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St. George

Lecture for: ChD 607 Church Development Part VII

Lecture for: ChD 607 Church Development Part VII
by Brother Macfonse Osmond, OSM

Topic: Church Development from c. 726 to 757 AD

731: the Death of Pope Gregory II

About 726, Pope Gregory II became involved in a conflict with the emperor Leo the Isaurian on account of the excessive taxation of the Italians, and, later, on the question of image worship, which had been proscribed by the government of Constantinople. Leo endeavoured to rid himself of the pope by violence, but Gregory, supported by the people of Rome and also by the Lombards, succeeded in eluding the emperor’s attacks, and died peacefully on the 11th of February 731.

Synod in Rome and excommunication of Iconoclasts circa 752AD;
Between 726-730 the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian commenced the iconoclast campaign. He ordered the taking away of an image of Jesus prominently placed over the Chalke gate, the ceremonial entrance to the Great Palace of Constantinople, and its replacement with a cross. Some of those who were assigned to the task were murdered by a band of iconodules. (Iconodules is anyone who supports or is in favor of religious images or icons and their veneration, and is in opposition to an Iconoclast) Pope St. Gregory III convoked a synod in 730 and formally condemned iconoclasm as heretical and excommunicated its advocates. The papal letter never reached Constantinople as the messengers were intercepted and arrested in Sicily by the Byzantines.

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Monoenergism 726 730 AD

Monoenergism is a Christian heresy related to Monophysitism. In the 7th century, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius attempted to solve the schism between Chalcedonians and Monophysites, and suggested the compromise of Monoenergism. This compromise adopted the Chalcedonian belief that Christ had two natures, but tried to address Monophysite misgivings by the view that Christ had one "energy". The definition of the term "energy" was left deliberately vague. Monoenergism was accepted by the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria, as well as by the Armenians, though not by the Patriarch of Jerusalem or Pope Honorius I. The lack of support from the Pope led Heraclius to abandon the belief in 638. Instead he declared the doctrine of Monothelitism, though this did not solve the schism either.
Both Monoenergism as well as Monotheletism were condemned as heresies by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 680.

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Byzantine Emperor Leo III and his Iconoclastic Decree

In 726 AD, Emperor Leo III published an edict declaring images to be idols, forbidden by Exodus 20:4-5. He commanded that all such images in churches be destroyed, and the soldiers immediately began to carry out his orders throughout the empire. There was a famous picture of Christ, called Christos antiphonetes, over the gate of the palace at Constantinople, the destruction of which provoked a serious riot among the people.

Germanus, the patriarch of Constantinople, protested against the edict and appealed to the pope in 729. But the emperor deposed him as a traitor and had Anastasius (730-54), a willing instrument of the government, appointed in his place. The most steadfast opponents of the Iconoclasts throughout this story were the monks. It is true that there were some who took the side of the emperor but as a body; eastern monasticism was steadfastly loyal to the old custom of the Church. Leo therefore joined with his iconoclasm a fierce persecution of monasteries and eventually tried to suppress monasticism altogether. Emperor Leo III died of dropsy in June 741.

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Pope Gregory II: Opposition to Iconoclasm

Pope Gregory II (r. 713-31) responded to the appeal of the deposed patriarch Garmanus of Constantinople with a long defense of images. He explains the difference between them and idols, with some surprise that Leo does not already understand the distinction. But Leo remained steadfast and the persecution continued to rage in the East. Monasteries were destroyed and monks were put to death, tortured, or banished. The Iconoclasts began to apply their principle to relics also, to break open shrines and burn the bodies of saints buried in churches.

