The Church and the Barbarians - Being an Outline of the History of the Church from A.D. 461 to A.D. 1003
by William Holden Hutton
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[Transcriber's note: Footnotes have been renumbered sequentially and moved to the end of their respective chapters. The book's Index has a number of references to footnotes, e.g. the "96 n." entry under "Assyrians." In such cases, check the referenced page to see which footnote(s) are relevant.]

[Transcriber's note: The original book had side-notes in its pages' left or right margin areas. Some of these sidenotes were at or near the beginning of a paragraph, and in this e-text, are placed to precede their host paragraph. Some were placed elsewhere alongside a paragraph, in relation to what the sidenote referred to inside the paragraph. These have been placed into the paragraph near where they were in the original book. All sidenotes have been enclosed in square brackets, and preceded with "Sidenote:".]


While there is a general agreement among the writers as to principles, the greatest freedom as to treatment is allowed to writers in this series. The volumes, for example, will not be of the same length. Volume II., which deals with the formative period of the Church, is, not unnaturally, longer in proportion than the others. To Volume VI., which deals with the Reformation, will be allotted a similar extension. The authors, again, use their own discretion in such matters as footnotes and lists of authorities. But the aim of the series, which each writer sets before him, is to tell, clearly and accurately, the story of the Church, as a divine institution with a continuous life.



It has seemed to me impossible to deal with the long period covered by this volume as briefly as the scheme of the series required without leaving out a great many events and concentrating attention chiefly upon a few central facts and a few important personages. I think that the main results of the development may thus be seen, though there is much which is here omitted that would have been included had the book been written on other lines.

Some pages find place here which originally appeared in The Guardian and The Treasury, and a few lines which once formed part of an article in The Church Quarterly Review. My thanks are due for the courtesy of the Editors. I have reprinted some passages from my Church of the Sixth Century, a book which is now out of print and not likely to be reissued.

I have to thank the Rev. L. Pullan for help from his wide knowledge, and Mr. L. Strachan, of Heidelberg, of whose accuracy and learning I have had long experience, for reading the proofs and making the index.

W. H. H.

S. JOHN'S COLLEGE, OXFORD, Septuagesima, 1906.




CHAPTER III THE CHURCH IN ITALY, 461-590 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29





CHAPTER VIII THE CHURCH IN ASIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93

CHAPTER IX THE CHURCH IN AFRICA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103

CHAPTER X THE CHURCH IN THE WESTERN ISLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113




CHAPTER XIV THE ICONOCLASTIC CONTROVERSY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155

CHAPTER XV LEARNING AND MONASTICISM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166

CHAPTER XVI SACRAMENTS AND LITURGIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176

CHAPTER XVII THE END OF THE DARK AGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191

APPENDIX I LIST OF EMPERORS AND POPES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205

APPENDIX II A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209

INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211





[Sidenote: The task of the Church]

The year 461 saw the great organisation which had ruled and united Europe for so long trembling into decay. The history of the Empire in relation to Christianity is indeed a remarkable one. The imperial religion had been the necessary and deadly foe of the religion of Jesus Christ; it had fought and had been conquered. Gradually the Empire itself with all its institutions and laws had been transformed, at least outwardly, into a Christian power. Questions of Christian theology had become questions of imperial politics. A Roman of the second century would have wondered indeed at the transformation which had come over the world he knew: it seemed as if the kingdoms of the earth had become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ. But also it seemed that the new wine had burst the old bottles. The boundaries of the Roman world had been outstepped: nations had come in from the East and from the West. The {2} system which had been supreme was not elastic: the new ideas, Christian and barbarian alike, pressed upon it till it gave way and collapsed. And so it came about that if Christianity had conquered the old world, it had still to conquer the new.

[Sidenote: The decaying Empire.]

Now before the Church in the fifth century there were set several powers, interests, duties, with which she was called upon to deal; and her dealing with them was the work of the next five centuries. They were,—the Empire, Christian, but obsolescent; the new nations, still heathen, which were struggling for territory within the bounds of the Empire, and for sway over the imperial institutions; the distant tribes untouched by the message of Christ; and the growth, within the Church itself, of new and great organisations, which were destined in great measure to guide and direct her work. Politics, theology, organisation, missions, had all their share in the work of the Church from 461 to 1003. In each we shall find her influence: to harmonise them we must find a principle which runs through her relation to them all.

[Sidenote: The need of unity.]

The central idea of the period with which we are to deal is unity. Up till the fifth century, till the Council of Chalcedon (451) completed the primary definition of the orthodox Christian faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians were striving for conversion, organisation, definition. All these aims still remained, but in less prominence. The Church's order was completed, the Church's creed was practically fixed, and the dominant nations in Europe had owned the name of Christ. There remained a new and severe test. Would the {3} Church win the new barbarian conquerors as she had won the old imperial power? There was to be a great epoch of missionary energy. But of the firm solidity of the Church there could be no doubt. Heresies had torn from her side tribes and even nations who had once belonged to her fold. But still unity was triumphant in idea; and it was into the Catholic unity of the visible Church that the new nations were to be invited to enter. S. Augustine's grand idea of the City of God had really triumphed, before the fifth century was half passed, over the heathen conceptions of political rule. The Church, in spite of the tendency to separate already visible in East and West, was truly one; and that unity was represented also in the Christian Empire. "At the end of the fifth century the only Christian countries outside the limits of the Empire were Ireland and Armenia, and Armenia, maintaining a precarious existence beside the great Persian monarchy of the Sassanid kings, had been for a long time virtually dependent on the Roman power." [1] Politically, while tyrants rise and fall, and barbarian hosts, the continuance of the Wandering of the Nations, sweep across the stage, we are struck above all by the significant fact which Mr. Freeman (Western Europe in the Fifth Century) knew so well how to make emphatic:—"The wonderful thing is how often the Empire came together again. What strikes us at every step in the tangled history of these times is the wonderful life which the Roman name and the Roman Power still kept when it was thus attacked on every side from without and torn in pieces in every quarter from within." And the reason for this indubitably was that the {4} Empire had now another organisation to support it, based on the same idea of central unity. One Church stood beside one Empire, and became year by year even more certain, more perfect, as well as more strong. In the West the papal power rose as the imperial decayed, and before long came near to replacing it. In the East, where the name and tradition of old Rome was always preserved in the imperial government, the Church remained in that immemorial steadfastness to the orthodox faith which was a bond of unity such as no other idea could possibly supply. In the educational work which the emperor had to undertake in regard to the tribes which one by one accepted their sway, the Christian Church was their greatest support. In East as well as West, the bishops, saints, and missionaries were the true leaders of the nations into the unity of the Empire as well as the unity of the Church. [Sidenote: The Church's conquest of barbarism.] The idea of Christian unity saved the Empire and taught the nations. The idea of Christian unity was the force which conquered barbarism and made the barbarians children of the Catholic Church and fellow-citizens with the inheritors of the Roman traditions.

If the dominant idea of the long period with which this book is to deal is the unity of the Church, seen through the struggles to preserve, to teach, or to attain it, the most important facts are those which belong to the conversion, to Christ and to the full faith of the Catholic Church, of races new to the Western world. The gradual extinction in Italy of the Goths, the conversion of the Franks, of the English, of many races on distant barbarian borderlands of civilisation, the acceptance of Catholicism by the Lombards and {5} the Western Goths, do not complete the historical tale, though they are a large part of it: there was the falling back in Africa and for a long time in Europe of the settlements of the Cross before the armies of the Crescent. There were also two other important features of this long-extended age, to which writers have given the name of dark. There was the survival of ancient learning, which lived on through the flood of barbarian immigration into the lands which had been its old home, yet was very largely eclipsed by the predominance of theological interests in literature. And there was the growth of a strong ecclesiastical power, based upon an orthodox faith (though not without hesitations and lapses), and gradually winning a formidable political dominion. That power was the Roman Papacy.

[1] Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, p. 13, ed. 1904.





When the death of Leo the Great in 461 removed from the world of religious progress a saintly and dominant figure whose words were listened to in East and West as were those of no other man of his day, the interest of Church history is seen to turn decisively to the East.

[Sidenote: Character of the Greek Church.]

The story of Eastern Christendom is unique. There is the fascinating tale of the union of Greek metaphysics and Christian theology, and its results, so fertile, so vigorous, so intensely interesting as logical processes, so critical as problems of thought. For the historian there is a story of almost unmatched attraction; the story of how a people was kept together in power, in decay, in failure, in persecution, by the unifying force of a Creed and a Church. And there is the extraordinary missionary development traceable all through the history of Eastern Christianity: the wonderful Nestorian missions, the activity of the evangelists, imperial and hierarchical, of the sixth century, the conversion of Russia, the preludes to the remarkable achievements in modern times of orthodox missions in the Far East.

