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A man of deeds rather than of words, as one of his admirers says, he was inspired with the idea of the universal authority of the Roman See. The internal troubles in the Carolingian realm enabled him to assert successfully the Papal pretensions in the West; the schism at Constantinople gave him a welcome opportunity of pressing his claims upon the East. But in Photius he found an antagonist, not only incomparably more learned than himself, but equally determined, energetic, and resourceful.
The letter of Photius to the Pope was a masterpiece of diplomacy.1 He enlarged on his reluctance to undertake the burdens of the episcopal office, which was pressed upon him by the Emperor and the clergy with such insistency that he had no alternative but to accept it. He then-in accordance with the usual custom in such inthronistic letters-made a precise statement of the articles of his religion and declared his firm belief in the seven Ecumenical Councils. He concluded by asking the Pope, not for any support or assistance, but simply for his prayers. He abstained from saying anything against his predecessor. But the letter which was sent in the Emperor's name 2 gave a garbled account of the vacation of the Patriarchal throne, and requested the Pope to send legates to attend a synod which should decide some questions relating to the iconoclastic heresy. Neither the Patriarch nor the Emperor invited the Pope even to express an opinion on recent events, but Nicolas resolved to seize the occasion and assert a jurisdiction which, if it had been accepted, would have annulled the independence of the Church of Constantinople. He despatched two bishops, with instructions to investigate the facts in connexion with the deposition of Ignatius, and to make a report.3 He committed to them letters (dated
1 Ep. 1.
2 This letter is not preserved, but we know its tenor from the reply of Nicolas. It was said of Ignatius that he had withdrawn from the duties of his office voluntarily and had been deposed by a council, and it was suggested that he had neglected (spreverit) his flock and contemned the decrees of Popes Leo and Benedict (Nicol. Ep. 2). The letters were presented by an embassy consisting of Arsaber, an Imperial spatharios, and
three bishops, who bore gifts from the Emperor a gold paten with precious stones (albis, prasinis et hyacinthinis); a gold chalice from which gems hung by golden threads; a gold shield inlaid with gems; a gold-embroidered robe with trees, roses, and sacred scenes, etc. (Vita Nicolai Papae, 147). The envoys reached Rome in summer 860 and were received in audience in S. Maria Maggiore.
3 The legates were Rodoaldus of Porto and Zacharias of Anagni. The
September 25, 860) to the Emperor and to Photius.
our holy Roman Church" has always prohibited. On these grounds the Pope announces that he cannot give his apostolic consent to the consecration of Photius until his messengers have reported the facts of the case and have examined Ignatius. He then proceeds to reply to that part of the Emperor's letter which concerned the question of imageworship. The document concludes with the suggestion that Michael should show his devotion to the interests of the Church by restoring to the Roman See the vicariate of Thessalonica and the patrimonies of Calabria and Sicily, which had been withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Pope by Leo III. The short letter to Photius censures the temerity of his elevation and declines to acknowledge his consecration, unless the Papal messengers, when they return from Constantinople, report favourably on his actions and devotion to the Church.2
The diplomatic intent of these letters could hardly be misapprehended by a novice. The innocent suggestion (put
forward as if it had no connexion with the other matters under discussion) that Illyricum and Calabria should be transferred from the See of Constantinople to that of Rome would never have been made if Nicolas had not thought that there was a reasonable chance of securing this accession to the
Pope, in his letter to Michael, expressly reserves the decision to himself ("ac deinde cum nostro praesulatui significatum fuerit,quid de eo agendum sit apostolica sanctione diffiniamus"). The legates had only full powers in regard to the question of imageworship.
