AFTER the festival in honor of the restoration of the images (11 March 843), the last religious differences between the East and West seemed to have disappeared, and yet the course of events during the Iconoclast controversy had seriously modified the conditions under which the relations between Rome and Constantinople had been hitherto maintained.

The Papacy emerged from that long dispute completely emancipated politically from the Byzantine Empire. After the accession of Paul I (757) the Pope no longer applied to the Emperor of Constantinople for the ratification of his election but to the King of the Franks, and after the year 800 to the Emperor of the West. After Pope Hadrian the year of the reign of the Eastern Emperors no longer appears in the papal bulls, and nothing is more significant than this breaking with an ancient tradition.

It cannot be disputed that after the second Council of Nicaea (787), held in the presence of the papal legates, relations had been renewed between Rome and Constantinople, which continued until the second abolition of image-worship (815). But neither the Empress Irene nor her successors dreamt of revoking the edict of Leo the Isaurian which had deprived the Roman Church of its patrimony in the East and of its jurisdiction over Southern Italy and Illyricum. A still more illuminating fact is that, when the Empress Theodora restored image-worship in 843, she did not treat with the Pope as Irene had done, and the new Patriarch Methodius ordered the anathema to be launched against the iconoclasts without the cooperation of Rome.

Two distinct and opposed attitudes towards the Pope may, in fact, be seen in the Greek Church. On the one hand the superior clergy, largely recruited from among laymen, ex-governors or high officials, steeped in the doctrines of Caesaropapism, could not show much enthusiasm and indeed felt considerable misgivings towards a pontiff who, since the events of the year 800, had been the mainstay of the Emperors of the West, regarded at Byzantium as usurpers. A large number of these prelates had adhered to iconoclast doctrines, and in 843 many of them tried to obliterate this past by a reconciliation with orthodoxy.

On the other hand, these high official clergy were confronted by the monks, and especially the Studites, who had defended image-worship even to martyrdom, and were resolute opponents to the interference of the Emperors in the affairs of the Church. Their fundamental doctrine was complete liberty as against the State in matters of dogma no less than of discipline. But the one effective guarantee of this liberty for them was the close union of the Greek Church with Rome. They recognized in the successor to St Peter the spiritual authority denied to the Emperor. Theodore of Studion, in his correspondence with the Popes and sovereigns, emphasizes the necessity of submitting to the arbitration of the Pope all the difficulties which may perplex the Church, and for a long time the monastery of Studion was considered the stronghold of the Roman party at Byzantium.

For these reasons the restoration of image-worship in 843, even if it was an undeniable victory for the Studites, was not so complete a success as they had wished, and the Patriarch Methodius, himself formerly a monk but animated by a conciliatory spirit and desirous above all things of restoring peace in the Church, made several vigorous attacks on their uncompromising policy. On the other side, the elevation to the Patriarchate in 846 of Ignatius, son of the Emperor Michael Rangabé, who during his brief reign had been the protector and almost the servant of the Studites, seemed to assure definitely the triumph of their doctrines. Brought up in exile on Princes Islands, Ignatius was a true ascetic and had fervently embraced all the principles of Studite reform. Friendly relations with Rome seemed therefore assured, but a significant incident showed that the new Patriarch, however well-disposed he might be towards the Pope, did not propose to abandon one jot of his autonomy. Gregory Asbestas, Archbishop of Syracuse, having taken refuge at Constantinople, was condemned by a synod for certain irregularities. He appealed to Pope Leo IV, who commanded Ignatius to send him the acts of the synod; the Patriarch refused, and the matter remained unsettled. Benedict III, who succeeded Leo IV in 899, refused to confirm the deposition of Gregory Asbestas and contented himself with suspending him until he had seen the evidence. Thus, though the relations between Rome and Constantinople had once more become normal and the good will of Ignatius and the Studites towards the Pope was manifestly great, the long separation due to the Iconoclastic dispute had borne fruit; the Greek Church had become accustomed to complete autonomy, so far as Rome went, and its bishops, who fostered feelings of distrust and even hostility against her, only awaited an opportunity to show them. The crisis in the Patriarchate, which was the result of the deposition of Ignatius, soon supplied them with the desired opportunity.

Ignatius had made many enemies for himself by his uncompromising character and his unbending austerity, which did not spare those who held the highest places. In 858 he dared to attack the Caesar Bardas, whose profligacy was a public scandal, and refused to administer the sacrament to him. Bardas avenged this insult by banishing Ignatius to the island of Terebinthus, after having implicated him in an imaginary plot against the Emperor (27 November 858). Then, being unable to extort from him an act of abdication, and without even waiting for the result of the trial which was pending, Bardas raised to the patriarchal throne a layman, the protoasecretis Photius, one of the most renowned teachers in the University of Constantinople.

Photius, if we can believe his letters, appears to have hesitated at first to accept the post, but ended by allowing himself to be persuaded, and within six days was professed a monk and received all the ecclesiastical orders. On 25 December 858 he was consecrated Patriarch in St Sophia. He represented the party of the high clergy which had adopted once more the tradition of Tarasius, Nicephorus, and Methodius, and he met at once with violent opposition from the monks, especially from the Studites, whose Abbot Nicholas of Studion refused to take the communion with him, and was banished. He therefore thought it expedient to consolidate his power by a reconciliation with Rome. In 860 a solemn embassy, consisting of four bishops and a high lay official, was sent to Pope Nicholas. Its object was to invite the Pope to assemble a council to settle the dispute as to image-worship, and more especially to obtain the papal recognition of Photius as lawful Patriarch. This step in itself shows that Photius at that time accepted generally the jurisdiction of the Pope.

Conflict between Photius and Nicholas I 

But Nicholas I refused to recognize the election of Photius without fuller information, and, after protesting against the deposition of Ignatius, he dispatched to Constantinople two legates, Radoald, Bishop of Porto, and Zacharias, Bishop of Anagni, with instructions to hold an inquiry and to treat Ignatius provisionally as lawful Patriarch. No efforts were spared at Constantinople to conceal this news. The legates as soon as they arrived (February 861) were secluded and prevented from communicating with Ignatius and his partisans. Pressure was brought to bear on them by threats and even by bribes. They allowed themselves to be persuaded and, contrary to their instructions, they consented to preside at a council which was convened at the Holy Apostles (May 861), and pronounced the deposition of Ignatius, after suborned witnesses had been produced to affirm that the accused had been elected contrary to the canons.

But when the legates returned to Rome, loaded with presents from Photius, the Pope received them with indignation and repudiated all their acts. In an encyclical addressed to the three Eastern Patriarchs he declared that the deposition of Ignatius was illegal and that Photius improperly held the see of Constantinople. In answer to a letter from Photius, brought by an imperial secretary, in which the Patriarch seemed to treat with him on equal terms, the Pope reminded him that the see of Rome was the supreme head of all the Churches. Finally, at the request of some partisans of Ignatius, including the Archimandrite Theognostus, who had succeeded in escaping to Rome, he called a council at the Lateran palace (April 863), which summoned Photius to resign all his powers on pain of excommunication; the same injunction was laid on all the bishops consecrated by Photius.

The dispute thus entered the domain of law, and the issue at stake was the jurisdiction of the Pope over the Church at Constantinople. Before taking the final step and embarking on schism, Photius seems to have hesitated and to have adopted diplomatic means at first. He induced the Emperor Michael to write a letter to the Pope, which was in the nature of an ultimatum. The Emperor threatened to march on Rome in the event of Nicholas refusing to revoke his sentences, and repudiated the doctrine of the supreme jurisdiction of the papacy. Nicholas, making the widest concessions, offered to revise the judgment of the council if Ignatius and Photius would consent to appear before him at Rome. Photius, on his side, was fully posted in Western affairs, and knew that the uncompromising character of Nicholas roused keen opposition in those parts. He had favorably received a memorandum from the Archbishops of Cologne and Treves, who had been deposed by the Pope for having consented to the divorce of Lothar II. In the course of the year 863 Photius addressed letters to the Western clergy and to the Emperor Louis II to demand the deposition of Nicholas by a Council of the Church. This was not yet rupture with the West, since by acting as he did he hoped to find a more conciliatory Pope than Nicholas. Nevertheless, when he learned of the arrival of Roman legates in Bulgaria, considering their interference with this newly-founded Church as an encroachment on the rights of the Patriarchate, he convoked a synod (867), which formally condemned the Latin uses introduced into the Bulgarian Church, and more particularly the double procession of the Holy Ghost. This was the first step in an antagonism which was destined to end in schism.


