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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[Sidenote: His work in Gaul.]

He was trained at Bangor, but there he could not stay. He was fired with the determination to spread the Gospel over sea, among the Gauls who, under a veneer of Christianity, still often lived a pagan life. There heathen superstitions still flourished, in worship of the old gods, in veneration of trees and rocks and idols: the heathen morals were hardly disguised. The Frankish society over which the Merwings ruled, the Gaul of Sigebert and Chilperich and Chlothochar, was stained with blood and lust. Apart from it altogether, it would seem, and exercising hardly any influence, were a few holy bishops and very many isolated monasteries, the homes of prayer and renunciation and penitence. In the sixth century it is said that some two hundred monasteries were founded in Gaul; but their protest against the vice of their age was for the most part a silent one. Columban, when he landed, was to make a more effective protest against the luxury of the time, {55} the ineffective, unmeaning faith in the forgiveness of sins apart from renunciation of them, which marked the semi-Christian society into which he came.

[Sidenote: Luxeuil and its rule.]

Guntchramn, king of the Burgundians, gave him a settlement at Annegray, and afterwards at Luxeuil, where there grew up, on the site of an earlier Roman township, a monastery of stern and rigid rule. Eventually he added a third foundation at Fontaine; and he presided over three houses, governing according to a rule which he himself drew up, after the examples of Clonard and Bangor. Its characteristic was the completeness of the self-denial aimed at; its motto the thought, "Think not of what thou art, but of what thou shalt be"; its government an autocracy depending wholly on the abbat; its scholarship not only that of the Bible, but of the Latin classics—of Horace and of Vergil. Its work was twofold. In the first place, it exemplified a strict life of obedience, self-sacrifice, and prayer, the home of which was ever ready to minister to sick souls without; and, secondly, it supplied the religion of the age with a penitential system—in the penitential based upon Irish models—which was of great influence in the secular and ecclesiastical legislation of the future. Columban was not favourably received by all the episcopate of his new country. They were men of different ideals, unacquainted with the culture which meant so much to him; and their acceptance of the general Western custom of observing Easter caused a warm dispute with the Celtic monks. To Gregory the Great and to the Gaulish bishops Columban alike appealed on behalf of the custom he had received; but finally, after more than thirty {56} years' residence in Burgundy, he consented to observe the Celtic custom in silence, without endeavour to make converts to it. A more grave enemy at the beginning of the seventh century was the wicked young Burgundian king, Theodoric, at whose court was his grandmother, Brunichild. His stern denunciations of vice, his refusal to recognise the king's unlawful children, brought on Columban the fury of the oppressor, and he was ordered away from Luxeuil into a sort of semi-captivity at Besancon, and thence into exile. Long he wandered through Gaulish lands, to Nevers, down the Loire to Nantes, whence it was said that the ship refused to bear him back to Ireland. At last, after a meeting with Chlothochar, King of Neustria, whose rule over all the Franks he had prophesied, he found refuge at Bregenz, by the lake of Constance. With him were several of his monks, among them the S. Gall whose settlement in those lands has given the name to a canton of what is now Switzerland. The long journey of the exiled monks, with their strange tonsure, their holiness, their alms, their works of healing, was a veritable mission. [Sidenote: Bobbio.] The journey eventually ended in Italy; the internecine strifes of the Merwings which ceased for the time in the union of the whole land of the Franks under Chlothochar, left Columban without interest in Gaul, and the Lombard sovereigns gave him a home at Bobbio, in the Apennines, where his monastery, aided by the holiness of Queen Theodelind, was a mighty influence in the conversion of Lombardy from Arianism. There, in 615, he died, the prophet of his age, the stern preacher of righteousness, the wise student, the faithful herdsman of souls. {57} Columban is a great figure, of the chief facts of whose life there is no doubt. It is not so with many others.

[Sidenote: S. Wandrille.]

S. Patrick belongs, we do not doubt, to true history; but there is no doubt as to the richness of the legendary element in his life. Much the same is true of S. Wandrille. Few Englishmen, we suspect, have heard his name; but he was a great figure in an age which Mabillon called golden in its religious aspect, the strange, wild time of the Merwings, the seventh century after Christ. In 648 S. Wandrille founded the abbey of Fontenelle, in the district of Caux. He lived till a great age, his death being probably much later than 667, to which year it has been assigned. His career affords a very vivid picture of the monastic life of the time, standing out amid the darkness of crime. He rightly emphasises the holiness and wisdom and learning of the great bishops of the Merwing age. It was their work as leaders, missionaries, statesmen in the highest Christian sense which the monasteries were called upon to continue and perfect. The monasteries were the refuge and the rallying-ground of those who fought against the secularisation of the Church at the hands of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy. S. Wandrille, born of the great Karling house, was a leader among leaders, statesman among statesmen, monk among monks. He was one who passed from a great though barbaric court, where he had been a trusted official, into the strictness of monastic training, and then into the solitude of secluded communion with God. Such lives as his were the great attractive forces of the seventh century; such retreats as the valley of Fontenelle were the centres of Christian influence of the age.


Between these men and Gregory of Tours it might seem that there was little in common. But there were others whose lives combined the interests of the two, the interests of monk and statesman and bishop.

[Sidenote: S. Didier.]

Another great clerk of the seventh century who must not be forgotten is S. Didier (Desiderius) of Cahors, at one time treasurer of Chlothochar II, and of Dagobert I., the friend of saints like Eloi (Eligius), Ouen, and Arnulf. Through him we learn something of the religious life of Southern Gaul. He died probably in 655, and thus he represented the earlier part of the seventh century. His biographer gives a long list of the holy bishops who were his contemporaries, and of the churches and monasteries which were scattered thickly over the land. The whole tone of his writing—earnest, biblical, spiritual, shows how the Church, in spite of weakness and sloth and failure in some of her chief men, yet held up a standard of right and justice, purity and devotion, which penetrated all over the country, into castles and humble homesteads, and profoundly affected the whole national life. And this work was concentrated in the public eye in those good men who at court, amid good and ill report, lived as servants of Him who went about doing good.

But while the Church was thus entering into all the national life, as a sharer in its interests of every kind, it was the monastic ideal, there can be little doubt, which ultimately exercised the greatest influence on the Franks. The saints who won reverence were for the most part monks. The work of Columban passed into the work of Benedict, and when Luxeuil accepted {59} the Benedictine rule, and when the Council of Autun in 670 declared it to be the rule for all monks everywhere, a great step was taken towards the intimate union of Gaul with the rest of Christendom in the things on which they had begun to set most store.

[1] Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, vol. i. p. 396.

[2] Greg. Tur., ii. 38 (Migne, Patr. Lat., p. 236).

[3] Bouquet, Recueil, tom. iv. p. 59, epist. 15: cf. Gasquet, L'Empire byzantin et la Monarchie franque, p. 165.

[4] Greg. Turon., Hist. Franc., x. 29 (Migne, p. 560): cf. also his Vitae Patrum, 17. Hontheim, Historia diplomatica, i. 47.