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Theodore the Studite (758-826AD)

A zealous campaigner of the veneration of images and the last great representative of the unity and independence of the Church in the East, born in 759; died on the Peninsula of Tryphon, near the promontory Akrita on 11 November, 826. He belonged to a very distinguished family and like his two brothers, one of whom, Joseph, became Archbishop of Thessalonica, was highly educated. In 781 theodore entered the monastery of Saccudion on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus near Constantinople, where his uncle Plato was abbot. In 787 or 788 Theodore was ordained priest and in 794 succeeded his uncle. He insisted upon the exact observance of the monastic rules. During the Adulterine heresy dispute, concerning the divorce and remarriage of the Emperor Constantine VI, he was banished by Constantine VI to Thessalonica, but returned in triumph after the emperor's overthrow. In 799 he left Saccudion, which was threatened by the Arabs, and took charge of the monastery of the Studium at Constantinople. He gave the Studium an outstanding organization which was taken as a model by the entire Byzantine monastic world, and still exists on Mount Athos and in Russian monasticism. He supplemented the somewhat theoretical rules of St. Basil by specific regulations concerning enclosure, poverty, discipline, study, religious services, fasts, and manual labour. When the Adulterine heresy dispute broke out again in 809, he was exiled a second time as the head of the strictly orthodox church, but was recalled in 811. The administration of the iconoclastic Emperor Leo V brought new and more severe trials. Theodore courageously denied the emperor's right to interfere in ecclesiastical affairs. He was consequently treated with great cruelty, exiled, and his monastery filled with iconoclastic monks. Theodore lived at Metopa in Bithynia from 814, then at Bonita from 819, and finally at Smyrna. Even in banishment he was the central point of the opposition to Iconoclasm and Cæsaropapism (Caesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with, or making it superior to, the spiritual authority of the Christian Church). Michael II (810-9) permitted the exiles to return, but did not annul the laws of his predecessor. Thus Theodore saw himself compelled to continue the struggle. He did not return to the Studium, and died without having attained his ideals. In the Roman Martyrology his feast is placed on 12 November; in the Greek martyrologies on 11 November.

Theodore was a man of practical bent and never wrote any theological works, except a dogmatic treatise on the veneration of images. Many of his works are not published, while some are in Old Slavonic and Russian translations. Besides several polemics against the enemies of images, special mention should be made of the "Catechesis magna", and the "Catechesis parva" with their sonoroussermons and orations. His writings on monastic life are: the iambic verses on the monastic offices, his will addressed to the monks, the "Canones", and the "Pænæ monasteriales", the regulations for the monastery and for the church services. His hymns and epigrams show fiery feeling and a high spirit. He is one of the first of hymn-writers in productiveness, in a peculiarly creative technique, and in elegance of language. 550 letters testify to his ascetical and ecclesiastico-political labours.

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752 AD: The "Donation of Constantine"

754 (and again in 756) Pepin defeated Aistulf and turned the lands of the old exarchate of Ravenna over to Stephen (an action known as the Donation of Pepin). These became the States of the Church. The Franks, in following years, referred to these states as the Roman Empire, and the true Romans in the Empire ruled from Constantinople, they called Greeks.

The significance of this is that the bishop of Rome was transformed from a subject of the Eastern Roman emperor into an independent secular sovereign, not dependent on any other sovereign, with an independent territory and with possession of supreme state authority on this territory.

The “Donation of Constantine,” which was to play a large role in the growth of papal power in the Middle Ages, was forged in this era (see 749 above), either to help convince Pepin to provide land to the church, or to establish legal grounds for turning Roman (Byzantine) imperial territory over to the papacy. The document has Constantine writing, “And we ordain and decree that the Pope shall have the supremacy as well over the four chief seats: Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, as also over all the churches of God in the whole world. And he who for the time being shall be pontiff of that holy Roman church shall be ... chief over all the priests of the world; and according to his judgment, everything which is to be provided for the service of God or the stability of the faith of the Christians is to be administered.” In another section, Constantine is depicted as giving the pope “all the prerogatives of our supreme imperial position and the glory of our authority” and as giving “over to the oft-mentioned most blessed pontiff ... the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts and cities of Italy or of the western regions.”