The schism of Photius

Matters came rapidly to a head. In November 866 the Pope resolved to address a final appeal to Constantinople, and dispatched fresh legates with orders to put letters into the hands of the Emperor and principal personages of the court. Photius then took the decisive step, and it is possible that this decision was influenced by the raising of Basil to the imperial throne as colleague to Michael after the murder of Bardas. He wished to confront the future Emperor, whose hostility he anticipated, with an accomplished fact. In the course of the summer of 867 a council presided over by the Emperor Michael pronounced the excommunication of Pope Nicholas, declared the practices of the Roman Church to be heretical as opposed to Greek use, and stigmatized the intervention of that Church in the affairs of Constantinople as unlawful. The resolutions of the council were sent by Photius to the Eastern Patriarchs in the form of an encyclical, in which he bitterly condemned all the peculiar usages of the Western Churches: the addition of the Filioque to the creed, the Saturday fast, the use of eggs in Lent, the custom of the clergy of shaving the beard, and others. Two bishops went to take the acts of the council to Italy. The Pope, desirous of justifying Western uses, commanded Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, to convoke provincial councils in order to answer the objections of the Greeks.

The split between the East and the West was thus effected. It is clear that the differences in the uses quoted by Photius were not the real cause of the schism. From the dogmatic point of view the East and the West participated in the same faith, that of the Ecumenical Councils. The addition of the Filioque to the creed modified in appearance the idea which was formed of the relations between the Persons of the Trinity, but in no respect changed the dogma itself. It was not impossible, as indeed subsequent events showed, to come to some agreement as to Church discipline and the liturgy. At the close of the year 867 the two apostles of the Slavs, Constantine (Cyril), a pupil of Photius, and his brother Methodius, arrived at Rome, bringing with them the relics of St Clement. Pope Nicholas was dead and it was his successor Hadrian II who consecrated them bishops (5 January 868) and, by giving the name of Cyril to Constantine, paid homage to the great Patriarch of Alexandria who had formerly been the connecting link between the East and Rome. He further approved the translation of the Scriptures made by the two apostles, as well as their liturgy in the Slavonic tongue. No act shows more clearly the conciliatory spirit of the two Churches in the matter of uses. The cause of the separation cannot therefore be found here, but must be attributed to the regard for its autonomy which inspired the Church of Constantinople. Photius, by championing this cause, easily led with him the bishops who, like himself, refused to admit the supreme jurisdiction of the Pope in disciplinary matters. We shall further see that even on this question the Greeks were far from being obstinate, and admitted the intervention of the Pope when it served their interests. Their attitude towards Rome was, in reality, always dependent on the vicissitudes of their own disputes.

It was a palace revolution in the end which overthrew Photius and revived relations with Rome. Some months after the council held by the Patriarch, the murder of Michael III brought Basil the Macedonian to the throne. The new Emperor disliked Photius, possibly because he had been a favorite of Bardas. He saw also that the reinstatement of Ignatius, whom the people esteemed a martyr, would conduce to his own personal popularity. The very day after his accession (25 September 867) he had Photius imprisoned in a monastery, and with great ceremony reinstated Ignatius in the patriarchal chair (23 November 867). All the bishops and archimandrites exiled by Photius were recalled.

Thus to obtain his political ends Basil formally recognized a jurisdiction in the Pope by sending him a double embassy composed of partisans of Ignatius and of Photius, with instructions to ask him to reestablish peace in the Church of Constantinople by calling a council and effecting a reconciliation with the bishops consecrated by Photius. In a synod held at St Peter's, at the close of the year 868, Pope Hadrian II, the successor of Nicholas I, solemnly condemned the council of 867 and convoked a council at Constantinople. Stephen, Bishop of Nepi, Donatus, Bishop of Ostia, and a priest, Marinus, were chosen to represent him there.

Ecumenical Council (869-870)

After a difficult journey the legates entered Constantinople by the Golden Gate on 29 September 869. Basil received them with the greatest honors, and testified in their presence to his veneration for the Church of Rome, “the mother of all the other Churches”. But it was manifest from the very first sittings of the Council, which opened on 9 October 869 and took the title of Ecumenical, that a misunderstanding existed between the Emperor and the legates. The Emperor, solicitous for the interests of the State, wished first and foremost to reestablish peace in the Church. He had been surprised to see that, differing from Nicholas I, Pope Hadrian II had condemned Photius unheard and on the sole evidence of the partisans of Ignatius. In order that the peace might be permanent, and to prevent Photius and his followers from being able to plead an abuse of justice, it was necessary that the Council should revise the sentence and deliver a full and detailed judgment. This was the purport of the instructions given to the Patrician Baanes, president of the lay commission which represented the Emperor at the Council. The Pope’s standpoint was quite different. His legates had only been instructed by him to publish the sentence against Photius, pronounced by his predecessor and confirmed by him. They had the further duty of reconciling with the Church those bishops, followers of Photius, who should consent to sign the libellus satisfactionis brought by them. The jurisdiction of the Pope, differently understood in the East and the West, was the real matter at issue.

Baanes won an initial success by demanding that Photius and his followers should be brought before the Council to tender their defence there. On 20 October Photius appeared, but remained mute to all interrogations. His condemnation was then renewed, but the legates observed that they were not retrying the case but were merely publishing the sentence already formulated. Basil accepted this compromise, which was tantamount to a defeat for him, and came in person to preside at the concluding sessions of the Council, which broke up on 28 February 870.

Thus the Ecumenical Council, which was intended to smooth all the religious difficulties, only ended in increasing the distrust between Rome and Constantinople. Basil certainly lavished friendly words and assurances of orthodoxy on the legates at the ceremony which marked the closing of the Council, but his acts discounted his speeches. Some days previously, to gratify the old partisans of Photius who regretted having signed the libellus satisfactionis, he had seized all the copies of that document at the house of the legates in spite of their protests but then consented to allow them to be deposited with Anastasius the Librarian, ambassador of the Emperor Louis II at Constantinople. Further, this scholar was requested by the legates to compare the Greek and Latin texts of the acts of the Council, when he perceived with astonishment that a letter of Pope Hadrian had been tampered with, and that the compliments which he paid to the Emperor Louis II had been suppressed.

The most grave incident occurred three days after the close of the Council. The Bulgarians had received baptism from the Greek missionaries sent by Photius, but their Tsar Boris, whose ambition was to see an ecclesiastical hierarchy founded in Bulgaria with a Patriarch at its head, being unable to obtain it from Constantinople, had applied to Rome. Nicholas I had sent a mission to Bulgaria under the direction of Formosus, Bishop of Porto, who replaced the Greek ritual everywhere by the Latin, and Photius had on other occasions protested against this interference. But when Boris called upon the Pope to create Formosus Patriarch, he met with a flat refusal. Then it was that, turning to Constantinople, he sent an embassy to implore the Council to decide to which Church Bulgaria should belong.

The Emperor assembled once more the fathers of the Council and tried to obtain from the legates the formal recognition of the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople over Bulgaria. The legates protested vehemently that they had not received any instructions on this point, and that Bulgaria was besides directly amenable to the see of Rome. Hardly, however, had the legates left when the Patriarch Ignatius consecrated an archbishop and ten bishops for Bulgaria. Photius would not have acted otherwise, and nothing shows more clearly than this affair the inherited misunderstanding which separated the leaders of the two Churches.