[5] Cf. Greg. Turon., v. 3, on the frightful cruelty of Rauching.

[6] Vol. v. p. 262.

[7] S. Greg., Epp. v. 58.

[8] F. H. Dudden, Gregory the Great, ii. 69.

[9] Cf. E. Lavisse, Hist. de France, tome ii. p. 219,

[10] M. Roger, L'Enseignement des lettres classiques d'Ausone a Alcuin, p. 100.

[11] W. P. Ker, The Dark Ages, p. 125.




[Sidenote: Gregory the Great.]

About 540 was born in Rome, of a noble family, the great Pope Gregory, whose work was to place the papacy at the head of Italian politics, and to lay the lines on which papal action for many centuries was to be based. When he was a child it might well have seemed that Italy under a strong Gothic rule would submit to the Arian teaching which the State supported. Theodoric endeavoured to make an united Italy; but the Church knew that there could be no compromise on the doctrine of the perfect Godhead of the Lord Jesus, and her attitude preserved Italy both for Catholicism and for the Empire. Gregory was taught as a Catholic, but he was taught also in classical grammar, composition, rhetoric, and the writings of the great Romans—pre-Christian, as well as of later days. He began his life's work as a Roman official, and by the year 573 he is found as prefect of the city. A year later, it would seem, he became a monk, giving up all his property, all his signs of rank and wealth, all his power and place. Soon, if not at once, he came to serve under the rule of S. Benedict, whose life he afterwards wrote, in the monastery dedicated to S. Andrew on the Caelian hill.


[Sidenote: The Lombard invasion, 568.]

It was the time when Italy was again at the feet of the barbarians. The Lombards, the last of the Teutonic nations to settle in the West, established at Pavia a kingdom which lasted for two centuries (568-774), and which again rent away much of the fair Italian lands from the unity of the Empire, leaving the Exarchate at Ravenna in a state half isolated and wholly perilous.

[Sidenote: The effect on Italy.]

Gradually the onward sweep of the new barbarians, who called themselves Arians, but were not strongly bound by any creed, swept away all power save their own and the pope's. The destruction of Monte Cassino was typical of one side of their work—the turning aside from Rome at Gregory's intercession of another. The Empire struggled to retain its hold on Italy and to govern the Western world from Ravenna, with instructions from the New Rome; but it failed. The papacy studied to be quiet. And the close of the sixth century showed that power would return in the end to the city which had founded the Empire, and to the Church which was now claiming to teach and to unite the nations.

A period of papal insignificance was gradually ended by the progress of new ideals for the papacy. This came about in three ways.

[Sidenote: The popes and the exarchate.]

1. It was the aim of each pope to set up his power against that of the imperial exarchate, by which Italy was ruled after its reconquest by Belisarius and Narses. Gradually, step by step, the popes claimed cognisance of secular matters, intervened in politics, and stood forth as a leaders in Italian affairs. The imperial administration saw the danger, and, from time to time, made definite {62} opposition to the papal pretensions. It endeavoured to restore the unity of the Church, to secure the universal condemnation of the Three Chapters, but under sanction of Ravenna rather than of Rome. Thus the exarch Smaragdus, in 587, led Severus, patriarch of Aquileia, before the Ravennate prelates to make submission;[1] and later the emperor Maurice interfered to present the pope compelling the patriarch to submission. But these endeavours were futile; and the great Gregory, statesman and administrator of the first order, made the papacy the most important political power in the western provinces of the Empire. In 599 this was apparent in Gregory's negotiation with the Lombard king, Agilulf.

[Sidenote: The Benedictines in South Italy.]

2. The papal influence was increased, and the Greek power diminished, by the direct replacement of Eastern monks by Benedictines.[2] The monasteries founded by Greeks during the imperial restoration, no longer replenished from Constantinople, fell into the hands of the great papal force founded by the greatest saint, and marshalled by the greatest administrator of the century.

[Sidenote: Missions from Rome.]

3. And, lastly, the power of the papacy was at once evidenced and increased by the revival of its missionary energy. What Pelagius II. had stayed, Gregory the Great accomplished—conversion of England by the mission of Augustine. Spain, too, was won from Arianism by a personal friend of Gregory's, though without Roman intervention;[3] and within Italy itself the {63} pope began the great work of the conversion of the Lombards to the Catholic faith, with the full teaching both of the Tome of Leo and of the Fifth General Council. Gregory sent the Acts of the Council to be taught to the little child Adalwald, the Lombard king.

Thus in each of these three directions the progress of papal power is connected with the influence of Gregory the Great. It is of his papacy therefore that we must speak as the critical point in the upward movement. Between 574 and 590 Gregory gained experience in many ways. To a strict monastic training he added, in 579, the employment of papal apocrisiarius (or envoy) at the imperial court at Constantinople. Here he became intimate with the chief ecclesiastics, with Anastasius, who had been deposed from the patriarchal see of Antioch, and who came to regard him as "the very mouth and lantern of the Lord," with Leander of Seville, who had come to lay the needs of the Catholic cause in Spain before the emperors,[4] and with the imperial family. [Sidenote: Gregory as abbat.] About 586 he returned to Rome, and became abbat of the monastery in which he had formerly served. It was there that he completed his commentary, or moralia, on the book of Job, which he had delivered as lectures at Constantinople, an epitome of Christian theology and morals. It was then that he saw the bright lads from Deira, who first turned his thoughts to the conversion of England.[5] The controversy of the Three Chapters was still lingering on in Italy, and it was Gregory who was given the task of inducing the Istrian {64} bishops to accept the decisions of the Fifth General Council. [Sidenote: Gregory elected Pope, 590.] So skilful did he prove himself as a controversialist, as an administrator, and as an adviser of Pelagius, that he was elected with enthusiasm to succeed that pope in 590.

[Sidenote: The pastoral rule.]

His ideal of the pastoral office is set forth in that golden book, the Liber regulae pastoralis, in which he describes the life of a true shepherd of the Christian people. A life of absolute purity and devotion as therein sketched was that which made Gregory's pontificate notable for its wisdom, its discretion, and its wise governance. The pastoral office to him was one even more of the cure of souls than of government, and that idea is shown in all his letters. He wrote to kings, abbats, individual Christians, with the spirit of direct encouragement and admonition, as a wise teacher dispensing instruction. In the Lateran he lived, as he had lived on the Caelian hill, a life of strict ascetic rule, wearing still his monastic dress, and living in common with his clerks and monks. [Sidenote: Gregory's life.] John the Deacon, who wrote his biography nearly two centuries after his death, says that "the Roman Church in Gregory's time was like that Church as it was under the rule of the apostles, or the Church of Alexandria when S. Mark was its bishop." Charity was by him developed into a great scheme of benevolence organised with the minutest care and recorded in detail in books that were a model to later times. The political and ecclesiastical cares of the papacy never prevented Gregory from what he considered the chiefest duty of his office, that of preaching. His sermons, which were as famous as those of Chrysostom in Constantinople, were {65} direct in their appeal, vivid in their illustration, terse and epigrammatic in their expression. Paul the Deacon sums up his work by saying that he was entirely engrossed in gaining souls.