1 Nicol. Ep. 2, p. 162: "qualiter. . nullius insurgentis deliberationis terminus daretur."
2 The Pope kept a copy of his letter
to the Emperor in the Roman archives.
dominion and revenue of his chair. It is plain that he could not hope that the Emperor and the Patriarch would agree to such a large concession unless they received a due consideration; and it is equally obvious that the only consideration which the Pope could offer, was to consent to the consecration of Photius, and crush by the weight of his authority the schism which was so seriously distressing the church of Constantinople. Notwithstanding his severe animadversions on the uncanonical elevation of Photius, he intimated that this ) was not an insuperable difficulty; if his delegates brought back a satisfactory report, matters might be arranged. It is perfectly clear that Pope Nicolas proposed a bargain, in the interest of what he calls ecclesiastica utilitas.1
It is impossible to say whether the Imperial government took into serious consideration the Pope's proposal. But there were at all events some, probably among the moderate section of the Photians, who thought that the best solution of the ecclesiastical difficulty would be to agree to the bargain, and Photius was so gravely alarmed that, in a letter to Bardas, he complains bitterly of the desire of persons who are not named to deprive him of half his jurisdiction.2 It would seem that there was a chance that the diplomacy of Nicolas might have been successful. But if Michael and Bardas entertained any idea of yielding, they were persuaded by Photius to relinquish it.
The two legates of the Pope were won over to the Photian party by cajolements and threats.3 A council assembled in May (A.D. 861),* remarkable for the large number of bishops
1 It is not, I think, without significance, as indicating the Pope's idea, that this phrasé is used in the letter to Michael in reference to the restitution of the provinces ("vestrum imperiale decus quod in omnibus ecclesiasticis utilitatibus vigere audivimus "), and also in the letter to Photius ("ecclesiasticae utilitatis constantiam "), where the suggestion seems to be that Photius can prove his devotion to the interests of the Church by complying with the wishes of the Pope. Lebedev (op. cit. 48-49) has apprehended that Nicolas was proposing a deal."
2 Ep. 157, p. 492 ἀφαιρεῖται ἀφ' ἡμῶν τὸ ἥμισυ τῆς ἀρχῆς and τὸ ἥμισυ ἀφῃρή
μεθα. The meaning was seen by Lebedev, loc. cit.
3 On their arrival at Rhaedestos they had received costly dresses from Photius. They were kept in isolation for three months, so that they should have no converse with the Ignatian party, and only hear the Photian side. Threats of exile and insects ("longa exilia et diuturnas pediculorum comestiones") induced them to transgress their instructions and acknowledge Photius.__Nicolaus, Epp. 6 and 9. It was the Emperor who threatened and Photius who cajoled. Stylianos, Ep.
4 In the Church of the Apostles. This synod was called the First and
who attended. The Emperor was present, and Ignatius unwillingly appeared. Seventy-two witnesses, including both highly-placed ministers and men of humble rank, came forward to prove that Ignatius had been appointed to the Patriarchate, not by free election, but by the personal act of Theodora.1 We are in the dark as to the precise circumstances of the elevation of Ignatius. There is no doubt that he was chosen by Theodora, but it is almost incredible that the usual form of election was not observed, and if it was observed, to condemn his elevation was to condemn the elevation of every Patriarch of Constantinople as uncanonical. For virtually every Patriarch was appointed by the Imperial will.2 In any case at this synod-if we can trust the accounts of the supporters of Ignatius-the government exercised considerable pressure. The assembly, including the representatives of Rome, whether they were convinced or not, confirmed the deposition of Ignatius, and declared him unworthy. The authority of Photius was thus established by the formal act of a large council, subscribed by the legates of the Roman see.3
Second (πρώτη καὶ δευτέρα), of which perhaps the most probable explanation is that suggested by Hergenrother (i. 438), that it resumed and confirmed the acts of the synod of 859 held in the same church.