When the legates took leave of the Emperor, so strained were the relations that Basil was mean enough not to make any arrangements for facilitating their return. Their journey, which lasted nine months, was most arduous: they were captured by Slav pirates and lost all their archives, and only reached Rome on 22 December 870. By good fortune Anastasius the Librarian, who had embarked for the same destination, had safely brought the acts of the Council and the copies of the libellus satisfactionis. Hadrian II wrote an indignant letter to Basil, in which he complained of the manner in which his legates had been treated on their return and also of the interference of Ignatius in Bulgaria; but nothing came of it, and the Bulgarian Church remained definitely attached to Constantinople. Finally, as a mark of his dissatisfaction, the Pope refused to pardon the followers of Photius for whom the Emperor had interceded.

Re-instatement of Photius 

But soon, by the usual reversal of Byzantine opinion, Photius, who had been imprisoned in a monastery, succeeded in regaining the good graces of Basil and was recalled to Constantinople. Ignatius continued to govern the Church, but three days after his death, which took place on 23 October 877, Photius was reinstated on the patriarchal throne, and, according to the Vita Ignatii, he began by banishing and ill-treating the principal adherents of Ignatius. But what was to be his attitude towards Rome? Logically he ought to have refrained from any relations with the Pope. He did nothing of the kind, and asked Pope John VIII to recognize his reinstatement. The Emperor, who supported this request, had evidently no wish for a rupture with Rome, and placed at the same time his fleet at the disposal of the Pope to defend Italy against the Saracens.

The circumstances were therefore favorable for the union. John VIII consented to recognize Photius as Patriarch on condition that he should ask pardon before a synod for his past conduct and should abstain from any interference in Bulgaria. A council then opened at Constantinople in November 879, but Basil, overwhelmed with sorrow at the loss of his only legitimate son, Constantine, was not present and did not even send a representative. Photius, having thus a free hand, easily outwitted the legates, who were ignorant of Greek and were unaware that the Pope's letter, translated into that language, had been garbled. The Patriarch gave a lengthy defence of his conduct and was rapturously applauded by the 383 bishops present. The question of the Bulgarian Church was referred to the decision of the Emperor; the council refused to admit the prohibition, desired by the Pope, of nominating laymen to the episcopate; finally, by pronouncing the anathema against all who should add anything to the faith of Nicaea, it once more brought up the question of the Filioque.

Photius had triumphed; it was only three years later, in 882, that the Pope, thanks to an inquiry made by a new legate, Marinus, who was sent to Constantinople, learned what had really happened at the council. John VIII in indignation declared the legates of 879 deposed, and ex­communicated Photius. The rupture was complete, and the two Churches were thus separated by a new schism, which persisted under John's successors, Marinus, Hadrian III, and Stephen V, who exchanged letters full of recriminations with Basil.

Disgrace and death of Photius

The death of Basil in 886 was followed by an astonishing coup de theatre, and Photius was once more disgraced. Leo VI, the heir to the throne, who passed for an illegitimate son of Michael III and Eudocia Ingerina, was fired with an intense hatred of Photius. Although he had been his pupil, he had quarreled with him. He charged him with having intrigued with Basil to deprive him of the throne, and there was even talk at Byzantium that the ambitious Patriarch had contemplated either himself assuming the imperial throne or giving it to one of his relations. The fact remains that Leo VI had hardly attained to power before he pronounced the deposition of Photius. The strategus Andrew and the superintendent of the posts, John Hagiopolites, were commanded to go to St Sophia, where the synod had been assembled. They read out a long recital of all the crimes of which Photius was accused; the Patriarch was then stripped of his episcopal vestments and conducted to a monastery, where he lived for another five years (886-891). An assembly of bishops elected Stephen, the Emperor’s brother, as Patriarch.

At the same time one of Photius' principal followers, Theodore Santabarenus, was arrested in his diocese of Euchaita, conducted to Constantinople, and put into solitary confinement. The Emperor tried to induce him to accuse Photius of plotting against him, but when confronted with the ex-Patriarch the abbot revealed nothing. Leo VI was furious and ordered him to be scourged and banished first to Athens, where his eyes were put out, and thence to the eastern frontier.

Photius thus came out of the struggle apparently defeated, and left the Greek Church more rent asunder than at his accession. Some hagiographic documents drawn up at this period throw strong light on the divided attitude of the Greek clergy towards the question of relations with Rome. The author of the life of St Joseph the Hymn-writer, Theophanes the Sicilian, who wrote in the last years of the ninth century, when nearing the end of his work, prays the saint to ask Christ for the cessation of the disputes and for the restoration of peace in the Church, and later he vehemently urges Joseph to obtain by his prayers the boon that orthodoxy remain inviolate. Such was indisputably the desire of a large part of the Greek clergy, and of the monks of Studion in particular, whose Igumen, Anthony, had passed almost the whole patriarchate of Photius in exile.

On the other hand, the life of St Euthymius the Younger of Thessalonica strikes a somewhat different note. The author, Basil, Archbishop of Thessalonica, admittedly a supporter of Photius, gives a brief but very partisan account of the vicissitudes of the struggle between Photius and Ignatius, and throws all the responsibility for the schism onto the imperial policy. If he abstains from attacking Ignatius, he none the less considers Photius to be a saint. “The Iconoclast heresy”, he says, “was already extinct. St Methodius after having governed the Church for five years had returned to the Lord. Ignatius the Holy had been raised to the episcopal throne of Constantinople. He governed it for ten years.... In consequence of the persecutions of those who then reigned he left his throne and his Church, the one voluntarily, the other under compulsion. He retired to a monastery and published an act of abdication.... The news of this forced abdication soon spread, and in consequence many refused to take communion with the new Patriarch. The very holy Nicholas [of Studion], not wishing to have any dealings with him, preferred to leave his monastery, the new Patriarch being orthodox and invested with all virtues. This was the blessed Photius, the torch whose rays illuminated the ends of the earth”. Then follows a eulogy of Photius and his incomparable life, and an account of his miracles.

This curious testimony gives us the version of the events which had been prepared by the adherents of Photius. It shows us the deep impression which this man, who had nothing of the apostle in him but was first and foremost a politician and a diplomatist, had produced by his intrepidity. He had posed as a champion of orthodoxy against Rome, and had thus bequeathed to his successors a formidable weapon which was destined to render any new agreement between the two Churches unstable and precarious.

Restoration of communion with Rome (898)

Immediately after the deposition of Photius, Leo VI had opened negotiations with the Pope for the reestablishment of religious union, but it was only twelve years later, in 898, that any agreement was reached. The chief difficulty was the question of the bishops consecrated by Photius, whose powers the Popes refused to recognize. The Popes, Stephen V (885-891), Formosus (891-896), Boniface VI, Stephen VI, Romanus, Theodore II, all refused any concession. In the end an agreement was reached between Pope John IX and the Patriarch Anthony Cauleas, a former monk of Olympus in Bithynia (898). A general amnesty was proclaimed and concord reigned once more in the Church. Normal relations revived between Rome and Constantinople. Important evidence on this point is supplied by Philotheus the Atriclines in the work which he has left on the ceremonial of the imperial court under the title of Kleterologion. He mentions the arrival at Constantinople in 898 of the papal legates, Bishop Nicholas and Cardinal John, and he gives the interesting detail that in the course of the ancient ceremonies they took precedence of the first order of civil dignitaries, the magistri. Another passage of the same work proves that a permanent papal embassy was reestablished at Constantinople. The order of precedence at the imperial table was fixed thus: after the magistri comes the “syncellus of Rome”, then that of Constantinople, followed by those of the Eastern Patriarchs.