[Sidenote: His statesmanship.]

At the same time he was a statesman as well as a bishop. He governed the "patrimony of S. Peter," lands scattered over Italy and even Gaul, with a careful supervision, entering into minute matters as well as general policy, freeing slaves, caring for the cultivation of land; and the intimate knowledge which he thus acquired is shown in his Dialogues, which throw a flood of light on the life, secular as well as ecclesiastical, of his age. Outside these districts, in purely spiritual matters, he showed a constant vigilance. Everywhere what was needed seemed to be known to the pope, and everywhere he was planning to remedy evils, to build up the Church, to reform abuses, to convert heretics, to supply new bishops, to encourage the growth of monasticism. This activity extended not only to what were called the suburbicarian provinces but to distant lands, such as Spain, Illyricum, Gaul, Africa, as well as to Northern Italy. Something has been said of his relations in Gaul, and remains to be said of his intervention in Africa. His relations with Constantinople may be most significantly illustrated by the dispute as to the title of the patriarch of New Rome.

[Sidenote: The title "Universal Bishop."]

In 588 the acts of a synod of Constantinople were declared by Pelagius II. to be invalid be-cause the patriarch used the title oikoumenikos or universalis. Just as at the Council of Chalcedon the Alexandrine representatives styled the pope "oecumenical archbishop and {66} patriarch of the Great Rome," so the patriarch of Constantinople used the style and dignity of "oecumenical patriarch." It was one that had been employed at least since 518, and it seems to have been commonly used. From the use of this title came grave controversy. In 588 the acts of a synod of Constantinople were declared by Pelagius II. to be invalid because the patriarch used the title oikoumenikos or universalis: and in 595 Gregory the Great strongly condemned the use of such a phrase, at the same time repudiating its use for his own see. "The Council of Chalcedon," he wrote, "offered the title of universal to the Roman pontiff, but he refused to accept it, lest he should seem thereby to derogate from the honour of his brother bishops." [6] And to the emperor Maurice he said still more distinctly, "I confidently affirm that whosoever calls himself sacerdos universalis, or desires to be so called by others, is in his pride a forerunner of Antichrist." But the patriarchs continued to use the title, and before a century had elapsed, the popes followed their example.

[Sidenote: The province of Illyricum.]

The relation of Gregory with the Church of Illyricum gives opportunity for mention of that anomalous patriarchate. Somewhat apart from the general Church history of the early Middle Age stands the province of Illyricum. Its ecclesiastical status was even more ambiguous than its political. On its borders, or within its limits, the patriarchate of Rome touched that of {67} Constantinople, and the claims of the two, sometimes at least conflicting, were complicated by the privileges given by Justinian to his birthplace. In the tenth century it was undoubtedly under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, in the seventh it appears to have been under that of Rome. In the Councils at Constantinople in 681 and 692, the Illyrian bishops appeared as attached exclusively to Rome; and so, it has been noticed, did those of Crete, Thessalonica, and Corinth. In the sixth century there are instances, though not numerous ones, of papal interference, in the nature of the exercise of judicial power, in the province of Illyricum; and at the end of the century Gregory the Great was especially active in his correspondence with the bishops. It would seem from one of his letters that he counted even Justiniana Prima as under his authority, though the intention of the emperor was certainly not to make it so. This edict—for so it practically is—is interesting also because it appears to deal with all the ecclesiastical provinces of the empire which depended immediately on the Roman patriarchate. It omits Africa, and the fact that the popes did not send the pallium to the Bishop of Carthage (the North African Metropolitan) shows that the popes did not claim to confer jurisdiction, but merely to recognise a special relationship, by this act.[7] On the other hand, it is to be observed that the code of Justinian contains a law of Theodosius II. which places the Illyrian bishopric under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. But this law is beset with many difficulties, and it has been {68} argued that it was merely the expression of a temporary rupture between the Empire and the papacy, which in the schism of 484-519 was gravely accentuated; and there are grounds for thinking that the bishops of Thessalonica exercised authority in Illyricum as delegates of Rome—yet rather from their political than their ecclesiastical associations. However this may be, there can be no doubt that the position given by Justinian to the city of his birth was intended to be practically patriarchal, and that the Bishop of Thessalonica, whether vicar or not of the pope, was practically ignored. The whole question is indeed a notable example of the difficulties consequent on the close connection between religion and politics in the sixth century.

[Sidenote: Gregory's claim to jurisdiction.]

Gregory's action was that of a wise but masterful ruler, and it seems to have been based on the view that all the bishops of the West were directly under his jurisdiction. Similar cases of interference are to be found in regard to the churches of Istria, and to the great sees of Ravenna and Milan. In connection may be seen the claim to grant the pallium, a mark of honour which seems to have been gradually passing into a sign of jurisdiction.[8] Gregory claimed for the successors of S. Peter something like an apostolic authority, and he at least suggested a theory of the papal office which was capable of almost indefinite extension. Politic and religion here met together. When Airulf in 592 appeared before Rome the pope made a separate treaty with him: he stepped into the {69} place of ruler of imperial Italy when he disregarded the exarch and even the emperor, and entered into negotiations on his own account; and up to the time of his death he was practically responsible for the rearrangement of Italy. His letter to the great Lombard queen, Theodelind, of whom memorials survive to-day at Monza, show how the two sides of his position mingled; how he was statesman and diplomatist as well as priest and missionary.

[Sidenote: His missions.]

In his missionary interests he passed far outside Italy. The most conspicuous example is the conversion of the English, which he had in earlier years been most anxious himself to undertake, and which was begun in 597 under his direction by Augustine; but it is not the only one. In Northern Italy, in Africa and Gaul, Gregory was active in seeking the conversion of pagans and heretics, and in endeavouring by gentle measures to lead the Jews to Christ.

[Sidenote: His relations on monasticism.]

More important still in the history of the papacy was Gregory's work in spreading, organising, and systematising monasticism. He insisted on the strict observance of the rule of S. Benedict. Not only did he reform, but he very greatly strengthened, the monasticism of Italy. Conspicuously did his privilegia, granting or recognising a considerable freedom from episcopal control, start the monks on a new advance. While not exempting them from the rule of bishops, he made it possible for future popes to win support for themselves by granting such exemptions.

But Gregory's fame does not lie wholly in any of these spheres of activity. Great as a ruler and an {70} organiser, he was known also to later ages, as to his own, for his theological writings. He was not only a practical ruler and practical minister of Christ; he was also a leader in Christian learning—the last, as men have come to call him, of the four great Latin doctors.

[Sidenote: His relations to learning.]