Throughout the whole of the long period indeed {7} which begins with the death of Leo and ends with that of Silvester II., though the Latin Church was growing in power and in missionary success, it was probably the Christianity of the East which was the most secure and the most prominent. Something of its work may well be told at the beginning of our task.

[Sidenote: The Monophysite controversy.]

The last years of the fifth century were in the main occupied in the East by the dying down of a controversy which had rent the Church. The Eutychian heresy, condemned at Chalcedon, gave birth to the Monophysite party, which spread widely over the East. Attempts were soon made to bridge over the gulf by taking from the decisions of Chalcedon all that definitely repudiated the Monophysite opinions. [Sidenote: The Henotikon.] In 482 the patriarch Acacius of Constantinople, under the orders probably of the Emperor Zeno (474-91), drew up the Henotikon, an endeavour to secure the peace of the Church by abandoning the definitions of the Fourth General Council. No longer was "one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures, without fusion, without change, without division, without separation." But it is impossible to ignore a controversy which has been a cause of wide divergence. Men will not be silent, or forget, when they are told. Statesmanlike was, no doubt, the policy which sought for unity by ignoring differences; and peace was to some extent secured in the East so long as Zeno and his successor Anastasius (491-518) reigned. But at Rome it was not accepted. Such a document, which implicitly repudiated the language of Leo the Great, which the Fourth General Council had adopted, could {8} never be accepted by the whole Church; and those in the East who were theologians and philosophers rather than statesmen saw that the question once raised must be finally settled in the dogmatic decisions of the Church. Had the Lord two Natures, the Divine and Human, or but one? The reality of the Lord's Humanity as well as of His Divinity was a truth which, at whatever cost of division and separation, it was essential that the Church should proclaim and cherish.

In Constantinople, a city always keen to debate theology in the streets, the divergence was plainly manifest; and a document which was "subtle to escape subtleties" was not likely to be satisfactory to the subtlest of controversialists. The Henotikon was accepted at Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, but it was rejected by Rome and by the real sense of Constantinople. In Alexandria the question was only laid for a time, and when a bishop who had been elected was refused recognition by Acacius the Patriarch of Constantinople and Peter "the Stammerer," who accepted the Henotikon, preferred to his place, a reference to Rome led to a peremptory letter from Pope Simplicius, to which Acacius paid no heed whatever. Felix II. (483-92), after an ineffectual embassy, actually declared Acacius excommunicate and deposed. The monastery of the Akoimetai at Constantinople ("sleepless ones," who kept up perpetual intercession) threw itself strongly on to the side of the advocates of Chalcedon. Acacius, then excommunicated by Rome because he would not excommunicate the Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria, retorted by striking out the name of Felix from the diptychs of the Church.


[Sidenote: Schism between East and West.]

It was the first formal beginning of the schism which,—temporarily, and again and again, healed,—was ultimately to separate East and West; and it was due, as so many misfortunes of the Church have been, to the inevitable divergence between those who thought of theology first as statesmen and those who thought first as inquirers after the truth. The schism spread more widely. In Syria Monophysitism joined Nestorianism in the confusion of thought: in Egypt the Coptic Church arose which repudiated Chalcedon: Abyssinia and Southern India were to follow. Arianism had in the East practically died away; Nestorianism was powerful only in far-away lands, but Monophysitism was for a great part of the sixth century strong in the present, and close to the centre of Church life. The sixth century began, as the fifth had ended, in strife from which there seemed no outway. Nationalism, and the rival claims of Rome and Constantinople, complicated the issues.

Under Anastasius, the convinced opponent of the Council of Chalcedon and himself to all intents a Monophysite in opinion, some slight negotiations were begun with Rome, while the streets of Constantinople ran with blood poured out by the hot advocates of theological dogma. In 515 legates from Pope Hormisdas visited Constantinople; in 516 the emperor sent envoys to Rome; in 517 Hormisdas replied, not only insisting on the condemnation of those who had opposed Chalcedon, but also claiming from the Caesar the obedience of a spiritual son; and in that same year Anastasius, "most sweet-tempered of emperors," died, rejecting the papal demands.


The accession of Justin I. (518-27) was a triumph for the orthodox faith, to which the people of Constantinople had firmly held. The patriarch, John the Cappadocian, declared his adherence to the Fourth Council: the name of Pope Leo was put on the diptychs together with that of S. Cyril; and synod after synod acclaimed the orthodox faith. Negotiations for reunion with the West were immediately opened. The patriarch and the emperor wrote to Pope Hormisdas, and there wrote also a theologian more learned than the patriarch, the Emperor's nephew, Justinian. "As soon," he wrote, "as the Emperor had received by the will of God the princely fillet, he gave the bishops to understand that the peace of the Church must be restored. This had already in a great degree been accomplished." But the pope's opinion must be taken with regard to the condemnation of Acacius, who was responsible for the Henotikon, and was the real cause of the severance between the churches. [Sidenote: Reunion, 519.] The steps towards reunion may be traced in the correspondence between Hormisdas and Justinian. It was finally achieved on the 27th of March, 519. The patriarch of Constantinople declared that he held the Churches of the old and the new Rome to be one; and with that regard he accepted the four Councils and condemned the heretics, including Acacius.

The Church of Alexandria did not accept the reunion; and Severus, patriarch of Antioch, was deposed for his heresy. There was indeed a considerable party all over the East which remained Monophysite; and this party it was the first aim of Justinian (527-65), when he became emperor, to convince or to subdue. He was the {11} nephew of Justin, and he was already trained in the work of government; but he seemed to be even more zealous as a theologian than as a lawyer or administrator. The problem of Monophysitism fascinated him. [Sidenote: The Emperor Justinian.] From the first, he applied himself seriously to the study of the question in all its bearings. Night after night, says Procopius, he would study in his library the writings of the Fathers and the Holy Scriptures themselves, with some learned monks or prelates with whom he might discuss the problems which arose from their perusal. He had all a lawyer's passion for definition, and all a theologian's delight in truth. And as year by year he mastered the intricate arguments which had surged round the decisions of the Councils, he came to consider that a rapprochement was not impossible between the Orthodox Church and those many Eastern monks and prelates who still hesitated over a repudiation which might mean heresy or schism. And from the first it was his aim to unite not by arms but by arguments. The incessant and wearisome theological discussions which are among the most prominent features of his reign, are a clearly intended part of a policy which was to reunite Christendom and consolidate the definition of the Faith by a thorough investigation of controverted matters. Justinian first thought out vexed questions for himself, and then endeavoured to make others think them out.

From 527, in the East, Church history may be said to start on new lines. The Catholic definition was completed and the imperial power was definitely committed to it. We may now look at the Orthodox Church as one, united against outside error.


A period of critical interest in the history of Europe is that to which belongs the difficult and complicated Church history of the East from the accession of the Emperor Justinian to the death of S. Methodius.

The period naturally divides itself into three parts—the first, from 527 to 628, dealing with the Church at the height of its authority, up to the overthrow of the Persian power; the second to 725, the period up to the beginning of the iconoclastic controversy; and the third up to its close and the death of S. Methodius in 847. With the first we will deal in the present chapter.

[Sidenote: Church and State in the East.]

But throughout the whole three centuries, from 527 to 847, the essential character of the Church's life in the east is the same. In the East the Church was regarded more decisively than in the West as the complement of the State. Constantine had taught men to look for the officials of the Church side by side with those of the civil power. At Constantinople was the centre of an official Christianity, which recognised the powers that be as ordained of God in a way which was never found at Rome. At Rome the bishops came to be political leaders, to plot against governments, to found a political power of their own. At Constantinople the patriarchs, recognised as such by the Emperor and Senate of the New Rome, sought not to intrude themselves into a sphere outside their religious calling, but developed their claims, in their own sphere, side by side with those of the State; and their example was followed in the Churches which began to look to Constantinople for guidance. There was a necessary consequence of this. {13} [Sidenote: Nationalism of the Churches.] It was that when the nationalities of the East,—in Egypt, Syria, Armenia, or even in Mesopotamia—began to resent the rule of the Empire, and struggled to express a patriotism of their own, they sought to express it also on the ecclesiastical side, in revolt from the Church which ruled as a complement to the civil power. Heresy came to be a sort of patriotism in religion. And while there was this of evil, it was not evil that each new barbarian nation, as it accepted the faith, sought to set up beside its own sovereign its patriarch also. "Imperium," they said, "sine patriarcha non staret," an adage which James I. of England inverted when he said, "No bishop, no king." Though the Bulgarians agreed with the Church of Constantinople in dogmas, they would not submit to its jurisdiction. The principle of national Churches, independent of any earthly supreme head, but united in the same faith and baptism, was established by the history of the East. Gradually the Church of Constantinople, by the growth of new Christian states, and by the defections of nations that had become heretical, became practically isolated, long before the infidels hedged in the boundaries of the Empire and hounded the imperial power to its death. Within the boundaries the Church continued to walk hand-in-hand with the State. Together they acted within and without. Within, they upheld the Orthodox Faith; without, they gave Cyprus its religious independence, Illyricum a new ecclesiastical organisation, the Sinaitic peninsula an autonomous hierarchy. More and more the history of these centuries shows us the Greek Church as the Eastern Empire in its religious aspect. And it shows that the division between East {14} and West, beginning in politics, was bound to spread to religion. As Rome had won her ecclesiastical primacy through her political position, so with Constantinople; and when the politics became divergent so did the definition of faith. Rome, as a church, clung to the obsolete claims which the State could no longer enforce: Constantinople witnessed to the independence which was the heritage of liberty given by the endowment of Jesus Christ.