Donatio Constantini: Forgery in the False Decretals of Isidore
False Decretals of Isidore, the most extensive and influential set of forgeries found in medieval Canon law. The works were probably produced c 842 in Metz. The author, a French cleric calling himself Isidore Mercator, created false documents purportedly by early church popes, demonstrating that supremacy of the papacy dated back to the church's oldest traditions. The author's motive was to protect Frankish bishops from both archbishops and kings, by asserting the importance of the Pope. The work aimed first of all at establishing the bishops' right of appeal to the pope from their metropolitans.

In some manuscripts, the decretals include the Donation of Constantine, in which Constantine grants Pope Sylvester I secular authority over all Western Europe. Thanks to this forgery in the collection, the decretals became one of the most persuasive forgeries in the history of the West. The decretals have been universally recognized as forgeries.

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755AD: Pope Stephen and Pepin, King of the Franks

The Lombards to the north of Rome had captured Ravenna, former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire exarchate, in 751, and began to put pressure on Rome. Relations were very strained in the mid-8th century between the papacy and the Eastern Roman emperors of the Isaurian dynasty. Due to the reality that the Eastern Roman Empire itself was beset by both the Abbasid Caliphate and Bulgars, no help came from Constantinople. Stephen turned to Pepin the Younger, the recently crowned King of the Franks, and even traveled to Paris to plead for help in person. On January 6, 754, Stephen re-consecrated Pepin as king. In return, Pepin assumed the role of ordained protector of the Church and set his sights on the Lombards.

In the winter of 753-754 after the Lombards forced Pope Stephen to leave Rome, the Pope visited Pépin the Short. The next summer, Pope Stephen anointed Pépin and his two sons Charlemagne and Carloman, and declared that the Franks were never to elect a king who was not of the sacred lineage of Pépin the Short. In return for Pope Stephen's support, Pépin the Short took his army to Italy and defeated the Lombards. Pépin's gift of a wide strip of land in central Italy to the Pope became known as the "Donation of Pépin." This land, called the Papal States, remained under the control of the popes until the unification of Italy in the 19th century.

Franks Acceptance of the "Donation of Constantine" as an Authentic Document

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Historical Context

It is glaring to note that Around 250 , one group of Franks, taking advantage of a weakened Roman Empire, penetrated as far as Tarragona in present-day Spain , plaguing this region for about a decade before Roman forces subdued them and expelled them from Roman territory. About forty years later, the Franks had the Scheldt region under control and interfered with the waterways to Britain ; Roman forces pacified the region, but did not expel the Franks.

In 355 358 , the later Emperor Julian once again found the shipping lanes on the Rhine under control of the Franks and again pacified them. Rome granted a considerable part of Gallia Belgica to the Franks. From this time on they became foederati of the Roman Empire.

From their heartland, the Franks gradually conquered most of Roman Gaul north of the Loire valley and east of Visigoth ic Aquitaine . At first they helped defend the border as allies; for example, when a major invasion of mostly East Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine in 406 , the Franks fought against these invaders. The major thrust of the invasion passed south of the Loire river.

In 451 , Aëtius called upon his Germanic allies on Roman soil to help fight off an invasion by the Huns . The Salian Franks answered the call, the Ripuarians fought on both sides as some of them lived outside the Empire. Gregory's sources tentatively identify Meroveus (Merovech) as king of the Franks and possibly a son of Chlodio.

That the Franks always had an eye for the Roman Empire as shown through various attepmts in expanding their kingdom, this vission was made possible in 754 when Pepin solidified his position by entering into an alliance with Pope Stephen III , who presented the king of the Franks a copy of the forged " Donation of Constantine ". The following year Pippin fulfilled his promise to the pope and retrieved the Exarchate of Ravenna , recently fallen to the Lombards , and returned it, not to the Byzantine emperor again, but to the Papacy. Pippin donated the re-conquered areas around Rome to the Pope, laying the foundation for the Papal States which he laid on the tomb of St Peter. The papacy had good cause to expect that the remade Frankish monarchy would provide a deferential power base in the creation of a new world order, centred on the Pope.