The work of Gregory the Great was here as elsewhere far-reaching, but rather an organising than a formative one. Classical studies, in which he had been trained, he put aside; and when he did his utmost to spread monasteries over the length and breadth of Italy, it was not at all of learning in a secular sense, but wholly of religion that he thought. Thus his own theology is primarily a biblical theology. The Bible was to him the word of God. Like the author of the Imitatio Christi in later days, he did not care to argue as to the authorship of the different books but to profit by what was in them. He was a great expositor, a great preacher, and that always with a practical aim. As he said, "We hear the doctrine words of God if we act on them." [Sidenote: His doctrine of the church.] In his more general theological writings he sums up, with the precision of a master, not any new doctrines or advances in speculation, but the theology of the Church of his age. And he is able thus to emphasise the crying need of unity in words which state the claim of the Church for the conversion of the pagans and heretics of his day: "Sancta autem universalis ecclesia praedicat Deum veraciter nisi intra se coli non posse, asserens quod omnes qui extra ipsam sunt minime salvabuntur." Outside this there was no hope of spiritual health. And this doctrine he based {71} on the unity of Christ's life with that of the Church: "Our Redeemer showed that He is one person with the Church, which He took to be His own"; and thus it was that "The Churches of the true faith set in all parts of the world make one Catholic Church, in which all the faithful who are right minded toward God live in concord." Thus he was, in theology as in ecclesiastical politics, a concentrating and clarifying force; and when, on March 12th, 604, he passed to his rest, he had laid firm the foundations of the medieval papacy, and in hardly less degree those of the theological system of the medieval Church.

[1] Paulus Diaconus, iii, 26, ed. Waitz, pp. 105-7.

[2] Diehl, op. cit., gives a list, p. 256.

[3] Joannes Biclarensis, Chronicon (Migne, Patr. Lat., lxxii. 868).

[4] See below, p. 76.

[5] The Vita Antiquissima (S. Gall. MS.), by a monk of Whitby, does not represent them as slaves (pp. 13, 14), ed. Gasquet.

[6] S. Greg., Epp., v. 18. The term sacerdos is commonly used for bishop at this date. Thus Gregory of Tours calls a bishop sacerdos during this life, antistes after his death. S. Gregory must not, however, be understood as disclaiming a papal supremacy.

[7] The letter is Epp. Greg. (Jaffe), 1497; cf. letter to Syagrius, Bishop of Autun.

[8] It does not seem, from Bede i. 39, that, as has been asserted, it was always necessary to apply for it.




[Sidenote: Pelagian controversy of sixth century.]

Controversies which belong to this period are those connected with semi-Pelagianism and with Adoptianism. Faustus, Bishop of Riez, who died almost at the end of the fifth century, held views which were opposed to those of S. Augustine as well as to those of Pelagius. His writings were attacked by many, among them by Caesarius, Bishop of Arles from 501 to 542, who caused a synod at Orange in 529 to condemn semi-Pelagian opinions, in a statement which declared that sufficient grace is given to all the baptized (an expression which had an important history centuries later). The writings of Faustus were the subject of much discussion also at Constantinople, and they were condemned by several of the popes.

Of a wholly different kind was the heresy originating in the East, and probably revived through the controversy of the Three Chapters, which came into prominence in the eighth century in Spain. It has been thought that the exigencies of anti-Muhammadan controversy had something to do with the importance which the question now assumed. The Spanish Church had a long record, in the Councils of Toledo, of orthodox and {73} strenuous adherence to the Christian faith; but it showed also a strongly nationalistic spirit, and it was natural that much should be developed, through antagonism to Muhammadanism and Arian influences, which would fall into danger of extreme reaction on the one side or of unwise concession on the other. "Spanish Christianity," it has been said in a phrase which has become classical, "was a perpetual crusade." In Spain the Christian contest against sin and unbelief became more often, or more constantly, than elsewhere an actual physical struggle against those who distorted or denied the faith of the Church and those who trampled it under foot. This is, of course, most true of the ages which followed the Moorish invasions, of the long strife between Christians and Moors, of the times and the thoughts which gave birth to the immortal literature of the peninsula, to Calderon and Cervantes, to Lope de Vega and S. Teresa of Jesus. But it is also true, though in a less degree, of the earlier times—of those which extended from the introduction of Christianity—from the missionary visit, it may be, of S. Paul himself—down to the destruction of the monarchy of the Wisigoths in 711. Spain was in 589 won to Catholicism by the conversion of its king Reccared. But this was the end of a long and critical period, for from the acceptance of Arianism by Remismond in 466 the country was under the rule of princes who were pledged to that error.

The Wisigoths identified their heresy with their nationality. The general decadence of the Empire spread to Spain. The social system was in a state of dissolution. The canons of the Councils show a {74} picture of life which is appalling in its corruption, but at the same time are evidence of the earnest efforts of the Church for amendment. [Sidenote: The conversion of Spain.] They show how Christianity had penetrated into the country districts, and how eager were the bishops of the sixth century to do their spiritual duty far and wide. Side by side with the canons of Church Councils is the great Fuero Jusgo (in process of compilation from the fifth to the eighth century) in witnessing to the efforts for a better state of things. During the rule of the West Goths, persecution of Catholics had been frequent, but when Amalric married Hlothild, daughter of Chlodowech, promising her tolerance of her religion, a way was opened for a new life to orthodoxy. But Amalric broke his promise, and an invasion of Spain by the Franks followed. In the reign of the Arian Theudis (531-48) there was still more decisive intervention. Childebert and Chlothochar invaded Spain and besieged Saragossa, but were driven back; and it was not till Athanagild called in the armies of Justinian that the confusion and division of Spanish life; between orthodox and heretic, Roman and Goth, was healed in the slightest degree. The year 560 witnessed the conversion of King Mir by Martin of Braga, and three years later, and again in 572, Councils at Braga witnessed to the Catholic faith of the Church. But it was an era of fightings and fears. The Roman armies of the Eastern Empire held the cities of the coast long after Athanagild had come to be recognised as king of all the Goths in Spain, but gradually unity was springing up under the rule of that able chieftain. He died in 568, having married his daughters, Brunichild and Galswintha, to {75} the Frankish kings, Sigebert and Chilperich. His successor Leovigild established a sway over all the Wisigothic possessions and ruled from Nimes to Seville. The wedding of Brunichild, though sung by Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, was but the beginning of crime and of sorrows; yet it led indirectly to the conversion of Spain. Brunichild's daughter Ingunthis married Leovigild's son Hermenigild. She was bitterly persecuted as a Catholic when she came to Spain, but she clung to her faith with the devotion of a martyr, and she won over her husband. [Sidenote: Hermenigild.] At Seville Hermenigild was for some time acting as king, under his father, and when he was threatened on his conversion with the loss of all he had he took up arms. After a long contest he was subdued, and he underwent a long persecution ending eventually in death when he refused to receive communion at the hands of an Arian bishop on Easter Day, 585.[1] Ingunthis escaped to Constantinople. Then till 587 Arianism reigned supreme in Spain, and John of Biclaro, Catholic bishop of Gerona, writes as one crying in a wilderness. But Catholicism in Spain was scotched, not killed, and when Reccared (586-601) called Arian and Catholic bishop alike before him, and after two years definitely accepted orthodoxy under the influence of his uncle Leander, Archbishop of Seville, it was not long before the whole of Council of Spain accepted his decision and followed his example. [Sidenote: Council of Toledo, 589.] This was in 587, and an {76} inscription shows that the cathedral church of Toledo was then consecrated in the Catholic faith. With the Council of Toledo (third synod of Toledo), 589,[2] which accepted the first four General Councils and the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, Spain returned to the unity of the faith. From Reccared's reign, too, dates a civilisation distinctly traceable to Constantinople and a recognition of absolute equality between the different races in the peninsula. And to that golden age belong also the great saint and preacher, Leander, who died in 603, and S. Isidore of Seville, the encyclopaedic writer, who died thirty-three years later. S. Leander had at Constantinople come to know Gregory the Great. He was the chief theologian of Spain in his age, and his words welcomed and ratified the conversion. Thus the modern history of Spain and her most Catholic kings begins. The importance of the period culminates in the compilation, almost final, of the great Wisigothic Code, the Fuero Jusgo, at once civil and ecclesiastical, the result of a union between Church and State even more perfect than that represented in the English Witenagemot.