Such are the general lines upon which Eastern Church history proceeds. We must now speak in more detail, though briefly, of the theological history of the years when Justinian was emperor.

[Sidenote: Early controversy in Justinian's reign.]

Justinian was a trained theologian, but he was also a trained lawyer; and the combination generally produces a vigorous controversialist. It was in controversy that his reign was passed. The first controversy, which began before he was emperor, was that, revived from the end of the fifth century, which dealt with the question of the addition to the Trisagion of the words, "Who was crucified for us," and involved the assertion that One of the Trinity died upon the cross. In 519 there came from Tomi to Constantinople monks who fancied that they could reconcile Christendom by adding to the Creed, a delusion as futile as that of those who think they can advance towards the same end by subtracting from it. After a debate on the matter in Constantinople, Justinian consulted the pope. Letters passed with no result. In 533, when the matter was revived by the Akoimetai, Justinian published an edict and wrote letters to pope and patriarch to bring the matter to a final decision. "If One of the Trinity did {15} not suffer in the flesh, neither was He born in the flesh, nor can Mary be said, verily and truly, to be His Mother." The emperor himself was accused of heresy by the Vigilists; and at last Pope John II. declared the phrase, "One Person of the Trinity was crucified," to be orthodox. His judgment was confirmed by the Fifth General Council.[1]

The position which the emperor thus assumed was not one which the East alone welcomed. Rome, too, recognised that the East had power to make decrees, so long as they were consonant with apostolic doctrine.

[Sidenote: The Monophysites.]

Justinian now gave himself eagerly to the reconciliation of the Monophysites. In 535 Anthimus, bishop of Trebizond, a friend of the deposed patriarch of Antioch, Severus, who was at least semi-Monophysite, was elected to the patriarchal throne of New Rome. In the same year Pope Agapetus (534-6) came to Constantinople as an envoy of a Gothic king, and he demanded that Anthimus should make formal profession of orthodoxy. The result was not satisfactory: the new patriarch was condemned by the emperor with the sanction of the pope and the approval of a synod. Justinian then issued a decree condemning Monophysitism, which he ordered the new patriarch to send to the Eastern Churches. Mennas, the successor of Anthimus, in his local synod, had condemned and deposed the Monophysite bishops. The controversy was at an end.

More important in its results was the dispute with the so-called Origenists. S. Sabas came from {16} Palestine in 531 to lay before the emperor the sad tale of the spread of their evil doctrines, but he died in the next year, and the Holy Land remained the scene of strife between the two famous monasteries of the Old and the New Laura. [Sidenote: The Origenists.] In 541 or 542 a synod at Antioch condemned the doctrines of Origen, but the only result was that Jerusalem refused communion with the other Eastern patriarchate. Justinian himself,—at a time when there was at Constantinople an envoy from Rome, Pelagius,—issued a long declaration condemning Origen. A synod was summoned, which formally condemned Origen in person—a precedent for the later anathemas of the Fifth General Council—and fifteen propositions from his writings, ten of them being those which Justinian's edict had denounced. The decisions were sent for subscription to the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, as well as to Rome. This sanction gave something of an universal condemnation of Origenism; but, since no general council confirmed it, it cannot be asserted that Origen lies under anathema as a heretic. The opinion of the legalists of the age was utterly out of sympathy with one who was rather the cause of heresy in others than himself heretical.

[Sidenote: The "Three Chapters."]

But the most important controversy of the reign was that which was concerned with the "Three Chapters." Justinian, who had himself written against the Monophysites, was led aside by an ingenious monk into an attack upon the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa. The Emperor issued an edict (544) in which "Three Chapters" asserted the heresy of the incriminated writings. Within a short {17} time the phrase "The Three Chapters" was applied to the subjects of the condemnation; and the Fifth General Council, followed by later usage, describes as the "Three Chapters" the "impious Theodore of Mopsuestia with his wicked writings, and those things which Theodoret impiously wrote, and the impious letter which is said to be by Ibas." [2]

Justinian's edict was not favourably received: even the patriarch Mennas hesitated, and the papal envoy and some African bishops broke off communion. The Latin bishops rejected it; but the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem gave their adhesion. Justinian summoned Pope Vigilius; and a pitiable example of irresolution he presented when he came. He accepted, rejected, censured, was complacent and hostile in turns. [Sidenote: The Fifth General Council, 553.] At last he agreed to the summoning of a General Council, and Justinian ordered it to meet in May, 553. Vigilius, almost at the last moment, would have nothing to do with it. The patriarch of Constantinople presided, and the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria appeared in person, the patriarch of Jerusalem by three bishops. The acts of the Council were signed by 164 prelates. The Council, like its predecessors, was predominantly Eastern; but its decisions were afterwards accepted by the West. The precedents of the earlier Councils were strictly followed in regard to Rome: no supremacy was allowed though the honourable primacy was not contested.[3] Justinian's letter, sketching the history of the controversy of the Three Chapters, {18} was read, but he did not interfere with the deliberations. It was summoned to deal with matters concerning the faith, and these were always left to the decision of the Episcopate. The discussion was long; and after an exhaustive examination of the writings of Theodore, the Council proceeded to endorse the first "chapter," by the condemnation of the Mopsuestian and his writings. The case of Theodoret was less clear: indeed, a very eminent authority has regarded the action of the Council in his case as "not quite equitable." [4] But the grounds of the condemnation were such statements of his as that "God the Word is not incarnate," "we do not acknowledge an hypostatic union," and his description of S. Cyril as impius, impugnator Christi, novus haereticus, with a denial of the communicatio idiomatum, which left little if any doubt as to his own position.[5] When the letter of Ibas came to be considered, it was plainly shown that its statements were directly contrary to the affirmations of Chalcedon. It denied the Incarnation of the Word, refused the title of Theotokos to the Blessed Virgin, and condemned the doctrines of Cyril. The Council had no hesitation in saying anathema.

Here its work was ended. It had safeguarded the faith by definitely exposing the logical consequences of statements which indirectly impugned the Divine and Human Natures of the Incarnate Son.

[Sidenote: The need for its decisions.]

So long as human progress is based upon intellectual principles as well as on material growth, a teaching body which professes to guard and interpret a Divine Revelation must speak {19} without hesitation when its "deposit" is attacked. The Church has clung, with an inspired sagacity, to the reality of the Incarnation: and thus it has preserved to humanity a real Saviour and a real Exemplar. The subtle brains which during these centuries searched for one joint in the Catholic armour wherein to insert a deadly dart, were foiled by a subtlety as acute, and by deductions and definitions that were logical, rational, and necessary. If the Councils had not defined the faith which had been once for all delivered to the saints, it would have been dissolved little by little by sentimental concessions and shallow inconsistencies of interpretation. It was the work of the Councils to develope and apply the principles furnished by the sacred Scriptures. New questions arose, and it was necessary to meet them: it was clear, then, that there was a real division between those who accepted Christianity in the full logical meaning of the Scriptures, in the full confidence of the Church, and those who doubted, hesitated, denied; and it is clear now that the whole future of Christendom depended upon the acceptance by the Christian nations of a single rational and logically tenable Creed. This involved the rejection of the Three Chapters, as it involved equally the condemnation of Monophysitism and Monothelitism. From the point of view of theology or philosophy the value of the work of the Church in this age is equally great. The heresies which were condemned in the sixth century (as in the seventh) were such as would have utterly destroyed the logical and rational conception of the Person of the Incarnate Son, as the Church had received it by divine inspiration. Some Christian historians may seem for a moment to yield a half {20} assent to the shallow opinions of those who would refuse to go beyond what is sometimes strangely called the "primitive simplicity of the Gospel." But it is impossible in this obscurantist fashion to check the free inquiry of the human intellect. The truths of the Gospel must be studied and pondered over, and set in their proper relation to each other. There must be logical inferences from them, and reasonable conclusions. It is this which explains that struggle for the Catholic Faith of which historians are sometimes impatient, and justifies a high estimate of the services which the Church of Constantinople rendered to the Church Universal.

It is in this light that the work of the Fifth General Council, to be truly estimated, must be regarded. It will be convenient here to summarise the steps by which the Fifth General Council won recognition in the Church.