The general agreement on the "Donation of Constantine" is that the work had its origin in the Kingdom of the Franks. The forger's main motive was to protect Frankish bishops from both archbishops and kings, which is to emancipate bishops, not only from the secular power, but also from the influence of archbishops and synods, partly by exalting the papal power. The work established the bishops' right of appeal to the pope from their metropolitans.

Although, it was in return for Stephen's support, Pepin apparently gave the Pope the lands in Italy which the Lombards had taken from the Byzantine Empire. These lands would become the Papal States and would be the basis of the Papacy's secular power for the next eleven centuries. Its purpose may have been to allow the King to claim that he was returning, not giving, the papal lands to the Church. In this way, the fiction of the Donation added legitimacy to a convenient political marriage between the Catholic Church and the Frankish state.

Eventually, this allowed Pepin to expand the Franks kingdoms into a major section of the old Roman western empire, an event that would eventually make Charlemagne himself, who assumed the former imperial dignity in the West and with it the title "Emperor of the Romans".

St John of Damascus (c. 676 – 749AD) and On the Orthodox Faith

Saint John of Damascus also known as John Damascene, (c. 676 - 4 December, 749) was an Arab Christian monk and priest. Born and raised in Damascus, he died at his monastery, Mar Saba, near Jerusalem.

A polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included law, theology, philosophy, and music, before being ordained, he served as a Chief Administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus, wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and composed hymns which are still in everyday use in Eastern Christian monasteries throughout the world. The Catholic Church regards him as a Doctor of the Church, often referred to as the Doctor of the Assumption due to his writings on the Assumption of Mary.

John of Damascus initiated a defense of holy images in three separate publications. "Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images", the earliest of these works gained him a reputation. Not only did he attack the emperor, but the use of a simpler literary style brought the controversy to the common people, inciting revolt among those of Christian faith. His writings later played an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea which met to settle the icon dispute.

To counter his influence, Leo III is said to have had documents forged implicating John of Damascus in a plot to attack Damascus. Called to account for these writings by the caliph, John asked to leave his post and retire to Mar Saba near Jerusalem. There, he studied, wrote and preached until he was ordained a priest in 735. A legendary Greek account adds that before going to Mar Saba his right hand was ordered cut off at the wrist by the caliph, and that it was miraculously restored after fervent prayer before an icon of the Virgin Mary.

His writings constitute his life’s story, apart form that which was recorded by Patriarch John of Jerusalem. He also wrote “Fons Scientiae” or Fountain of Knowledge.

The “Fons Scientiae” is actually a group of three works, each complete in itself, but forming together an encyclopedia of Christian theology. They are: (1) “Capita Philosophica” or Heads of Philosophy, (2) “De Haeresibus Liber” or Summary of Heresies, (3), and “Expositio accurata Fedei Orthodoxae” or An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.

On Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
In this book, John of Damascus retains the same order as was adopted by Theodoret in his "Epitome of Divine Dogmas," but takes a different method. For the former, by the sheer weight of his own genius, framed various kinds of arguments against heretics, adducing the testimony of the sacred page, and thus he composed a concise treatise of Theology. St John, however, did not confine himself to Scripture, but gathered together also the opinions of the holy Fathers, and produced a work marked with equal perspicuity and brevity, and forming an unexhausted storehouse of tradition in which nothing is to be found that has not been either sanctioned by the oecumenical synods or accepted by the approved leaders of the Church.

This third work in his Fons Scientiae is the most important of all, for it is the first complete “Body of Divinity” that we possess, and has had an influence that simply cannot be measured. It was made known to the Latin Church in 1150 A.D. and greatly influenced the works and thoughts of St. Thomas Aquinas (the father of Latin Theology). Here we see the first visible link between the Church of the East and the Church of the West. This De Fide Orthodoxa is itself divided into 4 books, or 100 chapters. In it St. John touches upon such subjects as: (a) The impossibility of our knowing or comprehending God, (b) On the Trinity: the distinct personality of the Word and Holy Spirit, (c) On the creation. (d) On man: his creation, faculties, passions, free will, (e) God’s scheme for man’s redemption among others.