Peace seemed therefore definitely restored, but Leo VI intended to employ this alliance with Rome for the furtherance of his personal aims, and thus to violate the conditions of the agreement. As had already happened under Constantine VI, it was the private conduct of the Emperor which stirred up new dissensions in the Church.

After divorcing Theophano in 893, Leo VI married Zoe, daughter of Stylianus; then on the death of Zoe he married Eudocia Baiane in 889. This third marriage was disapproved by the clergy, since the laws against third marriages, sanctioned even by Leo himself in his Novels, were very strict. But the crowning scandal was when, after the death of Eudocia in 901, it was rumored that the Emperor proposed to take as his fourth wife his mistress Zoe, “the black-eyed”. So great was the indignation that plots were hatched for dethroning the Emperor, and in 902 he narrowly escaped assassination in the church of St Mocius. The Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus was consulted, but flatly refused his approval. When, however, Zoe gave birth to a son, the future Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the Patriarch and the bishops consented to baptise the child, if the Emperor undertook not to live any longer with the mother. The baptism took place with much ceremony in St Sophia on 6 January 906; three days later Leo VI violated his promise and had his marriage with Zoe celebrated by a clerk of his chapel. The bishops immediately forbade Leo to enter the churches, and he appealed to the judgment of the Pope and the Eastern Patriarchs.

Sergius III, who then occupied the pontifical throne, an unworthy creature of Theophylact and of Theodora, returned a favorable answer to Leo VI. On these tidings the Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus, who appeared at first to have sought some means of solving the difficulties, openly declared against the Emperor. On Christmas Day, in the presence of the whole court, he forbade the Emperor to enter St Sophia (25 December 906).

Leo VI and Nicholas Mysticus 

Leo VI lost no time in revenging himself on Nicholas Mysticus, implicated in the conspiracy of Andronicus Ducas, who had fled to the Saracens. Secret correspondence between the Patriarch and the rebel was seized. On 6 January 907, the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Patriarch had once more forbidden the Emperor to enter the church, Leo yielded, but at the imperial banquet which followed the ceremony he violently harangued Nicholas Mysticus, and in the presence of all the metropolitans taxed him with treason. At that moment the Roman legates arrived at Constantinople. Nicholas refused any dealings with them, but a considerable section of the bishops abandoned him. The synod released the Emperor from all ecclesiastical penalties, and Nicholas Mysticus, compelled to abdicate his office, was sent to a monastery in Asia. Euthymius was appointed Patriarch, and the rival headship divided the Greek Church; several bishops were banished or imprisoned. On 9 June 911 Euthymius anointed the son of Zoe, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Emperor.

Seized with remorse in his last moments, Leo VI reinstalled Nicholas Mysticus on the patriarchal throne, and gave orders that Euthymius should be deposed (911). His brother Alexander now became sole Emperor, and chafing at the obscurity in which he had been kept, did his best also to reverse all that had been done in the previous reign. Zoe was driven from the palace, Euthymius struck in the face in the presence of the Emperor, and Nicholas Mysticus solemnly reinstated. His first care was to send to Pope Anastasius a memorandum in which he traduced the character of Leo VI, blamed the weakness of Sergius III, whom his legates had misled, and claimed reparation for the scandal. On the death of Alexander, 6 June 912, the Patriarch, being marked out as head of the council of regency for the young Constantine Porphyrogenitus, was all-powerful for several months. In October 913 Zoe succeeded in ousting him from the government, but could not induce Euthymius to resume his office.

Subsequent events in which Byzantium was engrossed for seven years, war with the Bulgarians, the revolt and coronation of Romanus Lecapenus, caused the affair of Leo's fourth marriage to sink into the background. It was only in 920 that Nicholas Mysticus, probably instigated by Romanus Lecapenus, petitioned Pope John X to send new legates to Constantinople. The entente with Rome was restored. The memory of Euthymius, who had died in the interval, was vindicated. In the presence of the Emperors Romanus and Constantine, Nicholas Mysticus solemnly promulgated a tomus unionis, reconciling the two parties. Leo's good name was sacrificed for this agreement; he was declared absolved on special conditions, and the Church stigmatized in severe terms the fourth and even the third marriage'.

Peace then seemed to reign once more between Rome and Constantinople, and the Greek Church had again accepted the arbitration of the Pope. But the excessive leniency of the Court of Rome towards Leo VI by no means increased its prestige. On the other hand the Emperor had set an example which could not be lost on his successors. The alliance with the Pope had only been a device for calming the agitation produced by his fourth marriage. The same Emperor who had written letters to Rome emphasizing his zeal for the See of St Peter, had addressed to his people veritable homilies in which he savagely attacked the doctrine of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost, a policy hardly likely to conduce to a lasting peace. And so it turned out; the relations between the two Churches were constantly dominated by the political affairs of Byzantium at home and abroad.

Except for the ephemeral schism of Sergius, concord existed officially between the two Churches for 134 years, from 920-1054. It must be added that this concord was real. This is the impression produced, if the official relations are neglected and only those of the ordinary members of the two Churches are considered. It may safely be said that the large majority of the Westerners and of the Greeks dreaded schism, and that the two parties, far from mutual hatred and excommunication, considered themselves members of the same Church. The influx of Eastern monks into Rome, Italy, and the entire West at this period, episodes such as the reception of St Nilus at Monte Cassino and his establishment at Grotta Ferrata (1004), the numerous Western pilgrims passing through Constantinople and the cordial welcome they received there, show conclusively that the faithful of the two cults were animated with a true spirit of charity one towards the other and did not attach too great importance to the difference in their customs. Neither of them desired schism; it was their pastors and princes, not they themselves, who were solely responsible for it.

But however favorable the circumstances were for the union, it was during this period that the definitive separation was prepared. Not that the causes of divergence were multiplied, but historic events modified the situation and favored the rupture.

Lessened prestige of Rome 

First of all, there was the diminishing prestige of Rome. After the end of the ninth century feudal anarchy attacked the Church and did not spare even the throne of St Peter. The Papacy became a fief for which the barons of the Roman Campagna disputed. It was the sinister epoch of an Alberic, a Theodora, a Marozia, and a Crescentius. Then, dating from the coronation of Otto (962), the Popes were creatures of the Germanic Emperors. Rome became a field for intrigues, and the Byzantine Emperors, rivals in Southern Italy of the Germanic Emperors, naturally sought to win partisans for themselves there and to influence the election of the Popes. The Papacy, become a tool of the temporal princes, was on the verge of seeing the catholic character of its power disappear. It had lost all moral authority, and events were destined to disappoint sadly the reliance of the Studites on Roman supremacy.

At this moment, with the Papacy weakened, the Patriarch of Constantinople saw his influence increase. That was the inevitable consequence of the policy of victorious expansion which the Macedonian dynasty followed. It was not merely the victories of Nicephorus Phokas, of John Tzimisces, and of Basil II, but also the success of the missions to Slav countries, and in particular the conversion of the Russians, which helped to spread the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The recovery of Southern Italy was followed by the reconstitution of a Greek ecclesiastical hierarchy in Apulia and in Calabria, where colonies of Basilian monks were founded. After the baptism of Vladimir (989), the clerics of Constantinople had organized the Russian Church, whose metropolitan bishop was strictly subordinated to the Patriarchate. Similarly Basil II, after terminating the independence of Bulgaria (1018), substituted an archbishop, a suffragan of Constantinople, for the Patriarch of Ochrida. The military and diplomatic successes of the same Emperor in Armenia, and later the annexation of that country by Constantine IX, resulted in drawing more closely and more cordially the bonds of union between the Greek and Armenian Churches. Finally, in Palestine the protectorate over the holy places and the Christian inhabitants passed at the beginning of the eleventh century from the Franks to the Byzantine Emperors.

While the Roman Church was ravaged by schism, simony, and nepotism, the Patriarch of Constantinople bulked more and more as the spiritual head of the East. Although many of the Patriarchs had been monks and some had issued even from the monastery of Studion, they had been accustomed to despise the Papacy. Enjoying virtual autonomy as regards Rome, they actually tried to obtain official recognition of the fact.