In the first place, the emperor, according to custom, confirmed what the Council had decreed; and throughout the greater part of the East the decision of Church and State alike was accepted. In 553 there was a formal confirmation by a synod of bishops at Jerusalem; but for the most part there was no need of such pronouncement. African bishops and Syrian monks here and there refused obedience; but the Church as a whole was agreed.

[Sidenote: Pope Vigilius.]

Pope Vigilius, it would seem, was in exile for six months on an island in the Sea of Marmora. On December 8, 553, he formally anathematised the Three Chapters. On February 23, 554, in a Constitution, he announced to the Western bishops his adhesion to the decisions {21} of the General Council. Before the end of 557 he was succeeded, on his death, by Pelagius, well known in Constantinople. He, like Vigilius, had once refused but now accepted the Council.

When Rome and Constantinople were agreed, the adhesion of the rest of the Catholic world was only a question of time. But the time was long. In North Italy there was for long a practical schism, which was not healed till Justin II. issued an explanatory edict,[6] and the genius, spiritual and diplomatic, of Gregory the Great was devoted to the task of conciliation. Still it was not till the very beginning of the eighth century[7] that the last schismatics returned to union with the Church: thus a division in the see of Aquileia, by which for a time there were two rival patriarchates, was closed. Already the rest of Europe had come to peace.

[Sidenote: The Aphthartodocetes.]

The last years of Justinian were disturbed by a new heresy, that of those who taught that the Body of the Lord was incorruptible, and it was asserted that the emperor himself fell into this error. The evidence is slight and contradictory, and the matter is of no importance in the general history of the Church.[8] But it is worth remembering that little more than a century after his death his name was singled out by the Sixth General Council for special honour as of "holy memory." His work, indeed, had been great, as theologian and as Christian emperor; there was no more important or more accurate writer {22} on theology in the East during the sixth century; and he must ever be remembered side by side with the Fifth General Council which he summoned. There were many defects in the Eastern theory of the relations between Church and State; but undoubtedly under such an emperor it had its best chances of success.

[Sidenote: The work of Justinian.]

Justinian has been declared to have forced upon the Empire which he had reunited the orthodoxy of S. Cyril and the Council of Chalcedon, and the attempt has been made to prove that Cyril himself was a Monophysite.[9] The best refutation of this view is the perfect harmony of the decisions of the Fifth General Council with those of the previous Oecumenical assemblies, and the fact that no novelty could be discovered to have been added to "the Faith" when the "Three Chapters" were condemned.

With the close of the Council the definition of Christian doctrine passes into the background till the rise of the Monothelite controversy. When its decisions were accepted, the labours of Justinian had given peace to the churches.

[Sidenote: and his successors.]

From 565, when Justinian died, to 628, when Heraclius freed the Empire from the danger of Persian conquest, were years of comparative rest in the Church. It was a period of missionary extension, of quiet assertion of spiritual authority, in the midst of political trouble and disaster. Gibbon, who asserts that Justinian died a heretic, adds, "The reigns of his four successors, Justin, Tiberius, Maurice, and Phocas, are distinguished by a rare, though fortunate, vacancy in the ecclesiastical history {23} of the East"; and the sarcasm, though not wholly accurate, may serve to express the gradual progress of unity which marked the years up to the accession of Heraclius. The history of religion is concerned rather with those outside than those within the Church. That history we need not follow, and we may pass over this period with only a brief allusion to the development of independence outside the immediate range of the ecclesiastical power of New Rome. [Sidenote: Rise of separated bodies.] Heresies grew as an expression of national independence. The Chaldaean Church, which stretched to Persia and India, was Nestorian. The Monophysites won the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Abyssinian Church, the Jacobites in Syria, the Armenians in the heart of Asia Minor. In the mountains of Lebanon the Monothelites—of whom we have to speak shortly—organised the Maronite Church; and in Georgia the Church was aided by geographical conditions as well as historical development to ignore the overlordship of the Church of Antioch. So in Europe grew up with the new States, the Bulgarian, the Serbian, and the Wallachian Churches.

[Sidenote: Missions and failures.]

It was thus that, alike as statesmen and Christians, the emperors were devoted advocates of missions. Their wars of conquest often—as notably with the great Emperor Heraclius—assumed the character of holy wars. Where the barbarians of the East made havoc there too often the Church fell without leaving a trace of its work. Without priest and sacrament, the people came to retain only among their superstitions, as sometimes in North Africa to-day, usages which showed that once their ancestors belonged to the kingdom of Christ. Much {24} of the missionary work of the period was done by Monophysites; the record of John of Ephesus preserves what he himself did to spread Christianity in Asia. And it would seem that even the most orthodox of emperors was willing to aid in the work of those who did not accept the Council of Chalcedon so long as they earnestly endeavoured to teach the heathen the rudiments of the faith and to love the Lord in incorruptness.

[Sidenote: Organisation of the Church.]

The Church of the period was divided into five patriarchates, the Church of Cyprus being understood to stand apart and autocephalous. Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch still retained their old power, while Jerusalem was regarded as somewhat inferior. The patriarchates were divided into provinces, the capital of each province having its metropolitan bishop. Under him were other bishops, and gradually the title of archbishop was being understood,—as by Justinian in the decree (Novel, xi.) in which he created his birthplace a metropolitan see,—to imply jurisdiction over a number of suffragan sees. Besides this there were still sees autocephalous in the sense that they owned no superior or metropolitan bishop. It would seem from the Synekdemos of Hierocles (c. 535) that in the sixth century the patriarch of Constantinople had under him about thirty metropolitans and some 450 bishops. But the authority which the patriarch exercised was by no means used to minimise that of the bishops. If the influence of the Imperial Court on the patriarchate was always considerable and sometimes overwhelming, Justinian was careful to preserve the independence of the Episcopate and {25} to order that the first steps in the election of bishops should be by the clergy and the chief citizens in each diocese. And, as a letter of S. Gregory shows, the bishops were elected for life; neither infirmity nor old age was regarded as a cause for deposition, and translation from see to see was condemned by many a Council. All the clergy under the rank of bishop might marry, but only before ordination to the higher orders. In the East it would seem that the number of persons connected in some way with ecclesiastical office was very large. Even excluding the monks,—a numerous and continually increasing body—the hermits, the Stylites (who remained for years on a pillar, where they even received Communion, in a special vessel made for the purpose), the different orders of celibate women—there was still a very considerable number of persons attached to all the important churches, in different positions of ministry. The famous poem of Paul the Silentiary on S. Sophia revels in a recital of the number of persons employed as well as in the beauty of the magnificent building itself.

In architecture, indeed, the Byzantine Church of the sixth century was supreme. No more glorious edifice has ever been consecrated to the service of Christ than the Church of the Divine Wisdom at Constantinople; and the arts which enriched it in mosaic, marble, metals, were brought to a perfection which excited the wonder of succeeding centuries. Before we end this sketch of the history of a great age in the life of the Eastern Church, a word must be said about its most splendid and enduring memorial. Among the most striking passages in the {26} chronicles of the age are the famous descriptions by Procopius and by Paul the Silentiary of the splendours of the great church of Constantinople in the sixth century after Christ. [Sidenote: S. Sophia at Constantinople.] In the wonderful art of mosaic, as it may be seen to-day in some of the churches of the New Rome, in S. Sophia—though much there is still covered—and in the Church of the Chora, the West, with all the beauty that we may still see in Ravenna, was never able to equal the East. In solemn grandeur of architecture fitted for open, public, common worship, expressive of the profoundest verities of Christ's Church, it would be difficult to surpass the work of the great age of Byzantine art. Of this S. Sophia, the Church of the Divine Wisdom, at Constantinople, built by the architects of the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, is the most magnificent example. There the eye travels upward, when the great nave is entered from the narthex, from the arches supporting the gallery to those of the gallery itself, from semi-domes larger and larger, up to the great dome itself, an intricate scheme merging in a central unity. "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal" is the exclamation which seems forced from the beholder: never was there a church so vast yet so symmetrical, so admirably designed for the participation of all worshippers in the great act of worship. And the splendid pillars, brought from Baalbek of the old heathen days, wrought on the capitals with intricate carvings, with emblems and devices and monograms, the finely decorated doors, and the gigantic mosaic seraphim on the walls, still in the twentieth century dimly image something of the glowing worship of the {27} sixth. Then the "splendour of the lighted space," glittering with thousands of lights, gave "shine unto the world," and guided the seafarers as they went forth "by the divine light of the Church itself." Traveller after traveller, chronicler after chronicler, records impressions of the glory and beauty that belonged to the great Mother Church of the Byzantine rite. Historically, perhaps no church in the world has seen, at least in the Middle Ages, so many scenes that belonged to the deepest crises of national life. From the day when the great emperor who built it prostrated himself before God as unworthy to make the offering of so much beauty, to the day when Muhammad the conqueror (says the legend) rode in over the heaps of Christian dead, it was the centre, and the mirror, of the Church's life in the capital of the Empire. And that is what the worship of the East has always striven to express. It is immemorial, conservative beyond anything that the West can tolerate or conceive; but it belongs, in the present as in the past, to the closest thoughts, the most intimate experiences, of men to whom religion is indeed the guide of life. The Church of S. Sophia, the worship of the East, are the living memorials of the great age of the great Christian emperor and theologian of the sixth century.