The concentration of Spanish interests on theological questions led before long to new developments, but meanwhile it helped the happy tendency to unity which Recceswinth (652-72) confirmed by allowing the intermarriage which had long been forbidden—Recceswinth, whose splendid gold crown, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, still remains amongst the most striking memorials of the Christian art of the seventh century. Wamba, his successor, established his supremacy in {77} Septimania by the capture of Nimes from a traitorous vicegerent, and lived to show the sincerity with which the Wisigoths had accepted the idea of the sanctity of vows to God. During an illness, when he was supposed to be incapable of recovery and remained in a stupor, he received the tonsure that he might die as a monk: when he recovered he refused to return to the world and abdicated the throne. His successors were equally strict, it would seem, in obedience to the Church's laws, often unintelligently interpreted.

[Sidenote: Persecution of the Jews.]

To these days, too, belongs one of the first and darkest blots on the popular Christianity of the Middle Age—the persecution of Jews. The Jews of Spain had long been restless under a government which was so strongly ecclesiastical in its sympathies: persecuting laws oppressed them, and they could hardly even in secret practise their religion. Plots were constant and natural, and at last it is said that the Jews incited the Saracens, who had overthrown the imperial power in Africa, to cross the sea and strip from the weak Wisigoths of Spain the last remains of their power. In 695 a Council at Toledo (the sixteenth) determined when the plot was discovered wholly to destroy the Judaic faith in their land. It was ordered that all grown-up Jews should be made slaves, and all children brought up as Christians. This was the very year of the storming of Carthage.[3] It is not to be wondered at that the Jews gave every help they could to the infidels who, before long, attacked the kingdom of the Wisigoths. Within twenty years Spain, up to the very mountains of the {78} Basque land and of the Asturias, was conquered by the followers of Muhammad, and silence fell upon the country which had appeared to be the home of an abiding Church.

The splendid edifice which had seemed to be reared on the solid foundations of religion and law was shattered by the repeated blows of the Arab invasion. Why was this? The chroniclers gave answer without hesitation—"Peccatis exigentibus, victi sunt Christiani." The Goths (as they proudly called themselves) "have so offended Thee, O Lord, by their pride, that they deserved a fall by the sword of the Saracen." It was, in truth, as the great Sancho of Navarre declared in his charter of foundation to the abbey of Albelda, "Our ancestors sinned without scruple; they daily transgressed the commandments of the Lord, and so to punish them as they had deserved and to make them turn to Him, the Most Just of Judges delivered them to a barbarous people." In truth, the mass of the land had never been converted to Catholic Christianity at all, and a heretical society was powerless against Moslem sincerity and swords. Only in the north was Catholicism supreme, and thence came in later days the reconquest. But Catholics lived on all over Spain under their conquerors in comparative peace.

[Sidenote: The Adoptianist heresy.]

The Church survived. Persecution made its life strong and vigorous, and that life found outlet in new varieties of theological expression. Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, within seventy years of the Saracen conquest, became known outside his own land, with Felix, bishop of the northern see of Urgel, for his advocacy of the statement that {79} Christ's Sonship was that of adoption. Asserting the two Natures and the two Wills of the Lord, the Adoptianists regarded Christ as only in His divine nature truly the Son of God. Eager to assert the full Humanity and to rebut the Muhammadan charges of idolatry, the Spanish theologians taught that "one and the same Person was in two aspects a Son, in virtue of His relation to two different natures," and that "the Divine Son of God, begotten from all eternity of the Father, not by adoption but by birth, not by grace but by nature—that He, when made of a woman, made under the law, was Son of God, not by origin but by adoption, not by nature but by grace." [4] It was an attempt to carry further the decisions adopted at Chalcedon and to account for the origin of the two Natures, their completeness in distinction, and their union together.

[Sidenote: Its condemnation.]

Adoptianism was condemned at Regensburg in 792, and at Frankfort in 794, and, under the influence of Alcuin, Felix made submission at Aachen in 799. Elipandus, safe among the Saracens, held out in his opinions. It would seem that the discussion represented the eighth-century expression of the age-long conflict between logic and mystery, the desire for exact definition, and the sense of something beyond human understanding in what belongs to the nature of God, and to the divine action in the Incarnation, the union of God and man.

[Sidenote: Adoptianism in the East.]

Adoptianism had in the East a greater success and a longer history than in the West. In Syria and Armenia vast numbers joined the sect founded, or revived, by one {80} Constantine in the middle of the seventh century. He lived near Samosata, and probably inherited the teaching of the earlier heretic, Paul of that place. The sect came to be called Paulicians. They rejected the real divinity of Christ and placed themselves in opposition to very much else which belonged to the earliest Christian tradition, as in their rejection of the Old Testament and the perpetual virginity of the Lord's Mother. Armenia became the headquarters of a large and prosperous sect, towards which emperors alternately were persecuting or favourable. Nicephorus I. (802-11) was friendly to it, but his successor put it down with relentless savagery; and after it had led to a formidable rebellion, its votaries were finally suppressed by the generals of Basil the Macedonian, 871. But its tenets lingered on in Thrace, whither it had been transported when some of its disciples were expropriated by Constantine V., till the eighteenth century, and still later in Armenia itself. The authoritative book of the Armenian Paulicians, the Key of Truth, has been thought to have been completed by one Smbat, minister of Chosroes of Persia, whose date is 800-50,[5] but the history of those days is certainly very confused and may have been distorted.