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St. Gregory III (731-41)

Gregory III was pope from 731 to 741. A Syrian by birth he succeeded Gregory II in March 731. His pontificate, like that of his predecessor, was also disturbed by the iconoclastic controversy in the Byzantine Empire, in which he vainly invoked the intervention of Charles Martel.
Elected by popular acclamation, he was the last pope to ask for the Byzantine exarch's mandate. Gregory immediately appealed to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III to moderate his position on the iconoclastic controversy. When this elicited no response, Gregory called a synod in November 731, the latter decided to bring the Pope under control. This included appropriating papal territories, and transferring ecclesiastical jurisdictions to the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Gregory's support of the empire led him to help contribute to the recapture of Ravenna after it had fallen to the Lombards in 733. However, he also sought to fortify Rome and seek alliance with opponents of the Lombard monarch Liutprand and then from the Franks. He did send embassies to Charles Martel, who made no response.
Gregory promoted the Church in northern Europe - such as the missions of Saint Boniface in Germany and Willibald in Bohemia. He also bestowed palliums on Egbert of York and Tatwine, Archbishop of Canterbury. He also beautified Rome and supported monasticism.
He died November 28, 741 and is celebrated on November 28.

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St. Zachary (741-52)

Saint Zachary (Greek Zacharias), pope (741-752), the last pope of the Byzantine Papacy. He came from a Greek family of Calabria. Most probably he was a deacon of the Roman Church and as such signed the decrees of the Roman council of 732; and was on intimate terms with Gregory III, whom he succeeded in December 10 741.

Zachary was a wise and subtle diplomat. Finding that his predecessor's alliance with the Lombard Duke of Spoleto was not protecting Papal cities against the Lombard king, Zachary turned to Liutprand directly. Contemporary history (Liber pontificalis) dwells chiefly on Zachary's great personal influence with Liutprand, and with his successor Ratchis; his tact in dealing with these princes in a variety of emergencies contributed to save the exarchate of Ravenna from the Lombard attacks.

A correspondence, of considerable extent, and great interest, between Zachary and Saint Boniface, the apostle of Germany, survives, and shows how great was the influence of this pope on events then passing in France and Germany; he encouraged the deposition of the last Merovingian king of the Franks, Childeric III, and it was with his sanction that Boniface crowned Pepin the Short as King of the Franks at Soissons in 752. Zachary condemned Byzantine emperor Constantine V Copronymus on the part he had taken in the iconoclastic controversy. He died March 22, 752, and buried in St. Peter's Basilica.
Stephen II (752) -- Omitted from the Vatican's) because he died before being consecrated.

Stephen II was a popular candidate and he was unanimously elected to succeed Zachary. Unfortunately, Stephen died after just a couple of days and before he could be consecrated. As a consequence, his pontificate was never really considered official. He was not listed into the official Liber Pontificalis and his successor, also named Stephen, is often listed as the second Stephen rather than the third. This has led to inconsistency in the numbering of popes named Stephen because many other sources do include this Stephen in their lists.

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Stephen III (752-57)

Pope Stephen III was a Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (752 - 757). The Lombards to the north of Rome had captured Ravenna, former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire exarchate, in 751, and began to put pressure on Rome. Relations were very strained in the mid-8th century between the papacy and the Eastern Roman emperors of the Isaurian dynasty. Due to the fact that the Eastern Roman Empire itself was beset by both the Abbasid Caliphate and Bulgars, no help came from Constantinople. Stephen turned to Pepin the Younger, the recently crowned King of the Franks, and even traveled to Paris to plead for help in person. On January 6, 754, Stephen re-consecrated Pepin as king. In return, Pepin assumed the role of ordained protector of the Church and set his sights on the Lombards.

Pepin invaded Italy twice to settle the Lombard problem and delivered the territory between Rome and Ravenna to the Papacy, but left the Lombard kings in possession of their kingdom. He died April 26, 757.

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