And the fact that this building was due to the genius and power not of the Church, but of Justinian, leads us back to the significance of the State authority in the ecclesiastical history of the East.

As it was said in England that kings were the Church's nursing fathers, so in the Eastern Empire might the same text be used in rather a different {28} sense. The Church was in power before the Empire was Christian; but the Christian Empire was ever urgent to proclaim its attachment to the Church and to guarantee its protection. The imperial legislation of the great lawgiver began always in the name of the Lord, and the code emphasised as the foundation of society and civil law the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and of Christ. And step by step the great emperor endeavoured, in matters of morality and of gambling, to enforce the moral laws of the Church. Works of charity and mercy were undertaken by Church and State, hand in hand, and the noble buildings which marked the magnificent period of Byzantine architecture were the works of a society which, from the highest to the lowest member, was penetrated by Christian ideals. Thus, very briefly, we may epitomise the work of the first period we have mentioned. A word must be said later of later times.

[1] Mansi, Concilia, ix. 384. The phrase was preserved in the Hymn 'O onogenes, which was inserted in the Mass, and the composition of which is ascribed to Justinian himself.

[2] Mansi, ix. 181.

[3] Cf. Nicaea, Canon vi.; Constantinople, Canons ii. and iii.; Ephesus, Canon viii.; Chalcedon, Canons ix. and xvii.

[4] Dr. W. Bright, Waymarks in Church History, p. 238.

[5] See Hefele, History of the Councils (Eng. trans.), iv. 311.

[6] Given in Evagrius, v. 4.

[7] A.D. 700, Mansi, Concilia, xii. 115.

[8] See Gibbon, ed. J. B. Bury, vol. v. pp. 139, 140, 522, 523; and W. H. Hutton, The Church of the Sixth Century, pp. 204-240, 303-309.

[9] Cf. Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, ii. pp. 396, 396, 399, etc.




[Sidenote: The end of the Empire in the West, 476.]

The death of S. Leo took place but a few years before the Roman Empire in the West became extinguished, and political interests entirely submerged those of religion in the years that followed it. Dimly, beneath the noise of the barbarian triumph, we discern the survival in Rome of the Church's powers and claims; but it is not till the rise of another pope of mighty genius that they claim any consideration as important. In 461 died S. Leo; in 476 Romulus Augustulus, the last of the continuous line of Western Caesars, surrendered his sceptre to the Herul Odowakar. The barbarian governed with the aid of Roman statesmen: he fixed his seat of rule at Ravenna rather than at Rome: he showed consideration to the saintly Epiphanius, Bishop of Pavia: heretic though he was, he desired to keep well with the Catholic bishops of Rome. After him came a greater man, Theodoric the Goth, whose capture of Ravenna, March 5th, 493, was followed by the assassination of Odowakar. [Sidenote: Theodoric the Goth, 493.] Theodoric, also an Arian, became sole ruler of Italy. He too was served by Roman officials, and his administration was modelled on that of the Caesars. A special interest attaches to his {30} dealings with the Church. The king, indeed, Arian though he was, looked on the Catholic Church with no unfriendly eye. His great minister, Cassiodorus, was orthodox: and it is in his writings, which enshrine the policy of his master, that we must search for the relations between Church and State in the days before Belisarius had won back Ravenna and Italy to the allegiance of the Roman Caesar.

The letters of Cassiodorus supply, if not a complete account, at least very valuable illustrations, of the position assumed by the East Gothic power under Theodoric and his successors in regard to the Church. The favour shown by the Ostrogoth sovereign to Cassiodorus, a staunch Catholic, yet senator, consul, patrician, quaestor, and praetorian praefect, is in itself an illustration of the absence of bitter Arian feeling. [Sidenote: His relation with the Catholic Church.] This impression is deepened by a perusal of the letters which Cassiodorus wrote in the name of his sovereign. The subjects in which the Church is most frequently related to the State are jurisdiction and property. In the latter there seems a clear desire on the part of the kings to give security and to act even with generosity to all religious bodies, Catholic as well as Arian. Church property was frequently, if not always, freed from taxation.[1] The principle which dictated the whole policy of Theodoric is to be seen in a letter to Adila, senator and comes.[2] "Although we will not that any should suffer any wrong whom it belongs to our religious obligation to protect, since the free tranquillity of the subjects is the glory of the ruler; yet especially do we desire that all churches {31} should be free from any injury, since while they are in peace the mercy of God is bestowed on us." Therefore he orders all protection to be given to the churches: yet answer is to be made in the law courts to any suit against them. For, as he says in another letter, "if false claims may not be tolerated against men, how much less against God." Again, "If we are willing to enrich the Church by our own liberality, a fortiori will we not allow it to be despoiled of the gifts received from pious princes in the past."

It was on such liberality that the material power of the Church was slowly strengthening itself. Similarly, as in the East, clerical privilege was beginning to be allowed in the law courts: the Church was acquiring the right to judge all cases in which her officers were concerned. Theodoric's successors bettered his instructions. Athalaric allowed to the Roman pope the jurisdiction over all suits affecting the Roman clergy.

[Sidenote: Weakness of the Church.]

But this picture of toleration and privilege which we obtain from the official letters of Cassiodorus, cannot be regarded as a complete description of the attitude of the East Gothic rule towards the Catholic Church. Pope after pope was the humble slave of the Gothic ruler. They were sent to Constantinople as his envoys, and though they stood firm for the Catholic faith and in rejection of all compromise with regard to the doctrine of Chalcedon, they were entirely impotent in Italy itself. Catholic Italy was at the feet of the Arian Goth. The cruel imprisonment of Pope John, used as a political tool in 525 and flung away when he proved ineffective, gave a new martyr to the Roman calendar; and, in spite of {32} the absence of direct evidence, it is difficult to regard the executions of Symmachus and of Boethius as entirely unconnected with religions questions. Both were Catholics; both, to use Mr. Hodgkin's words,[3] "have been surrounded by a halo of fictitious sanctity as martyrs to the cause of Christian orthodoxy." The father-in-law, "lest, through grief for the loss of his son-in-law, he should attempt anything against his kingdom," Theodoric "caused to be accused and ordered him to be slain." [4] Boethius, who wrote the most famous work of the Early Middle Age, The Consolation of Philosophy, a book which became the delight of Christian scholars, of monks and kings, was translated by Alfred the West Saxon, and formed the foundation of very much of the Christian thought of many succeeding generations, met a horrible death in 526 on a charge of corresponding with the orthodox Emperor Justin. No doubt the main reason for the butchery was political; but it is impossible in this age wholly to separate religion from politics; especially when we read, in almost immediate conjunction with the story of the murder of these men, that Theodoric ordered that on a certain day the Arians should take possession of all the Catholic basilicas. It was not until the Gothic power had finally fallen, and Narses had reestablished the imperial power, that the life and property of Catholics were absolutely safe.

The death of Theodoric (August 30, 526) was followed by the downfall of his power. Within ten years all Italy was won back to the Roman and Catholic Empire ruling from the East.


[Sidenote: The imperial restoration, 554.]

With the restoration of the imperial power the Church came to the front more prominently. So long as Justinian reigned the popes were kept in subjection; but ecclesiastics generally were admitted to a large share in judicial and political power. The emperors looked for their strongest political support in the Catholic party. Suppression of Arianism became a political necessity at Ravenna. Justinian gave to Agnellus the churches of the Arians. [Sidenote: The Pragmatic Sanction.] In 554 the emperor issued his solemn Pragmatic Sanction for the government of Italy. Of this, Section XII. gives a power to the bishops which shows the intimate connection between State and Church. "Moreover we order that fit and proper persons, able to administer the local government, be chosen as iudices of the provinces by the bishops and chief persons of each province from the inhabitants of the province itself." This is important, of course, as allowing popular elections, but far more important in its recognition of the position of the clerical estate. Justinian's new administration of Italy was to be military; but hardly less was it to be ecclesiastical. Here we have, says Mr. Hodgkin,[5]—whose words I quote because I can find none better to express what seems to me to be the significance of this act—"a pathetic confession of the emperor's own inability to cope with the corruption and servility of his civil servants. He seems to have perceived that in the great quaking bog of servility and dishonesty by which he felt himself to be surrounded, his only sure standing-ground was to be found in the spiritual estate, the order of men who wielded a power {34} not of this world, and who, if true to their sacred mission, had nothing to fear and little to hope from the corrupt minions of the court." This is significant in regard to the rise of the power of the popes in the Western capital of the Empire and in the whole of Italy. It was by the good deeds of the clergy, and by the need of them, that they came forward before long as the masters of the country.

