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7-08-2015, 20:55

Revitalising the church of constantinople

The Isaurians’ religious policy was not limited exclusively to iconoclasm, although this was its major feature. It also had international ramifications, defending and extending the rights of the church of Constantinople. Thus, relations with the pope were always connected with imperial policy in Italy; Rome was subject to the empire, at least until 751, when the exarchate of Ravenna was seized by the Lombards. Indeed, according to Theophanes, Leo III’s iconoclasm was the reason why Italy seceded.144 But the Roman Liber pontificalis reports thatGregory II was initially opposed to the emperor’s attempt to bring the taxes of the province of Rome into line with those of the other provinces, particularly those payable by the churches; it was only later – at some indeterminate date after 725 – thatGregory refused the emperor’s demand that he should accept iconoclasm. The reaction of Leo III to papal opposition, which stiffened after the silention of the Nineteen Couches and Germanos’ resignation, was highly effective. The church of Rome was deprived of the patrimony of St Peter both in Sicily, where imperial strat¯egoi had been sent since the end of the seventh century, and in Calabria, which was dependent on the strat¯egos of Sicily.145 Thus after 732–3 the income from certain estates traditionally allocated to the church of Rome for, amongst other things, the lighting of places of worship and maintenance of the poor, reverted to the central tax administration – a hefty annual sum of some 350 pounds of gold, or 25,200 nomismata.146 This measure perhaps explains the relatively high number of issues from the mint at Syracuse, in a period of general monetary restriction. The mint never struck silver coins, only copper and gold, and in fractions of the nomisma that had disappeared in the rest of the empire; although devalued after 820, this coinage circulated throughout Europe as far as the Crimea.147 In 743, Constantine V partially compensated Gregory III’s successor, Zacharias (741–52), for the loss incurred by the reallocation of these revenues by granting him the estates ofNinfa andNorma to the south of Rome. Lying between the hills of Volsci and the sea, they were not far from Terracina andGaeta which were later claimed by the duchy ofNaples, when it was an ally of the Byzantines.148 Finally, Leo III decided to harmonise political and ecclesiastical structures – probably in tandem with the measures of 732–3, and in any case before 754 – by placing such regions as were under the direct or indirect authority of the eastern empire beneath the patriarch of Constantinople’s jurisdiction. The bishops of Illyricum, Crete, Sicily, Calabria and of the duchy of Naples, formerly subordinate to Rome, found themselves under the authority of Constantinople – although in the case ofNaples, this lasted only until 769.149 The transfer of these regions to Constantinople was probably accompanied by the confiscation of possessions from the church of Rome, such as happened in Istria in the 770s.150 The popes never accepted this reorganisation at patriarchal level, which was coupled with an adjustment of ecclesiastical structures to match the military situation. This entailed a similar reorganisation at episcopal level, disregarded until recently because of scholarly doubts about the sourcevalue of the list of bishoprics known as the Notitia of the iconoclasts (Notitiae episcopatuum). Recent study, however, has shown that on several points this text gives an accurate picture of the church in the eighth century.151 In Calabria and Thrace, the kastra built to accommodate the military and administrative authorities received the status of both city and bishopric from the emperor; the imperial right to bestow such status had been acknowledged at the council of Chalcedon (canon 17) and incorporated into canon 38 of the council in Trullo. Calabrian examples include Gerace, sometime before 787,152 and the creation of the archbishopric of Santa Severina, probably after 736.153 In Thrace, kastra such as Bulgarophygon, Skopelos and Develtos, which had been built or renovated by Constantine V and settled with captives taken on the Arab border, were made bishoprics, as their bishops’ presence at the second council of Nicaea shows.154 In Greece the bishoprics of Epirus Primus encircled the Peloponnese from Cephalonia to Aegina. They were sometimes located on smaller islands such as Orobe, which also served as relays for the fleet, as the numerous seals found on them attest.155 The route to Italy was thus guarded by a military as well as an ecclesiastical network. This use of the church provides the background to Constantine V’s policy towards the monasteries. His persecution cannot be described as bloody, seeing that it caused only two deaths, but he lifted previous exemptions from both individuals and property, reimposing liability to contribute to the state: monasteries and monastic lands as well as episcopal estates were sold, confiscated for military purposes or reallocated to the armed forces.156 The Isaurians saw the church as a reputable institution for which they were responsible, and the patriarchs as enforcers of the imperial will in ecclesiastical matters. Their expectations of subordination could sometimes be harsh and humiliating, as when Anastasios was paraded round the Hippodrome on an ass after the defeat of Artabasdos and then restored to the patriarchal throne; but the gift of the extension of jurisdiction westwards was ample compensation. The later iconodule patriarchs never questioned this gift to their institution made by an iconoclast emperor whom they had anathematised. In the Acts of the second council of Nicaea, Patriarch Tarasios (784–806) omitted translating into Greek the passages of Pope Hadrian I’s letter demanding the restitution of the patrimony of St Peter.157 Bishops formed the most important rank of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, residing in their sees and taking responsibility for charitable works, amongst other things. Judging by iconoclast-linked hagiographical sources, the bishop was deemed a model of holiness even worthier of emulation than the monk. However, it is possible that the episcopal office was the equivalent of a strateia, which could be purchased and which carried with it rights to the bishopric’s revenues. In the Ecloga clerics are sometimes described as strateuomenoi, and even Tarasios admitted after the second council of Nicaea that most of the bishops present had bought their office, leaving them open to charges of simony by the monks.158 Iconoclasm provided the cement for the edifice, with duly anointed clergy delivering the people from idolatry through celebration of the eucharist. Constantine V sought to spread the doctrine adopted at Hieria throughout Christendom (see above, pp. 283–4) and conducted a vigorous diplomatic campaign aimed at Pippin the Short (751–68), sending numerous embassies and, it would seem, several eastern patriarchs. This campaign, whose success Pope Paul I briefly feared, finally ended in failure in the wake of the crisis of 766. The council of Gentilly (Easter 767) ratified the Carolingian rejection of iconoclasm, making possible its subsequent condemnation by the papacy at the Lateran council in 769; meanwhile, at least some of the eastern patriarchs sent a written condemnation of iconoclasm to Rome, which arrived in August 767.159 The church of Constantinople was thereupon cut off from the other churches, and this probably explains Irene’s desire to put an end to the situation.

 

 

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