The intervention of Charles the Great in this controversy is but one illustration of the importance of theological questions in the outlook of the reviver of the Empire in the Catholic West. Other theological doctrines had a like interest in his view and in that of his house; and in some of them also Spain was concerned. At Toledo, in 589, Reccared, when he accepted the Catholic creed, had inserted his belief in {81} the double procession of the Holy Ghost. This was again discussed in 767 at Gentilly, and at Aachen in 809.

[Sidenote: The "Veni Creator."]

Alcuin, as in the Adoptianist controversy, played a great part in stating the view which the West was coming generally to accept. Leo III. was consulted, and advised that no addition should be made to the Creed for fear of widening the breach with the East. It would seem that the great hymn, "Veni Creator Spiritus," is the expression of this doctrine by the ninth century, and is the work of Rabanus Maurus, a monk of the famous house of Fulda.

[Sidenote: The "Quicunque Vult."]

While this sums up in devotional form the Christian thought as to one of the mysteries of faith, the hymn of a character more distinctly credal, called "Quicunque vult," enshrines it in another aspect. The "Quicunque" has, indeed, a much earlier history. In 633 the Fourth Council of Toledo quoted many of its clauses. Leodgar, Bishop of Autun (663-78), directed his clergy to learn it by heart; and it became a not uncommon profession of faith to be made by a bishop at his consecration. At the end of the eighth century it seems to have been widely recited in church. But it certainly goes back very much earlier. Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (501-43), the opponent of semi-Pelagianism, has been proved to have used the creed continually: it was quoted also by his rival, Avitus, Bishop of Vienne (490-523), and it is probable that it represents the teaching of the great abbey of Lerins in the controversies of the beginning of the sixth century. It was decisively a Western creed: it {82} never came into the offices of the orthodox Church of the East. In the West it became a popular means of instruction and a popular confession of the joy of Christian faith. It was sung in procession, recited in the services, meditated on by the clergy. It formed a model of orthodox expression of belief in days of confusion and controversy.

[1] This story is discredited by a recent writer, Mr. Dudden, S. Gregory the Great, i. 407 (following F. Goerres), but I see no reason to doubt that S. Gregory was rightly informed, and I accept what Dr. Hodgkin (Eng. Hist. Rev., ii. 216) states as the facts.

[2] Mansi, Concilia, ix. 977-1010.

[3] See below, p. 109.

[4] See B. L. Ottley, Doctrine of the Incarnation, ii. 152-4.

[5] See F. C. Conybeare, The Key of Truth, p. 67.




The years of peace that succeeded the death of Justinian ended with the triumph of the Empire over barbarian foes. Christian philosophy had seemed to be quiescent, but there were questions which thoughtful men must have seen would soon come up for solution as the inevitable result of the Monophysite controversy. Thought in the active Eastern minds could not stand still; and the West too, as the barbarians were conquered, assimilated, and converted by the Church, began to enter keenly into the theology of the East. In Gaul and Britain, as well as at Milan and at Rome, there arose critics and historians who could carry on the work of Leo the Great and of the line of chroniclers who had told in Greek the story of the Church's life. A word at first as to the general interest of the period.

[Sidenote: The East in the seventh century.]

With the victory of Heraclius over the Persians in 628, it might seem that heresy would be driven from its home in the distant East, that Nestorianism would die out, and that Sergius I., Patriarch of Constantinople (610-38), would be able to win back the Monophysites to the unity of the Church. But this happy result was {84} prevented by the spread of the Muhammadan conquest, beginning even before the death of the Prophet in 632, and by the rise of a new heresy—the Monothelitism which gave to the two Natures of our Lord but a single will. As the Mussulman arms spread the faith of Islam, the Jacobite Church of Syria seemed almost to welcome it as a refuge from the dominance of orthodoxy. In Egypt the Coptic (Monophysite) patriarch entered Alexandria in triumph with the Muslim force when the Orthodox patriarch fled with the imperial troops. The Melkite (Orthodox) body was, however, not wholly unprotected by the conquerors, and at Jerusalem it was allowed to remain in possession, though at Antioch there was for long no Orthodox patriarch at all. Of the Monothelite heresy—condemned at the Sixth General Council, 681—we may for the moment defer to speak, except to note that in the political disturbances that swept over the Lebanon the heresy took root there, under one John Maron, and founded the division, religious and political, of the Maronites, which still endures.

[Sidenote: Missionary work.]

But while the Church was thus suffering in various ways, the Byzantine missionary energy was far from exhausted. Heraclius sought to convert the barbarian tribes far and near, the Croats and Serbs, the Bulgarians and Slavs, and the Church of Constantinople appointed an official to inspect the districts on the frontiers and to examine candidates for baptism. Equally he sought to reunite the Armenians to the Orthodox Church; but after interviews and theological discussions the opponents of the Greeks triumphed, and the catholicos Nerses {85} III. in 645 anathematised the Council of Chalcedon—a declaration which, after a momentary reunion, was renewed early in the eighth century. The Armenian Church thus remained formally Monophysite. While the orthodox emperors were thus unsuccessful in reuniting the separated Churches, the patriarchate of Constantinople was winning a strength within which she had lost without; the area of her confined jurisdiction was straitly ruled, and 356 bishoprics towards the end of the seventh century acknowledged the patriarchal throne. The emperors and the Church alike recognised no supremacy of Rome—a fact which was emphasised by the decree of 666 which declared Ravenna free from papal jurisdiction, and in the condemnation of Honorius by the Sixth General Council. [Sidenote: The Trullian Council, 691.] So, again, the Council at Constantinople called in Trullo (691), directed canon after canon against the customs and claims of the Roman Church. This independence was emphasised by the compilation of a Syntagma, or collection of canons, parallel to the much later collection in the West. These canons, it may be remarked in passing, throw most interesting light on the customs of the Greek Church—on clerical marriage, for example, which was allowed to be dissolved only by the clergy of the recently converted barbarous tribes, among whom a return to celibate life might sometimes be advisable.

So much for the general characteristics of the period 628-725. We may now turn to the critical point of theology on which the ecclesiastical history of the time turned.

Monophysitism was not dead in spite of Chalcedon {86} or Constantinople. [Sidenote: The Aphthartodocetic controversy.] The Fourth and Fifth General Council had still left points of debate for those within as well as those without the Church. In the form which it was asserted that Justinian had himself come to accept, it asserted the Lord's Body to be incapable of sin or corruption, and only subject to suffering by the voluntary exercise of His divine power. While the accusations against Justinian in John of Nikiu and Nicetius of Trier are contradictory to each other, and make it clear that he did not accept the opinion of Julian of Halicarnassus, they may serve to illustrate the confusion of thought with which these subjects were handled. The followers of Julian, whose view has here been summarised, were nicknamed by those of the famous monk Severus (Monophysite patriarch of Antioch in 513), "Aphthartodocetes" or "Phantasiasts." Those who followed Severus, while they were prepared to recognise two natures in Christ, yet dwelt strongly on their union, and especially on the "one energy" of the Lord's will. From this a further step was to be taken. There were some who believed in the transformation of the human nature into the Divine, and who came to be called Aktistetes, and, in a still further extreme, Adiaphorites, when they denied any distinction between the Godhead and manhood in Christ. The error at the root of all these contentions seems to have been the dwelling upon the physical rather than the spiritual effects of the Divine power revealed in the incarnation of the Son of God. Theologians arose to controvert it and to develop the theological decisions of the Council; chief among them was Leontius of Byzantium, a philosophic apologist of real {87} eminence, whose work was taken up later and completed by John of Damascus.