This rule of the Pragmatic Sanction was not an isolated instance; at every point the bishop was placed en rapport with the State, with the provincials, and with the exarch himself.[6] In jurisdiction, in advice, from the moment when he assisted at a new governor's installation, the bishop was at the side of the lay officer, to complain and even, if need be, to control.

One power still remained to the emperor himself (in the seventh century it was transferred to the exarch)—that of confirming the election of the pope. Narses seated Pelagius on the papal throne; but when one as mighty as the "eunuch general" arose in Gregory the Great, the power of the exarchate passed, slowly but surely, into the hands of the papacy. The changes of rulers in Italy, the policies of the falling Goths and of the rising Roman Empire, found their completion in the effects of the Lombard invasion. But before this there were thirty years of growth for the Church, and the growth was due very largely to a new force, though for a while it remained below the surface. It was the power of the monastic life, realised anew by the genius and holiness of S. Benedict of Nursia. {35} [Sidenote: The work of S. Benedict.] Born about 480, of noble parentage, he gave himself from early years to serve God "in the desert." At about the age of fifteen he is spoken of by his biographer, the great S. Gregory, in words which might form the motto of his life, as "sapienter indoctus." First, a solitary at Subiaco; then the unwilling abbat of a neighbouring monastery, whose monks endeavoured to kill him; then again living "by himself in the sight of Him who seeth all things"; at last, in 529, he founded in Campania the monastery of Monte Cassino, the mother of all the revived monasticism of the Middle Age.

[Sidenote: His rule.]

The monastery of Monte Cassino became a pattern of the religious life. S. Benedict was a wise and statesmanlike ruler, to whom men came with confidence from every rank and every race, to be his disciples, or to place their boys under him for instruction. The rule which he drew up was as potent in the ecclesiastical world as was the code of Justinian in the civil. It had its bases in the root ideas of obedience, simplicity, and labour. "Never to depart from the governance of God" was his primary maxim to his monks; and a monastery was to be a "school of the Lord's service" and a "workshop of the spiritual art." The beginning of all was to be prayer. "Inprimis ut quidquid agendum inchoas bonum, a Deo perfici instantissima oratione deposcas." And though absolute power was left, without appeal, in the hands of the abbat, and the rule of the whole house was to be "nullus in monasterio proprii sequatur cordis voluntatem," yet great individual liberty was left to each monk in the direction of his own religious {36} life. Everyone, he knew, had "his own gift of God"—some could fast more than others; some could spend more time in silent prayer and meditation; and none could do any good, he knew, however strict their outer rule, without daily enlightenment from God. There was place in his scheme for those whose work was chiefly manual, those who reclaimed uncultivated lands and turned the wilderness into a garden of the Lord, and for those who spent long hours in contemplation and prayer. The public solemn singing of offices was no more characteristic of his rule than was the following of the hermits in pure prayer.

One who would be admitted to the monastery must take oath before the whole community that he intended constantly to remain firm in his profession, to live a life of conversion to God, and to obey those set over him, but the last only "according to the rule." True monks were his followers to count themselves only if they lived by the labours of their hands. Idleness, said Benedict, is the enemy of the soul. The life of the monks was ascetic, but without the extreme rigour of the earlier "religious"—hermits and coenobites. The rule required austerities, and gave strict injunction as to food at all times, and especially in Lent; but it did not encourage voluntary austerities beyond the rule, and it admitted many relaxations for the old, the infirm, or those whose labours were especially hard.

Where all depended so much on a superior it was of especial importance that he should be wisely chosen and should rule wisely. In three things he was to be pre-eminent—exhortation, example, and prayer; and prayer, says the saint, is the greatest of these; for {37} although there be much virtue in exhortation and example, yet prayer is that which promotes grace and efficacy alike in deed and word. He was to recognise no difference of social rank. Good deeds and obedience were to be the only ways to his favour. Only if exceptional merit required promotion was there to be any breach of the proper order in which each should hold his place, "since, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ, and, under the same Lord, wear all of us the same badge of service."

In a cell hard by the monastery dwelt Benedict's sister, S. Scholastica, whose religious life he directed, but whom he rarely saw, and who became a pattern to nuns as he to monks.

[Sidenote: Its wide influence.]

The influence of Benedict was, even in his own lifetime, extraordinary. There were times when it might almost be said that all Italy looked to him for guidance; and there is no more striking scene in the history of the decaying Gothic power than when the cruel Totila, whose end he foresaw, and the secrets of whose heart lay open to his gaze, visited him in his monastery and heard the words of truth from his lips. When, fortified by the Body and Blood of the Lord, he passed away with hands still uplifted in prayer, he had created a power which did more than any other to make the Church predominant in Italy. The rule, the definite organisations, of monasticism came to the world from Italy and from Benedict. Though the Benedictines were never actively papal agents, yet indirectly, by their training and by their influence on the whole nature of medieval religion, they formed a strong support for the growing power of the Roman see.


But Benedict was not the only leader, though he was the greatest, in the monastic revival of the sixth century. With another great name his work may be placed to some extent in contrast.

[Sidenote: Scholarship and learning.]

S. Benedict was no advocate of exclusively ecclesiastical study. He adapted the ancient literatures to the purposes of Christian education. It is true that the main subjects of study for his monks were the Holy Scriptures, and the chief object the edification of the individual by meditation and of the people by preaching; but the monks learnt to write verse correctly and prose in what had claims to be considered a style. Yet what he himself did in that direction was little indeed. Perhaps the most that can be said is that he left the way open to his successors. And of these the greatest was Cassiodorus.

[Sidenote: Cassiodorus.]

Cassiodorus, the statesman, the orthodox adviser and friend of the Arian Theodoric, lived to become a Christian teacher and a monk. The friend of Pope Agapetus, he endeavoured with his sanction in 535 to set up a school in Rome which should give to Christians "a liberal education." The pope's death, a year later, prevented the scheme being carried out. But a few years later, in the monastery of Vivarium near Squillace, he set himself to found a religious house which should preserve the ancient culture. Based on a sound knowledge of grammar, on a collation and correction of texts, on a study of ancient models in prose and verse, he would raise an education through "the arts and disciplines of liberal letters," for, he said, "by the study of secular literature our minds are trained to understand the Scriptures {39} themselves." That was the supreme end at Squillace, as it was at Monte Cassino; and though Cassiodorus looked at letters differently from Benedict, his work, too, was important in founding a tradition for Italian monasticism.

[Sidenote: Weakness of the papacy under Pelagius, 555-60.]

While monasticism was transforming Italy and placing Catholicism on a firm basis in the Western lands of the Empire, the power of the papal see, when Rome was reconquered by the imperial forces from Constantinople, seemed to sink to the lowest depths. The papacy under Vigilius (537-55) and Pelagius (555-60) was the servant of the Byzantine Caesars. The history of the controversies in which each pope was engaged, the scandal of their elections, there is no need to relate here. Suffice it to say that the decisions of the Fifth General Council were in no way the work of either, but were eventually accepted by both. The self-contradictions of Vigilius are pitiable; and the acceptance of Pelagius by the Romans was only won by his rejecting a formal statement of his predecessor.

Consecrated only by two bishops[7] on Easter Day, 556, he began a pontificate which was from the first disputed and even despised. The Archbishop of Milan and the patriarch of Aquileia would not communicate with him. In Gaul he was received with suspicion, and he was obliged to write to King Childebert, submitting to him a profession of his faith.[8] It is clear that the Gallican Church no more than the Lombard regarded {40} the pope as ipso facto orthodox or the guardian of orthodoxy. Even this letter of Pelagius was not regarded as satisfactory. It was long before the Churches entered into communion with him; and even to the last, the northern sees of Italy refused. He ruled, unquietly enough, for four years; and died, leaving a memory free at least from simony, and honoured as a lover of the poor.

Under him, as under Vigilius, the papacy had been compelled to submit to the judgment of the East. "The Church of Rome," says Mgr. Duchesne, "was humiliated." [9]

The lives of these two popes cover the most important period in the ecclesiastical history of the sixth century. After the death of Pelagius I., and up to the accession of Gregory the Great in 590, the interest of Italian history is political rather than ecclesiastical. The emperors tried to rule, through their exarchs at Ravenna, from Constantinople. The papacy grew quietly in power. Then came the Lombards and a new era began.

[1] So Var., i. 26, ed. Mommsen, p. 28.

[2] ii. 29, p. 63.

[3] Italy and her Invaders, vol. iii. p. 516.

[4] Anonymus Valesii.

[5] Italy and her Invaders, vol. vi. p. 528.

[6] Instances are collected by M. Diehl, Etudes sur l'administration byzantine dans l'exarchat de Ravenne, p. 320.