The Emperors far more than the Patriarchs maintained unbroken relations with Rome, and for them it was always political interests, internal or external, that were at stake. Thus when Romanus Lecapenus, desirous of placing his power on a secure basis and assuring the future of his dynasty, undertook to raise his son Theophylact, a mere child, to the patriarchal dignity, he applied to Rome. On their side, Pope John XI, son of Marozia, and his brother Alberic, Prince of the Romans, sought his alliance. The young Theophylact, aged sixteen years, was consecrated Patriarch on 2 February 933, in the presence of four papal legates. To arrive at this result Romanus Lecapenus had extorted an act of abdication from the Patriarch Tryphon, but there is no indication that this scandalous act raised the slightest protest from the clergy. Theophylact, devoid of the slightest ecclesiastical vocation, led an absolutely worldly life while filling the patriarchal chair, trafficking in dispensations and bishoprics, surrounding himself with pantomimists and dancers, and showing a consuming passion for horses, which he bred at great cost. He survived the palace revolution which overthrew his father (944), and died in 956 owing to a fall from his horse.

Independence of the Greek Church

After the middle of the tenth century a strong current of asceticism swept through the Greek Church. This was the epoch when St Athanasius, the spiritual director of Nicephorus Phokas, founded the convent of St Laura on Mount Athos (961), which was to become the most important monastic center of the East. All the successors of Theophylact in the Patriarchate, Polyeuctes (956-970), Basil the Scamandrian (970-974), Anthony of Studion (974-980), were monks of great austerity, whose uncompromising attitude led often to conflicts with the imperial power. It does not appear that in these disputes the Court of Rome ever tried to arbitrate or that it was ever asked to do so. The relations between Rome and Constantinople seem under Constantine VII, Nicephorus Phokas, and John Tzimisces to have been exclusively political. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, allied with King Hugh of Italy, sent a fleet to his help to protect Provence and Central Italy against the Saracens. Under Nicephorus Phokas, Southern Italy was the debatable point, and the unfortunate embassy of Liudprand, Bishop of Cremona, sent by Otto I in 968, illustrates the barrier of misunderstanding and prejudice which separated the Greeks from the Westerners.

In purely religious questions, on the contrary, where the authority of the Pope was concerned, the Emperors and Patriarchs took the most important steps without paying any attention to Rome. In 964 Nicephorus Phokas published his celebrated Novel on the monasteries, which aroused violent opposition amongst the clergy, without its opponents even attempting to support their cause by calling in Rome, as the Studites had formerly done. Similarly, without consulting the Pope, Nicephorus Phokas altered the ecclesiastical divisions of Southern Italy by creating the province of Otranto and by attempting to hellenise Apulia. No protests were raised by Rome, but we have the testimony of Liudprand to show what dissatisfaction was caused among the Latin clergy by this act.

The feeling which seemed to dominate more and more the Greek Church was a certain contempt for these Latins, whom it considered mere barbarians, while the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose authority had been founded by the Ecumenical Councils, had been able to keep inviolate the orthodox faith entrusted to him. This is shown by the curious conversation which the Patriarch Polyeuctes held with Liudprand at the imperial table on 6 July 968, and by the contemptuous tone in which he questioned him on the number of councils held in the West. He spoke scoffingly of the Saxon Council, “too young yet to figure in the canonical collections”.

Nothing, however, shows more clearly the way in which the authority of the Papacy was despised than the incident caused by the arrival of the legates, whom Pope John XIII had sent to support the negotiations of Liudprand with a view to an alliance between the two Empires (19 August 968). Nicephorus Phokas had just started for the army in Asia, but when his cabinet dealt with the Pope's letter it discovered with indignation that Otto had been designated in it as “august Emperor of the Romans” and Nicephorus as “Emperor of the Greeks”. This was a gross blunder which might well be taken for an insult. The Byzantine Emperors proudly vaunted the tradition which connected them with the Caesars of ancient Rome, and the term “Hellenes” had acquired at Constantinople the sense of “Pagans”. The hapless legates were thrown into prison pending the decision of the Emperor, and Liudprand himself, held responsible for this wanton affront, was forced to promise formally that the objectionable words should be corrected at Rome.

At the end of the tenth century proofs of the enmity of the Patriarchs of Constantinople towards Rome grew more numerous. Whatever their origin, whether laymen elected to the patriarchate like Sisinnius, physician and magister (996-998), or monks like Sergius, Igumen of the monastery of Manuel (998-1019), they show the same hostility. In 997 Sisinnius published a regulation against unlawful marriages, which condemned by implication the authorization granted by the Popes to Leo VI to contract a fourth marriage. In an encyclical to the bishops of Asia Minor the same Patriarch revived the already ancient dispute about the double Procession of the Holy Ghost.

His successor, Sergius, went a step farther. In 1009 he assembled a synod at Constantinople, confirmed the ordinances of Photius against Latin usages, and erased the name of the Pope from the diptychs. It must be borne in mind that at this moment the organization of a Greek hierarchy in Russia had singularly increased the power of the Patriarchate. This extraordinary increase of prestige may possibly have stimulated the Patriarch to claim for himself entire freedom from any spiritual jurisdiction of the Papacy. This may be inferred from the subsequent course of events.

The act of Sergius does not seem to have effected a schism in the proper sense, and it may even be doubted whether it came to the notice of Rome. Further, we do not know at what moment the name of the Pope was restored to the diptychs. In his letter addressed in 1054 to Michael Cerularius, Peter, the Patriarch of Antioch, states that forty-five years previously, on his way to Constantinople in the time of the Patriarch Sergius, he had heard the name of the Pope in the liturgy with those of the other Patriarchs. But this journey of Peter to Constantinople was in 1009, the very year in which Sergius had, probably some months previously, ordered the name to be struck out.

Eustathius and the autocephalia

The proof that this act was after all not followed by any lasting rupture is the step taken by Sergius' successor, the Patriarch Eustathius, at the Court of Rome in 1024. It is only from Western sources that we learn of this curious attempt.

Pope John XIX, who, although a layman, had just succeeded his brother Benedict VIII, received an embassy sent by the Emperor Basil and the Patriarch Eustathius. Its aim was to obtain from the Pope a declaration that “the Church in Constantinople should be styled universal in its sphere, just as the Church of Rome was in the universe”. The question at issue was to obtain from the Pope autocephalia, that is the complete autonomy of the Greek Church, over which he would cease to exercise his jurisdiction. A compromise accepted by both parties was preferred to a violent rupture like that of Photius. The occasion seemed favorable; the embassy brought splendid presents which were not without their effect upon John XIX. He looked round, therefore, for a method of giving satisfaction to the Greeks without arousing attention abroad.

But the news of the scandal rapidly spread in Italy and through the entire West. At this moment the powerful congregation of Cluny had begun to push triumphantly forward the principles of the reform of the Church. Many of its chief adherents came to Rome, as did Richard, Abbot of St Vannes, or wrote, like William of Volpiano, Abbot of St Benignus of Dijon, indignant letters to the Pope. They felt more than John XIX himself that it was the very unity of the Church that was imperiled, and the Pope, intimidated by their angry protests, dared not grant the Greek embassy what it asked.

This curious episode throws vivid light on the religious policy of the Emperors and Patriarchs of Constantinople in the tenth century. The Greeks had no wish for a schism which they knew to be unpopular, but they hoped to profit by the weakness of the Papacy and by the anarchy prevailing at Rome, in order to build up new legal foundations for the patriarchal power. The actual phrase of Radulphus Glaber: quatinus cum consensu Romani pontificis liceret ecclesiam Constantinopolitanam in suo orbe, sicuti Roma in universo, universalem dici et haberi, certainly appears to show that the primary object was to obtain from the Pope that title of “Ecumenical”, which had hitherto been refused to the Patriarch of Constantinople, and which denoted full legal autonomy. It seems, then, that there may have been a connection between the erasure of the Pope’s name from the diptychs ordered by Sergius in 1009 and the step taken in 1024. Unfortunately, the available sources only supply some fragmentary details.