[Sidenote: The Emperor Heraclius as a theologian.]

It is not to be wondered at that a great soldier, filled with a deep sense of the necessity of uniting the Empire against its foes, should be led to accept a theological development which seemed to offer the hope of a reconciliation. From 622, under the advice of Sergius, as a Patriarch of Constantinople, a basis of reunion was sought in the formula that though the Lord had two Natures He had yet only "one theandric energy." The emperor Heraclius turned unwisely from the army to the Church, which, like many able military men, he thought might be coerced or led into opinions which seemed to him to be common sense. For a time it appeared that he would succeed: three patriarchs of Constantinople, one of Antioch, one of Alexandria, one of Rome (Honorius I.), were in agreement, if a little tepidly, favourable to the phrase. Honorius definitely stated that he confessed "one WILL of our Lord Jesus Christ." [1] [Sidenote: The Ecthesis, 638.] Only Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (634), held out. In 638 the emperor issued the Ecthesis,[2] or Confession of Faith, drawn up by the patriarch Sergius. It professed adherence to orthodox definitions, and continued, "Wherefore, following the Holy Fathers in all things, and in this, we confess one Will of our Lord Jesus Christ, the very God, so that never was there a separate Will of His Body animated {88} by the intellect, nor one of contrary motion natural to itself, but one which operated when and how and to what purpose He who is God the Word willed." This statement was repudiated by Rome, and in 649 condemned in a synod at the Lateran under Martin I., who ended his days in exile for disobeying the imperial power. The quarrel became one between Rome and Constantinople, at a time when the popes had recovered their orthodoxy and the patriarchs were subservient to impetuous emperors. [Sidenote: The Type, 648.] In 648 the Type issued from New Rome as an attempt at pacification; but the Old Rome rejected it, with anathemas. In 680 a synod, under Pope Agatho, at which S. Wilfrith of Ripon was present and signed for the north part of Britain, rejected as heresy the doctrine of the two wills, and local councils (as at Hatfield six months later) agreed with the rejection.

[Sidenote: Sixth General Council, 681.]

All this led on to the summoning of the Sixth General Council at Constantinople, which sat from November, 680, to September, 681. The temporary schism between Rome and Constantinople was healed. Agatho's letter condemning the doctrine of the two wills was accepted; anathema was laid upon those, dead or alive, who had accepted the heresy, and among them Pope Honorius I., a condemnation repeated by many a pope after him. The Council declared that the Lord possesses two wills, "for just as the Flesh is, and is said to be, the Flesh of the Word, so also His human will is, and is said to be, proper [natural] to the Word." And also, "just as His holy and spotless ensouled flesh was taken into God yet not annihilated, so His human will though taken into God was not annihilated." Again, as so often in {89} the days of Justinian, the words of S. Leo were appropriated for a definition of the orthodox belief. The Council was attended by 289 bishops, the emperor occupying the position which had been common since Nicaea, while on his right were the bishops of the East, on his left those of the West. Rightly was the doctrine of one will condemned as contrary to the Chalcedonian assertion of the Lord's perfect Humanity; and the condemnation was readily accepted by the Church. Only in Syria, among the Maronites (followers of John Maro), did Monothelitism linger on for centuries, till they became absorbed in the Latin Church.

[Sidenote: The Monothelite controversy.]

The chief opponent of Monothelitism was Maximus, whose Disputation with Pyrrhus remains the most important survival of the controversy. It is a subtle and rational exposition of the orthodox doctrine. The original phrase, theandric energy, from which the Ecthesis of Heraclius started, seems to have been drawn from the unknown Platonist who came to be called Dionysius the Areopagite, and whose writings had a continued influence in the Middle Age. But to all reasonable thinkers the main question was decided. The truth of Christ's human nature was an essential verity of the faith, and to deny His human will would make His nature incomplete, and His goodness in any true sense impossible. The difficulty would arise again when Luther and Calvin carried further the dispute concerning the nature of the human will, but as regards her Lord the Church had come to a decision based upon her knowledge of His divine life on earth.

The Council in Trullo (named from the {90} dome-shaped place of meeting), 691, called also Quini-sextan, summoned by Justinian II. (685-711), was not Oecumenical, and was disciplinary rather than dogmatic. It condemned many Roman practices, and asserted definitely that the patriarchal throne of Constantinople should enjoy the same privileges as that of Old Rome, should in all ecclesiastical matters be entitled to the same pre-eminence, and should rank as second after it. The Liber Pontificalis, the Roman Church history of the time, states that the pope's legates gave assent to the decrees, which is unlikely. But this one was no more than the repetition of many previous statements, as emphatic in the sixth as in the seventh century. The position was simply that claimed by the patriarch John when he signed the formula of Catholic faith drawn up and proposed by Pope Hormisdas. [Sidenote: Repudiation of Roman claims.] He insisted on prefixing a repudiation of the Roman claim to supremacy over Christendom. "I hold," he declared, "the most holy Churches of the Elder and the New Rome to be one. I define the See of the Apostle Peter and this of the Imperial City to be one See." By this it is clear that he designed to assert both the unity of the Church—which, as it has always seemed to the East, was threatened by the demand of the Roman obedience—and the equality of the two great churches of the Old and the New Rome.

Justinian I. spoke of Constantinople as "head of all the churches" ("omnium ecclesiarum caput"), but it is clear that he did not regard this position as conferring any supreme or exclusive jurisdiction. It was a title of honour which he would use of other patriarchates; and that he did not consider the power {91} of the patriarchates as unalterable is seen by his attempted creation of the new jurisdiction of his own city Justiniana Prima (Tauresium), a few miles south of Sofia, over a large district. To the archbishop whom he here created he gave authority to "hold the place of the apostolic throne" within his province.[3]

[Sidenote: Independent attitude of Constantinople.]

This position, then, of the Byzantine patriarchate, as independent of the other patriarchates, and equal to that of the older Rome, but occupying in point of honour a secondary position, was recognised by Church and State alike; and it was this that the Council in Trullo reaffirmed. In another point it was divergent from Rome—that of the marriage of the clergy. Subdeacons, deacons, and priests were forbidden to marry, but those married before ordination were equally forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to separate from their wives.

An attempt of the mad emperor Justinian II. to enforce the acceptance of the decrees by Pope Sergius I. was a complete failure. Popes were becoming much stronger in Italy than was the distant Caesar.