[7] Et dum nou essent episcopi qui cum ordinarent, inventi sunt duo episcopi, Johannes de Perusia et Bonus de Ferentino, et Andreas presbiter de Hostis, et ordinaverunt eum.—Liber Pontificalis, i. 303.

[8] Migne, Patr. Lat., tom. lxix. p. 402.

[9] Revue des Questions Historiques, Oct. 1884, p. 439.




A very special interest belongs to the history of Christianity in Gaul. There is no more striking example of what the Church did to bridge over the gulf between the old culture and the barbarians.

[Sidenote: Roman Gaul.]

Among early Christian martyrs few are more renowned than those who died in Southern Gaul. Paganism lived on, concealed, in many country districts, but the life and power and thought of the people became by the time of Constantine, by the fourth century, entirely Christian. As the state organised so did the Church. Gaul had seventeen provincial governments; it came to have seventeen archbishops, and under them bishops for each great city. On the Roman empire and the Christian Church the foundations were laid; and they were laid firm.

[Sidenote: The barbarian invasions.]

At the beginning of the fifth century a terrible storm swept over the land. It was the storm of Teutonic invasion. Vandals, Burgundians, Alans, Suevi poured over the land; the Huns followed them, only to be beaten back by a union of the other tribes. Then, after the Battle of Chalons (451), there gradually rose out {42} of the Teutonic conquerors the conquering power of one tribe, that of the Franks.

[Sidenote: The Church in Gaul.]

By the first ten years of the sixth century Gaul was united again, under the rule of Chlodowech (Clovis), King of the Franks. Till well on in the Middle Ages it was that title which the rulers of Gaul always bore, "Rex Francorum," King of the Franks. France to-day still dates her existence as a nation from the baptism of Clovis. It was that, his admission into the Catholic Christianity of the Gauls over whom he ruled, which enlisted on the side of the Frankish power all the culture and civilisation which had never died out since the Roman days. Under the fostering care of the Church it had survived. Brotherhood, charity, compassion, unity, all the great ideas which the Church cherished, were to work in long ages the transformation of the Frankish kingship. And when Chlodowech became king under the blessing of the Church, which had survived all through these centuries since it was planted under the Romans, the fusion of races soon followed. The French nation as we now know it is not merely Celtic, or Gaulish, but Roman too, and lastly Frankish—that is, Teutonic.

[Sidenote: The baptism of Chlodowech, 496.]

The history of the baptism of Chlodowech is one of the most dramatic in the annals of the early Middle Age. His wife, Chrotechild, was the niece of the Burgundian king, and she was a devout Catholic. Slowly she won her way to his heart. Never, said the chroniclers, did she cease to persuade him that he should serve the true God; and when in the crisis of a battle against the Alamanni he called her words to mind, he vowed to {43} be baptised if Christ should give him the victory. The legend adorns the historic fact that Chlodowech was baptised by S. Remigius at Rheims, on Christmas Day, 496, and that some three thousand of his warriors were baptised with him. "Bow thy neck, O Sigambrian," said the prelate, "adore that which thou hast burned and burn that which thou hast adored." Within a generation all races of the Franks had followed the Frankish king.

[Sidenote: The dark days of the Merwings.]

The years that followed were full of growth. But for long the Christianity which was nominally triumphant was imperfect indeed. Chlodowech died in 511; his race went on ruling, Catholic in name but very far from obedient to the Church's laws. The tale of their successors, their wars and their crimes, is one which belongs to social or political history, not to the history of the Church. The Church's life was lived underground in the slow progress of Christian ideas. Chlothochar, sole ruler of the Franks, died in 561. How little had the half-century accomplished. Then came an age of division, murders, horrors, in which the names of great ladies stand out as at least the equals of their lords in crime. Predegund, who became the wife of Chilperich of Neustria, and Brunichildis, the wife first of Sigebert of Austrasia, and then of Merovech, Chilperich's son, were rivals in wickedness. The horrors of those days are recorded in the history of Gregory, who ruled over the see of Tours from 573 to 595. It was an age in which, while the rulers were Christian in name, and the land was mapped out into sees ruled by Christian bishops, and monasteries were springing up to teach {44} the young and to set an example of religious life, the general atmosphere was almost avowedly pagan. Men said, tells Gregory, that "if a man has to pass between pagan altars and God's church there is no harm in his paying homage to both," and the lives of such men showed that it is impossible to serve God and Mammon.

Yet for a century and a half the Merwings, descendants of Chlodowech, had among them strong rulers, great conquerors, men of iron as well as men of blood. Early in the seventh century, from 628 to 638, there ruled in Gaul Dagobert, the greatest of the Merwing kings. His rule extended from the Pyrenees to the North Sea, from the ocean to the forests of Thuringia and Bohemia. He was "ruler of all Gaul and the greater part of Germany, very influential in the affairs of Spain, victorious over Slavs and Bulgarians, and at home a great king, encouraging commerce and putting into better shape the law codes of his subjects."

[Sidenote: Break up of their kingdom.]

That was the culmination of the Merwing power. The seventh century saw its decay, and a new step towards the medieval monarchy of the Franks. Two causes effected the fall of the Merwings—their own vices and the growth of feudalism with the creation of great local lords. These threatened to break up the kingdom of Chlodowech into small states, to disintegrate and thus destroy the united nation of the Franks.

The first cause is one which it is difficult to exaggerate. We read in the pages of that great historian and great bishop, Gregory of Tours, the terrible tale of their crimes, their brutal luxury, their lust for blood, the {45} unbridled licence of their passions. That was the record of the days of their decay. There was, however, even at the best a great change from the times of Roman rule. For civilisation, literary culture, law, we find substituted in the pages of Gregory of Tours savagery, scenes of brutality, drunkenness, robbery. Law and civilisation seem to sleep. It was in this state of the country, when every man's hand was against his neighbour, when law was unheard amid the strife, that feudalism arose, a natural development of the desire for self-preservation, which led to associations to supply the mutual protection which there was no strength behind the law to enforce. In all these movements the Church had an active part. [Sidenote: The influence of the Church.] It was her principles of association which taught men the idea of unity, of bonds by which personal security should be based on new guarantees amid the weakness of government and the neglect of law. The Church held the tradition of a civilisation the barbarians had never known, and in her own moral teaching she set forth the way to an ideal state which should combine all the elements of strength. The growth of the Frankish nation was guided almost entirely by the Church.

Feudalism, Roman administration and law, Christian faith and discipline—these three factors were at work throughout the Dark Ages from the fifth to the ninth century: and they were all—the last two most especially—under the direction of the Church. And first and most obviously the monarchy of the Merwings was a patent imitation of the Roman Empire. The clergy had maintained the imperial tradition. It was they who taught the sovereigns to replace the emperors {46} and to produce around them the illusion of a Roman rule. They employed officers with the same titles, centred their administration in their household, claimed and exercised unlimited power. No power above them did they recognise, save only, when they would listen to their teachers, the power of the love—more often the fear—of God. The barbarian invasions that had swept over the land had destroyed the local, as well as the central administration. At Arles survived the relics of the old Roman functionaries of the prefecture; but in the land of the Franks the whole system had to be reconstructed from the tradition of which the Church was the faithful guardian.

[Sidenote: Relations with the Eastern Empire.]

Thus the real aim of Chlodowech and his successors was not to conquer the Roman Empire, not to substitute a Teutonic power for a Roman one; but to take the place of the empire in Gaul, to succeed to its heritage, to re-establish its authority, under Frankish kings. Thus when the Empire of the West had ceased to be, the Frankish kings sought titles and alliances from the emperors who still ruled at Constantinople. It is a significant characteristic, indeed, of the Merwing monarchy that it kept up close relations with the distant Roman Empire in the East, that the Frankish kings professed to be the loyal allies, as they were often the formally adopted sons, of the Roman emperors and the consuls of the republic.

The Frankish kings, by their Christianity, imperfect though it was, were admitted to fellowship with the central power of the Christian world, with emperor at Byzantium and pope at Rome.