The party of reform in the West 

A new fact, at any rate, the consequences of which were to be important, emerges from their evidence. For more than a century, ever since the reign of Leo VI, the Emperors and the Patriarchs met with nothing but friendliness at Rome. Thanks to their alliances with the all-powerful members of the Roman nobility, they obtained nearly all that they wished from the weak Popes, who only held office at the bidding of an Alberic or a Crescentius. It was in 1024, therefore, that the Court of Constantinople encountered an unexpected resistance, that of the party of ecclesiastical reform, finding a center in Cluny, whose doctrines were then beginning to spread over the entire West. These reformers, realizing more clearly than John XIX the true interests of the Church, defended the Pope against himself by forcing him to resist the Byzantine claims. This was only a preliminary skirmish between the spirit of the Western Reform and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but it was significant and forecasted the stubborn disputes which followed soon after.

The embassy of 1024 would not appear to have been entirely fruitless in results for the Greek Church, if it is correct that John XIX consented to recognize the title of metropolitan assumed by the Bishop of Bari, the capital of the Byzantine possessions in Italy. At this juncture the catapan Basil Boioannes reorganized the civil and religious administration of the Italian conquests. John XIX, by recognizing the ecclesiastical province of Bari with its twelve suffragan bishoprics, appeared to sanction the religious constitution established in Southern Italy by the Greek Emperors.

The prestige of the Byzantine Emperors was now at its zenith. Basil II, having conquered the Bulgarians and having nothing more to fear from the Arabs and Russians, may have contemplated the reestablishment of his imperial authority at Rome and in the West. Such a contingency would have been of incalculable consequence for the relations between the two Churches, but these plans were frustrated by the death of the Emperor in 1025. On his death-bed Basil had designated, as successor to Eustathius in the Patriarchate, Alexius, Abbot of Studion, who governed the Church of Constantinople until 1042. There are no signs of any hostility towards the Popes evinced by this Patriarch, although their names had not been restored on the diptychs of the Church of Constantinople. It may at least be said that there was no official schism between East and West before 1054. In 1026 the Emperor and the Patriarch offered the most cordial welcome to Richard, Abbot of St Vannes, the very man who two years previously had wrecked the attempt of the Greek Church to win recognition of its autonomy. Churches of the Latin rite existed at Constantinople, such as St Mary of the Amalfitans, founded by the famous family of the Mauro; St Stephen, due to the munificence of the King of Hungary; and finally the church of the Varangian guard, composed of Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons. There is no evidence that these had been more disturbed than the churches of the Greek rite which existed at Rome.

Still less was there any desire on the part of the other Eastern Patriarchs to break with Rome. Only two years before the definitive rupture with Rome, in 1052, Peter, elected Patriarch of Antioch, sent, in accordance with traditional custom, his synodica, his profession of faith, to Pope Leo IX. This letter, entrusted to a Jerusalem pilgrim, was slow in reaching its destination, but the answer dated 1059 is extant, in which Leo IX, after congratulating the Patriarch on his election and approving his profession of faith, sent him in return his own.

The agreement concluded in 898 and renewed in 920 between the two Churches had on the whole been observed, and, if the opinion of the large majority of the ordinary members of the two communities had found means of expression, schism would have been permanently averted. But during this long period, which was a period of eclipse for the papal power, the Patriarchs of Constantinople, whose influence had been strengthened by the external successes of the Empire, had grown accustomed to an almost absolute independence of Rome. Far from repudiating the tradition of Photius, they had continued to manifest their hostility to the Latin usages. Peace prevailed officially, but in reality the champions of the two rituals were secret enemies. The Greek missionaries, who instructed Vladimir in the faith at Cherson in 989, were solicitous to warn him against Latin errors, and went the length of forging, for the purpose of explaining them, a veritable romance, full of calumnies as hateful as they were coarse. Finally, even if the attempt made in 1024 by Eustathius to obtain official recognition of the autonomy of the Greek Church had miscarried, it shows that on this question as on others the Patriarch had remained loyal to the programme of Photius.

This peace, equivocal as was its nature, might have lasted longer had not fresh historical conditions at the middle of the eleventh century tended to modify the character of the relations between the Patriarch and the Pope and to accelerate the rupture.

The schemes of the Patriarch of Constantinople had encountered in 1024 the resistance of the Western party of ecclesiastical reform. This party had for the first time a champion on the Papal throne in Leo IX (1049). In his diocese of Toul he had already favored reform; and when made Pope he determined to extend it to the Church and to claim vigorously the rights of the Papacy to universal jurisdiction.

Michael Cerularius 

Precisely when Leo IX was thus proposing to restore the pontifical authority, the patriarchal throne of Constantinople was occupied by a man whose character was as inflexible as his own. Michael Cerularius, who had succeeded the Patriarch Alexius in 1043, belonged to a family of bureaucratic nobility long established at Constantinople. Destined to fill, as his ancestors had done, some high civil post, he as well as his brother had been carefully educated. But in 1040 he was entangled in a conspiracy against Michael IV and John Orphanotrophos. Denounced and arrested with his brother, he suffered close confinement on Princes Islands. His brother, unable to endure prison, committed suicide, and as a result of this tragic event Michael became a monk. Recalled to Byzantium after 1041, he won the favor of Constantine IX, a former conspirator like himself, and became one of his counselors. Having been for some time syncellus of the Patriarch Alexius, he was selected by the Emperor to succeed him, and was consecrated Patriarch on 29 March 1043.

His contemporaries, and especially Psellus, represent him as a man of strong and haughty character, ambitious of playing a prominent part in the Church and even in the State. Of an unforgiving nature, he had his ancient persecutor John Orphanotrophos deprived of his sight in his prison (1043). “The anger and the spite of the Patriarch pursued any man who had once resisted him, at an interval it might be of ten years or more, and even if submerged among the masses”. From the first days of his government he assumed towards the Emperor an attitude by no means customary with the Patriarchs. He was not so much a submissive subject as a power who was on an equal footing with the Emperor. Constantine seems to have been afraid of him, and it is noteworthy that after the death of the Empress Zoe he did not venture on a fourth marriage, in spite of the senile affection which he showed for his Alan favorite. Fear of the Patriarch no doubt restrained him.

Such was the man who was destined to face Leo IX. It required the contact of two characters so headstrong and so unyielding to kindle the conflict.

The occasion for schism was found when the two powers met in Southern Italy. The Norman adventurers, who had first of all supported the revolt of the Lombards against the Empire, were not slow to work for their own hand and ruthlessly ravaged the rich country of Apulia. Desirous of ending their pillaging, Leo IX, after vain recourse to spiritual arms, set about enrolling bands of soldiers and took the offensive against the Normans. But his interests here coincided with those of the government of Constantinople. So at the close of 1051 a military alliance was concluded between the Pope and the Lombard Argyrus, who, at first chief of the Normans, had entered the service of the Empire and received the command of the imperial armies in Italy.

Now this alliance had been concluded against the will of the Patriarch, who was eager to uphold the jurisdiction of Constantinople over Southern Italy, and feared to see Leo IX restore the authority of Rome over the bishoprics of Apulia. This same year, 1051, the inhabitants of Benevento had driven out their prince and had submitted themselves to the Pope, who had sent them two legates, Cardinal Humbert and the Patriarch of Grado.

Thus the interests of the Empire were in formal contradiction with those of Michael Cerularius, and it was at the very moment when the imperial government needed the support of the Pope that the Patriarch showed his enmity to the Roman Church.