1 We must suppose that he had been condemned on the same ground in A.D. 859 at the local council; but this charge does not seem to have been mentioned in Michael's letter to the Pope, who indeed points this out in his letter of A. D. 862 (Ep. 5): "'omni
bus accusationibus remotis opponentes tantummodo quod potentia saeculari sedem pervaserit." Seventytwo witnesses (for the number cp. Hergenrother, i. 426, n. 38), including men of all ranks-senators, artisans, fish-merchants-were produced to give sworn evidence that Ignatius had been uncanonically appointed. Cp. Vit. Ign. 237. The acts of the Council were burnt at the Council of A.D. 869; and our knowledge of its proceedings is derived chiefly from the Libellus Ign. and the Vit. Ign. There were 318 bishops, etc., present, the same number as at the Council of Nicaea, as the Photians noted with satisfaction: Lebedev (op. cit. 53) thinks that this
was a coincidence. Ignatius had been brought back to Constantinople some time before, and was permitted to reside in the Palace of Posis which had belonged to his mother, the Empress Procopia. He unwillingly resigned himself to appear before the synod, where he refused to recognize the authority of the Papal legates.
2 Pope Nicolas observes this (loc. cit.).
3 Seventeen canons, passed by this Council, remained in force, and are preserved (Mansi, xvi. 535 sqq.). Canons 16 and 17, forbidding for the future the consecration of bishops in the circumstances in which Photius had been consecrated, and the sudden elevation of a layman to the episcopate, were calculated to conciliate the canonical scruples of the Pope. Canons 13-15 were aimed against schismatics and intended to strengthen the hands of Photius. Most of the other rules dealt with monastic reform, and by one of them (204), prohibiting members from leaving their cloisters at their own caprice, it is thought that Photius hoped to prevent the Ignatians from travelling to Rome. Cp. Lebedev, op. cit. 63.
The legates had exceeded their instructions. When they returned to Rome in the autumn, their action was repudiated by the Pope, who asserted that they had only been directed to report on the whole matter to him, and had received no power to judge the question themselves. There is no doubt that they had betrayed the interests of their master and suffered themselves to be guided entirely by the court of Byzantium. An Imperial secretary soon arrived at Rome, bearing a copy of the Acts of the Council with letters from the Emperor and the Patriarch.2 The letter of Photius could hardly fail to cause deep displeasure to the Roman bishop. It was perfectly smooth, courteous, and conciliatory in tone, but it was the letter of an equal to an equal, and, although the question of Roman jurisdiction was not touched on, it was easy to read between the lines that the writer had the will and the courage to assert the independence of the see of Constantinople. for the ecclesiastical provinces of Illyricum and Calabria, he hypocritically threw upon the government the entire responsibility for not restoring them to Rome, and implied that he himself would have been willing to sacrifice them.3
The Imperial secretary remained in Rome for some months, hoping that Nicolas would be persuaded to sanction all that his legates had done in his name. But the Pope was now resolved to embrace the cause of Ignatius and to denounce Photius. He addressed an encyclical letter to the three Patriarchs of the East, informing them that Ignatius had been illegally deposed, and that a most wicked man (homo
1 This is proved by the Pope's letter which they carried to Michael, and it is useless for Lebedev (op. cit. 54) to contest it.
2 It may be noticed here that according to Vit. Ign. 241, some time after the Council, new attempts were made to extort an abdication from Ignatius by ill-treatment. He was beaten, starved for two weeks, with no dress but a shirt, in the Imperial mortuary chapel (Hêrôon) of the Holy Apostles, where he was stretched upon the sarcophagus of Constantine V., with heavy stones attached to his ankles. These tortures were inflicted by Theodore Môros, John Gorgonites, and Nikolaos Skutelops. When he was perfectly exhausted, one of them,
holding his hand, traced his signature on a paper on which Photius afterwards wrote a declaration of abdication. The other sources which mention this, are derived from Vit. Ign.; Hergenröther is wrong in supposing that the account in Gen. 100 is independent; see Hirsch, 159. Photius, however, seems to have made no use of this document. The sufferings recorded and probably exaggerated in the Vita may be briefly referred to at the end of the Libellus Ign. (¿v ¿πтà γὰρ οὕτω κολασθέντα ἡμέραις ἄσιτον, ἄυπνον, ἀκάθιστον διαμεῖναι ἐβίασαν), but nothing is said of the signature. Ep. 3.
4 Till March 862, the date of the replies of the Pope (Epp. 5 and 6).