"Gaul was really independent of the empire in all {47} respects," [1] and it is not there that we should seek for ecclesiastical relations with Constantinople. But there can be no question that the Catholicism of the Franks owed something to Eastern influences. There are points in the Gallican ritual which are distinctly Byzantine, and must belong to this period. Chlodowech, as an ally rather than a subject, and not least, perhaps, because he was a Catholic, received the dignity of the consulate from Anastasius.[2] And in the reign of the great Justinian the Merwings looked to the emperor for recognition and support. Theodebert, his "son," accepted a commission to propagate the Catholic faith in the imperial name.[3] Bishops, too, who might be in need of advice and consolation, applied naturally to Constantinople. Nicetius, Bishop of Trier, that "man of highest sanctity, admirable in preaching, and renowned for good works," [4] persecuted by Chlothochar and his men, wrote naturally to the holy and orthodox emperor, "dominus semper suus." In the midst of barbarities scarce conceivable,[5] the finest characters were trained by the simple verities of the Catholic faith, to which they clung with an extraordinary tenacity. Nor is this anywhere more strongly shown than in the history of the Franks. Of the meaning of the great struggle of Catholicism against Arianism, and of its immense personal value, the histories afford many instances. There is an eloquent passage in {48} [Sidenote: The strength of the Catholic faith among the Franks.] Mr. Hodgkin's Italy and her Invaders[6] which I cannot forbear to quote. "In the previous generation both Brunichildis and Galswintha had easily conformed to the Catholic faith of their affianced husbands. Probably the councillors of Leovigild expected that a mere child like Ingunthis would without difficulty make the converse change from Catholicism back into Arianism. This was ever the capital fault of the Arian statesmen, that, with all their religious bitterness, they could not comprehend that the profession of faith, which was hardly more than a fashion to most of themselves, was a matter of life and death to their Catholic rivals. Here, for instance, was their own princess, Brunichildis, reared in Arianism, converted to the orthodox creed, clinging to it tenaciously through all the perils and adversities of her own stormy career, and able to imbue the child-bride, her daughter, with such an unyielding devotion to the faith of Nicaea, that not one of all the formidable personages whom she met in her new husband's home could avail to move her by one hair's breadth towards 'the Arian pravity.'"

It was the strength of the Catholicism of those who were trained in it and by it, seen in Spain and Gaul as well as in Italy, which drew the Frankish churchmen naturally towards the great witnessing power of the Roman bishop. The pontificate of Gregory the Great affords significant illustrations of this influence.

From 595 the letters of S. Gregory show a continual interest in Gaul. A good deal of it is personal, concerned with the management of papal estates or with {49} the relations of particular persons towards the pope himself. [Sidenote: Gregory the Great and Gaul.] But Gregory was careful to assert a very special connection between Rome and the "lands of the Gauls" in all ecclesiastical matters. The Roman Church was the mother to whom they applied in time of need.[7] Gregory gave the pallium to Vergilius, bishop of the ancient city of Arles, and with it the position of papal vicar within the kingdoms of Burgundy, Austrasia, and Aquitaine. He recognised the terrible laxity of the Gallican Church: the clergy were negligent, simoniacal, vicious; laymen were often consecrated to the episcopate. He gave counsel freely to the kings: Childebert he warmly commended: Brunichild, whose tenacious adherence to the Catholic faith he knew, while he probably knew but little of her personal character, he wrote to with paternal affection, granted the pallium at her request and that of Gallican bishops to S. Syagrius, Bishop of Autun, and appealed to her as one who had the will as well as the power to reform abuses, remove scandals, and destroy paganism. He set himself determinedly to work against the taint of money which hung over the whole Church. He earnestly pleaded for the expulsion of "these detestable evils," for the summoning of a synod which should reform the whole Church. He pleaded in vain; but his work was not without lasting results. He founded the alliance between the papacy and the Frankish kings which was to be so fruitful in later history. And he founded it not with a political but with an entirely religious object. Through the court he hoped to reform the Church. He saw how closely Church and State were {50} linked together, and he thought that he could make the kings act as rulers who set the Church's interest always first. It has been well said that his work, though the Church long remained corrupt, was not in vain. "He succeeded in establishing a regular intercourse between himself and the churches of Gaul, especially in the cities of the east and south; he fixed a tradition of friendship between the apostolic see and the Frank princes; he held up an ideal of Christianity before a savage and half-pagan people; and he caused the name of bishop to be once more reverenced in a land where it had grown to be almost synonymous with avarice, lawlessness, and corrupt ambition. If Gregory did no more than this he accomplished enough. Though his work was not rich in definite results at the moment, yet afterwards, in the reign of Charlemagne, its effects became manifest." [8]

[Sidenote: Relations of the Frankish Church with Rome.]

At the same time the Frankish Church undoubtedly maintained a position distinctly independent of Rome. Arles never really became a papal vicariate. Gregory's endeavours were fruitless in practical result.[9] The Gallican churches continued to be governed by their bishops, with every degree of local variety, not by the pope. Gregory rather set forth an ideal than established a subordination. His influence was personal not constitutional, and it was not strong. Yet in the days between Gregory and Charles the Great the links connecting Rome with Gaul were not weakened. Later on they were to be strengthened still more by the growth of a reformed monasticism, which gave support {51} to the papacy while yet it looked to the popes for guidance. But meanwhile the influence of individual ecclesiastics in Gaul must not be forgotten. As was so often the case in medieval Europe, an age of wickedness presents, in the chronicles and biographies, a very large proportion of lives which received the praise of sanctity. Bishops, anchorites, monks, often, it would seem, rose far above the standard of their day: men noted their lives with awe and remembered them with reverence. They moved in a society of curious complexity.

[Learning at the court of the Merwings.]

Venantius Fortunatus, who dedicated his poems to Gregory the Great, and was "the great man of letters of his age," was a poet, but a Christian poet—a writer of letters, but a close friend of holy souls, and notably of S. Radegund, the exiled princess and saint.[10] We learn from him that even in those days of blood there was a literary society at the Frankish courts, and the savage king Chilperich made pretence to be a writer, a theologian, and even a poet, though Gregory of Tours assures us that he had not the least notion of prosody.

Venantius Fortunatus and his literary friends, Chilperich and his obsequious courtiers, link us to another and more notable name. To one bishop, who achieved canonisation, we owe very much of what we know of the history of those times.

Gregory of Tours wrote memoirs which "are those of a man who has played a great part in the State. At the same time he has the sense for interesting {52} things, miracles, and adventures, which is sometimes wanting in historians." [11]

[Sidenote: Gregory of Tours.]

We learn from his books that he had been trained in classic learning, and that the bishops of the day did not turn aside from the pagan classics. It is quite clear that his education was not merely theological or even exclusively Christian. Other writers he refers to, but with Vergil he certainly was familiar. And it is difficult to believe that he stood alone, bitterly though he complained of the ignorance of his contemporaries. The very fact that Gregory the Great denounced the custom of bishops studying and teaching classical grammar and classical fables, shows that the education of those days was not very closely confined. And of its results, seen also in a goodly list of clerical men of letters, Gregory of Tours is perhaps the best example.

He was before all things a bishop; he wrote indeed, as a French writer has happily said, "en eveque"; but he was also a statesman and a very keen observer of life. From his pages we learn how slight had been the impression that Christianity had yet made on the lives of barbarous men. We see kings still wondering that God's power could be greater than their own, yet when they were awoke to terror by the thought of death flying in craven fear to the feet of the minister of God. The whole history is a tale of treacheries and murders, of quarrels and of sins among men and women pledged to God; and yet it is evident that behind the cruelty and crime there was a new spirit at work, slowly transforming society by the conversion of individuals. It was a transformation {53} which was going on all over Europe; nowhere at this time, perhaps, more conspicuously than in Gaul and in Ireland. There are many parallels between the Celtic "age of saints" and the Merwing age of sinners. It is difficult to learn the full truth about either; but out of the darkness comes the conspicuous witness of individual saints. Of one or two of these a word may be said. Most notable is one who served both Ireland and Gaul.

[Sidenote: S. Columban (540-615).]

The figure of the great Irish monk Columban is a light in the darkness of the gross and cruel Merwing age. Born about 540, he died in 615, after a life of achievement and hardness such as was given to few of his time. He died at Bobbio, crowned with the halo of heroism and sanctity; but he was born in distant Ireland, and the main work of his life had been to introduce into Gaul the monastic movement which was led in Italy by S. Benedict. During the intellectual and moral weakness which the barbarian invasions brought upon the West the Church in Ireland appeared to stand forth resplendent in the security of her faith and virtue and in the cultivation of learning. In the warm Celtic nature the Gospel, so late introduced, had found a natural home. The monasteries which rose all over the land, with the huts of hermits and the cells of anchorites, were the seed-plots of religion and sacred lore. The community life of Christian religious was naturally grafted on to the old Druid stock. The tribes of the Goidels became the monasteries; the head of the family was the abbat; the country looked everywhere to the monks for leadership. Thus Armagh and Emly, Clonard, Ennismore, Clonfert, Clonmacnoise, {54} Bangor, arose to teach and govern the Church. Their monks lived by severe rule, based, no doubt, upon the customs of the East, of Egypt or Syria, most strict in the abasement of the selfish will, in penitence, in work, in prayer. "Good is the rule of Bangor," said the ancient sequence, "strait, austere, holy, and just." It was this rule, with the enthusiasm which marked all classes for religion and for knowledge, which inspired S. Columban in his great work. It was a work whose keynote was sacred study and which found its harmony in monastic service. S. Columban was the type, the representative par excellence, of the Irish monk, in his high idealism, his thirst for self-sacrifice, his adventurous and missionary spirit.

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