The course of events can be pieced together from the actual correspondence of the Patriarch and the Pope. Argyrus left Italy in 1046 and came to Constantinople, where he stayed until 1051. He was well received by the Emperor and was a member of his council at the moment of the revolt of Leo Tornicius (1047). It was then that he quarreled with the Patriarch as a result of the dispute with him about the Latin ritual, and in particular on the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist. When it is borne in mind that, even if Calabria was completely Hellenized, Apulia had remained to a large extent faithful to the Latin ritual, the cause of this controversy is explicable. Argyrus had come to Constantinople to inform the Emperor of the state of Southern Italy and to urge him to conclude an alliance with Leo IX. His duty then was to defend a policy of conciliation and prudence towards the Latin ritual prevailing in Apulia. He himself, besides being by birth a Lombard, belonged to this ritual, and as he declined to be convinced Michael Cerularius boasted of having refused him the sacrament more than four times.

In spite, however, of the Patriarch, Argyrus returned to Italy in 1051 with a mandate for the signature of a treaty of alliance between the Empire and Leo IX. But at the very time when this alliance was going to produce its effect Michael Cerularius commenced hostilities against Rome. It cannot be denied that he had adopted a policy in contradiction to that of the Emperor.

In 1053, indeed, he writes to the new Patriarch of Antioch, Peter, expressing surprise that the name of the Pope is always mentioned in the liturgy of Antioch. He falsely declares that this name did not appear in the diptychs of Constantinople after the council of 692; but Peter, who had just submitted his profession of faith to Leo IX, had no difficulty in pointing out the intentional inaccuracy. In the same letter Michael Cerularius related his dispute with Argyrus about unleavened bread.

At the same moment a former cleric of Constantinople, Leo, Archbishop of Ochrida in Bulgaria, addressed to an Apulian Bishop, John of Trani, a letter which was a veritable indictment of Latin uses. It was no longer, as in the time of Photius, a question chiefly of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost, but of ritual and discipline. The use of unleavened bread for the Eucharist and the Saturday fast were quoted as regrettable instances of persistence in the Mosaic law. Through the agency of the Bishop of Trani, a rival of the Archbishop of Bari who was devoted to the Holy See, Michael Cerularius tried to draw the other bishops of Apulia into a dispute with the Pope. The letter was communicated by John to Cardinal Humbert, who had it translated into Latin and forwarded to Leo IX.

Cerularius further took care that a treatise written in Latin by a monk of the monastery of Studion, Nicetas Stethatus (Pectoratus), was circulated. The attacks on the Latins were presented in it under a more violent form than in the letter of Leo of Ochrida. He not only denounced the use of unleavened bread and the Saturday fast, but, and this point must have gone home to Leo IX and the Western reformers, he condemned the celibacy of priests as contrary to ecclesiastical tradition. These charges, interspersed with coarse insults, were bound to cause keen irritation to the Westerners and to embitter the quarrel.

Finally, to cut short any attempt at conciliation, the Patriarch took a decisive step. On his own initiative he ordered the closing of the churches of the Latin rite which existed at Constantinople. The abbots and monks of the Greek monasteries grouped round these churches were commanded henceforward to follow the Greek ritual, and on their refusal were treated as “Azymites” and excommunicated. Some of them resisted, and scenes of violence ensued in the course of which Nicephorus, the sacellarius of the Patriarch, trod underfoot the consecrated host.

While Michael Cerularius was thus entering on the contest, the alliance between the Pope and the Emperor had met with a decisive check. Argyrus, defeated by the Normans (February 1053), had been forced to abandon Apulia and to fly northwards. Some months later Leo IX in his turn was defeated and made prisoner at Civitate, and it was no other than John, Bishop, of Trani, whom Argyrus dispatched to Constantinople to ask fresh help against the Normans.

These events naturally led to correspondence between the Pope and the Patriarch; and pontifical legates were sent to Constantinople, but opinions differ as to the exact order of the facts. According to some authorities, even before Leo IX had replied to the attacks of the Archbishop of Ochrida, that is to say after the close of 1053, Michael Cerularius wrote the Pope a letter, very conciliatory in tone, in which he protested his zeal for unity and proposed a new alliance against the Normans. By so acting he demonstrated his goodwill towards the political alliance between Pope and Emperor, but he remained obdurate on the matter of the customs which he condemned as heretical. It was not until after he had sent this appeal for conciliation that Michael Cerularius received the two letters addressed to him by the Pope. The first was an indignant refutation of the attacks of Leo of Ochrida on the Roman uses. In the second the Pope accepted the proposed alliance, but refused to treat with the Patriarch as an equal, and reminded him that every Church which broke with that of Rome was only “an assembly of heretics, a conventicle of schismatics, a synagogue of Satan”.

But this manner of presenting the facts does not at all explain the express contradiction which exists between the violently aggressive acts of Michael Cerularius against Rome and the extremely conciliatory letter which he wrote to the Pope. The text of this letter, it is true, is no longer extant, but the purport of it can easily be gathered from the answer of Leo IX and the allusions which Michael Cerularius himself makes to it in his correspondence with Peter of Antioch. It is hard to believe that the Patriarch, who had wished to break with Rome in so startling a manner, wrote it of his own free will. Further, the position of the imperial army in Italy at the end of 1053 was so desperate, and the cementing of the alliance with Leo IX appeared so necessary, that we are led to believe in some governmental pressure being brought to bear on the Patriarch. It was almost certainly by order of the Emperor and at the instigation of Argyrus that he consented to this effort at conciliation.

The Roman legates at Constantinople (1054) 

But no compromise was possible between the obduracy of Leo IX and that of Michael Cerularius. Determined to obtain the submission of the Patriarch, the Pope sent to Constantinople three legates whom he chose from among his principal counselors, Cardinal Humbert, Frederick of Lorraine, Chancellor of the Roman Church, and Peter, Bishop of Amalfi. Before departing they had an interview with Argyrus, who posted them up in the political situation at Constantinople; and this fact was made use of later by the Patriarch, who alleged that these legates were mere impostors in the pay of Argyrus.

The legates arrived at Constantinople towards the end of April 1054, and were given a magnificent reception by the Emperor, who lodged them in the Palace of the Springs outside the Great Wall. They visited the Patriarch, but this first meeting was the reverse of cordial. Michael Cerularius was deeply affronted to see that they did not prostrate themselves before him according to Byzantine etiquette. At the ceremonies they claimed to take precedence of the metropolitans, and, contrary to custom, appeared at the Palace with staff and crozier'.

This attitude conformed to the tone of the two letters which they brought from the Pope. We know already that, in the letter intended for the Patriarch, Leo IX, while thanking him for the desire for unity which he expressed, sharply reproved him for his attacks on the Roman Church. The letter addressed to Constantine IX was, on the contrary, couched in deferential terms. With consummate skill he contrasted the project of alliance against the Normans with the attitude of Michael Cerularius towards him. After enumerating his principal grievances, he threatened to break with the Patriarch if he persisted too long in his obstinacy. In conclusion, he adjured the Emperor to help his legates to restore peace in the Church. It was clear, therefore, that the Pope looked only to the authority of the Emperor to get the better of the Patriarch.

Discussions were opened. The legates Humbert and Frederick wrote rejoinders to the treatise of Nicetas Stethatus on the question of unleavened bread. While defending the Roman Church, they vigorously attacked certain uses of the Greek Church, but the treatise, especially addressed to Nicetas, was written in coarse and violent language. The ill-starred monk was overwhelmed with epithets such as Sarabaita, veritable Epicurus, forger.

Then, on 24 June 1054, the Emperor and the legates went across to the monastery of Studion. After the treatise of Nicetas, translated into Greek, had been read, a discussion followed, as a result of which the monk declared himself vanquished. He himself anathematized his own book and all those who denied that the Roman Church was the Head of all the Churches. The Emperor then ordered the treatise to be committed to the flames. The next day Nicetas went to visit the legates at the Palace of the Springs. They received him cordially, and removed his remaining doubts by answering all his questions. After he had renewed his anathema against all the enemies of Rome, the legates declared that they received him into communion. The Patriarch naturally did not take any part in these steps, which constituted an absolute defeat for him. The monastery of Studion became once more, as of old, the stronghold of the Roman party.

