravia (884) offering them sanctuary in his country and adopting the Slavonic liturgy, which Pope Stephen V had banished from Moravia. Thus there gradually arose in Bulgaria a Slav National Church, which soon displaced all Greek elements. Happily for Boris, Bulgaria was possessed about the year 880 of a fairly numerous native clergy: a letter from Pope John VIII to Boris, dated 878, [1] mentions a Slav priest, Sergius, appointed bishop of Belgrade; and Photius’ letter to Arsenius [2] makes reference to many young Bulgars who had joined the monastic life and received their theological and ascetical training in Byzantium. Such foresight certainly helped the slow, but well-directed, formation of a Bulgarian National Church; though one is left to wonder whether such a transformation would have taken place if Bulgaria had remained under the direct jurisdiction of Byzantium, or if, by the terms of the compromise between Photius and John VIII, the Popes had secured a footing in Bulgaria. It thus happened by a strange whim of destiny that this very compromise facilitated the creation of a Bulgarian National Church and thereby saved the Slav liturgy.


It is therefore evident that the charge against Photius of having prevented by his intrigues the implementing of his solemn undertaking is false : Photius had nothing whatever to do with the astute Boris’s flat and obstinate refusal to place his country under the direct jurisdiction of Rome. Again, after the Photian synod John VIII has no complaint to make against Photius, and Photius has no fault to find with John VIII after their reconciliation—onl