Excommunication of Michael Cerularius

Michael Cerularius shrank from this open attack and declined to meet the advances of the legates, protesting that they had not the requisite authority for treating with him. Pope Leo IX died on 19 April 1054 and the Papal See remained vacant for a year, as Victor II was only elected in April 1055. The fact of Leo's death was known at Constantinople, as is shown by the first letter of Michael Cerularius to Peter, Patriarch of Antioch, in which he represented the legates as forgers in the employ of Argyrus.

The tactics of the Patriarch of Constantinople were obvious. By refusing to recognize the powers of the legates he protracted the negotiations, and was preparing against the Roman Church a manifesto from all the Eastern Bishops. "Ought those," he wrote to the Patriarch of Antioch, “who lead the same life as the Latins, who are brought up in their customs, and who abandon themselves to illegal, prohibited, and detestable practices, to remain in the ranks of the just and orthodox? I think not”. Nothing demonstrates better than this text the real wish of the Patriarch for final schism.

The legates then decided to take the decisive action for which Michael Cerularius was waiting. On Saturday, 15 July 1054, at the third hour, they repaired to St Sophia at the moment when all the congregation was assembled for the celebration of the daily service. After haranguing the crowd and denouncing the obstinacy of Michael Cerularius, they deposited a bull of excommunication on the altar, and then left the church, shaking the dust off their feet.

In this bull, which the Patriarch caused to be translated into Greek and inserted in his Synodal Edict, the legates said that they had received from the Roman Church a mission of peace and unity. They rejoiced at having found at Constantinople, as well in the Emperor as among the clergy and people, perfect orthodoxy. On the other hand, they had detected in the Patriarch ten heretical tendencies. In virtue of their powers, therefore, they pronounced the anathema against the Patriarch Michael Cerularius, against Leo, Archbishop of Ochrida, and against the sacellarius Nicephorus and their followers. Thus the legates, unable to induce the Patriarch to submit, and not venturing to take steps to depose him, appealed to public opinion. In order to render their triumph more complete, they consecrated, before leaving, some churches of Latin ritual. Constantine IX continued to give proofs of his goodwill and heaped splendid presents upon them.

The Synodal Edict of 1054 

The triumph of the legates was, however, short-lived. Hardly had they started on 17 July for their return journey to Rome, when the Patriarch asked for an interview with them. They had already reached Selymbria (Silivri) on 19 July, when a letter from the Emperor recalled them. They turned back and reached the Palace of the Springs, where they attended the imperial orders. Constantine IX, however, distrusting the intentions of the Patriarch, did not consent to authorize the interview of Michael Cerularius and the legates in St Sophia except in his presence. The Patriarch refused this condition and the Emperor ordered the legates to continue their journey. Subsequently Cardinal Humbert asserted that Michael Cerularius wanted to draw the legates into a snare and assassinate them.

However that may be, the Emperor's answer exasperated the Patriarch. Enjoying unbounded popularity at Constantinople, he seems to have had at this epoch a devoted party. A riot soon broke out in the streets of the town. Constantine IX in alarm sent to the Patriarch a veritable embassy of the principal dignitaries of the palace, who were charged to appease him and to represent to him that the Emperor could not offer any violence to the legates on account of their ambassadorial rights. This answer did not satisfy the Patriarch, for soon a second mission, in which the “consul of the philosophers”, Psellus, figured, arrived with a new message from the Emperor. Constantine made truly humble excuses for what had occurred and threw the blame on Argyrus. Two citizens, Paulus and Smaragdus, guilty of having translated the bull into Greek and of having circulated it, were handed over to him, after having been scourged. The Emperor affirmed that he had given the order to burn the bull and had committed to prison the son and the son-in-law of Argyrus .

By this volte-face the Emperor surrendered to the will of the Patriarch and gave him a free hand for the future. It only remained for Michael Cerularius to consummate his triumph by a sensational rupture with Rome. With the authorization of the Emperor he convened a council on which were represented all the provinces of the Greek Church. Twelve metropolitans and two archbishops signed the acts of it. The opening sections of the Synodal Edict, published in connection with this assembly, contained a reproduction of the Encyclical sent by Photius to the Eastern bishops. Michael Cerularius recapitulated in it all the grievances of the Greeks against the Roman Church: the double Procession of the Holy Ghost, use of unleavened bread, the Saturday fast, celibacy of priests, shaving the beard, etc. He then complained of the profanation of the altar of St Sophia by the legates, gave a biased account of their stay at Constantinople, transcribed their bull of excommunication, fulminated an anathema against them, and lastly produced, as a trophy of victory, the pitiable letter which the Emperor had addressed to him.

Definitive rupture (20 July 1054)

Finally, on 20 July 1054, at the patriarchal tribunal, in the presence of seven archbishops or bishops and of the imperial delegates, judgment was pronounced not only “against the impious document but also against all those who had helped in drawing it up, whether by their advice or even by their prayers”. Five days afterwards all copies of the bull were solemnly burned before the eyes of the people; one copy only was preserved in the archives of the Patriarchate.

By the solemn ceremonial with which he had invested these proceedings, Michael Cerularius had wished to show that it was no longer the question of a temporary schism like that of Photius but of a final rupture. This schism was indeed his personal achievement and due to his strong and domineering character, but it also reflects the opinion of the Greek episcopate, which lent little support to the power of supreme jurisdiction claimed by a bishop foreign to the Empire, and had only an intolerant contempt for the peculiar uses of the Latins.

This separation was, as we have seen, rendered possible by the weakening of the prestige of Rome in the East in the course of the tenth century. Directly after the dispute about image-worship, there had been in Constantinople an ecclesiastical party which saw no salvation for the Eastern churches except in communion with Rome. This party had been strong enough to resist Photius himself, and upon it the Emperors had relied to reestablish unity. But a century later this Roman party was non-existent in Constantinople. The scandals of which Rome had continuously been the theatre during this period, and the equivocal decisions on the marriage of Leo VI, had discouraged its supporters. Michael Cerularius did not meet with the opposition that had checked Photius.

Notwithstanding wide divergencies, the mass of the faithful followers of the two Churches shrank from schism, and were satisfied with compromises which guaranteed the maintenance of normal relations between Rome and Constantinople. Nevertheless, after the events of 1054, although outside Constantinople no act of religious hostility between Greek and Latins can be shown, the members of the two Churches soon regarded each other as enemies, and from this epoch dates the definitive rupture between the Churches of East and West.

The results of this schism could not but be disastrous to the Byzantine Empire. It took place precisely when the West was beginning to lay aside barbarism. The highly-organized States, which were being formed there, lost no time in turning these religious divergences to profit against the Byzantine Empire. The first consequence of the schism was the final loss of Southern Italy. The Papacy, no longer able to reckon upon the Byzantine Empire, made terms with the Normans.

But this schism was fated to have far more widely-reaching effects, and, when the Empire fell on evil days, it was to prove a heavy burden and a constant check on the goodwill of the West. For the Patriarch of Constantinople the schism had been unquestionably a great victory. His authority had been established without dispute over the Slav world and the Eastern Patriarchates. Liberated from fear of subordination to Rome, he had finally defended the autocephalia of his own Church. But this victory of the Byzantine clergy was in reality a check for the states­men who, like Argyrus, looked solely to the interests of the Empire. After this epoch there are clear traces of that antinomy, which was henceforward to dominate all the history of Byzantium, between the political and the religious interests of the Empire. It was the schism which, by rendering fruitless all efforts at conciliation between the Emperors of Constantinople and the West, paved the way for the fall of the Empire.