Rome was becoming independent of emperor and of exarch alike. In 711 the pope Constantine visited Constantinople as an honoured guest, where he was treated with diplomatic politeness, and where, possibly after they had undergone modification, he signed the {92} decrees of the Trullian Council. On this point the papal biographer is silent, but he asserts with enthusiasm the reverence of the emperor for the pope and the latter's regret when the bloody tyrant met the reward of his crimes a few weeks later. With this the ecclesiastical interest of Eastern history is for a time in the background.

[1] This is spoken of by a recent Roman Catholic writer as "la deplorable reponse de Honorius, ce monument de bonne foi surprise et de naivete confiante." It does not support the notion of papal infallibility.

[2] Given in Baronius, A.D. 689.

[3] See Procopius, De Aedif., iv. 1 (ed. Bonn., pp. 266, 267); and Novellae, xi. (de privilegiis archiepiscopi primae Justinianae) and cxxxi. (de ecclesiasticis canonibus et privilegiis), cap. 3. It is no alteration of patriarchal powers, but rather the assertion of them. Still patriarchal jurisdictions are not regarded as unalterable—as is clear from the creation of the modern national churches of the Balkan lands.




[Sidenote: The Church in Persia.]

In the East Christianity had spread to Persia from Edessa.[1] The Parthians seem to have put no obstacle in its way, but when the Persians came into conflict with the Roman Empire, now Christian, there was long and bitter persecution. At last toleration was reached, after Sapor II., and from the beginning of the fourth century the Church in Persia was organised, and governed by many bishops; the primate took the title of Catholicos and had his see at Seleucia, and had suffragans on both sides of the Persian Gulf. In Assyria and Chaldaea the mass of the population became Christians, and Christians were spread, less thickly, over Media, Khorassan, and Persia itself. The dignity of the Persian catholicos was considerable; he might be compared with the Byzantine patriarchs, and the Church almost occupied the position of an established religion, related to the civil power. But the distance, and the constant wars between the Empire and Persia, tended inevitably to separate the Churches. From the end of the fifth century the Church in Persia, surrendered to {94} Nestorianism, had begun visibly to decay. It was controlled by the Persian kings, it was a prey to endless controversy and intrigue, and when the Persian kingdom was at war with the Empire it was in grave danger. It held councils furtively; it passed canons, and, itself heretical, condemned other and more recent heresies than its own. But often its catholicos engaged in the dynastic politics of the Persian dynasties, and Christianity, regarded as one among many religions, and tainted with the same materialism as the rest, sank into impotence and was torn by schism. Meanwhile, in the neighbourhood of the Persian realm, Christianity was spreading.

[Sidenote: Growth of the Church under Justinian.]

Many barbarous tribes during Justinian's reign were admitted to the Christian faith and fellowship. The Tzani dwelling on the border of Armenia and Pontus, "separated from the sea by precipitous mountains and vast solitudes, impassable torrent beds and yawning chasms," [2]—in a land where, Procopius tells us,[3] "it is not possible to irrigate the ground, to reap a crop, or to find a meadow anywhere; and even the trees bear no fruit, because for the most part there is no regular succession of seasons, and the land is not at one time subjected to cold and wet, and at another made fertile by the warmth of the sun, but is desolated by perpetual winter and covered by eternal snows. They changed their religion to the true faith, became Christians, and embraced a more civilised mode of life." The king of those Heruls who served in the Roman army, and a Hunnish king, Gordas, {95} became Christians. The Abasgi (or Albagrians) of the Caucasus were converted, and for the most part remained associated with the Armenians and the Iberians of Georgia,[4] "when they were compelled by the Persian king to worship idols," put themselves under the imperial protection, and they remained closely in connection with the Armenian Church till 608 when they accepted the decisions of Chalcedon. They remained independent and orthodox till their union, a century ago, with the Russian Church.

[Sidenote: Separation from the Church.]

In Armenia, similarly, had grown up a national Church, which had a catholicos, a hierarchy, a vernacular liturgy of its own. When in the middle of the fifth century the ancient kingdom was split up between the Empire and the Persians, the Armenian Church still remained apart. Its national features were strongly marked even before dogmatic differences arose. With the Nestorian and Monophysite heresies new divisions took place. The Persians gradually, between 435 and 480, accepted Nestorianism, and in 483 definitely separated from the Catholic Church, and Nisibis became a school of Nestorian theology. The Armenians survived this danger but were led into Monophysitism, and in 505 they pronounced against the Council of Chalcedon. Their theology became tainted with further heresy in the sixth century, and they are still separate from the orthodox Church of the East. Thus, at the time with which we have to deal, as we have said, Christianity east of Antioch and on the borders of Persia was under Nestorian influence. After 431 Nestorianism became gradually established {96} as the dominant creed. The Church of the East, as it was officially called, rejected the Third General Council, and was cut off from the Catholic Church. It long remained a strong body. The great schools of Nisibis, Edessa, and Baghdad were centres of religion, learning, and civilisation.

[Sidenote: The Nestorians.]

The Nestorians[5] also sent out missionaries northward among the wandering Tartar tribes and along the shores of the Caspian; southward to Persia, India and Ceylon; and eastward across the steppes of Central Asia into China. The bilingual inscription of Singanfu, in Chinese and Syriac, relates that Nestorian missionaries laboured in China as far back as A.D. 636.[6] In the sixth and seventh centuries the Church of the East could count its twenty-five metropolitans or archbishops; and the number and remoteness of their sees, stretching from Jerusalem to China, testifies to her missionary zeal. Those who dwelt nearest to Baghdad met the catholicos in yearly synod; those farthest off sent their confession of faith to him every sixth year.

[Sidenote: Prester John and his conversion.]

By the Middle Ages the Church of the East had spread over the whole of Central Asia. The curious legends of the powerful kingdom of Prester John, somewhere in the heart of Asia, grew out of the conversion, by Nestorian merchants in the eleventh century, of a certain King of Kerait, a kingdom of Tartary to the north of China. This king is said to have requested that missionaries might be sent to him from the Church {97} of his converters; and, when they were come, these missionaries baptized him, naming him John,[7] and he was ordained priest (Presbyter or Prester). Two hundred thousand people of the nation embraced Christianity; the successors to the kingdom bore the dynastic name of John, and were ordained priests. However uncertain this story is, the fact of the conversion of the princes of Kerait in Tartary is sufficiently well established. [Sidenote: Height of prosperity.] The prosperity of the Church of the East culminated in the eleventh century. The khalifs of Baghdad protected their Christian subjects, and important offices of state were often filled by them.

The Indian Church, which was believed to date back to the time of S. Thomas the Apostle, had probably its origin in Nestorian missions, and accepted Monophysite opinions.

[Sidenote: Their missions]

As we have seen, the wider field of missionary work owed much to the labours of the Nestorians. It is possible that Cosmas,[8] who had travelled far afield in the first half of the sixth century, may have been a Nestorian; but the reverence with which he speaks of the orthodox faith, and his constant use of the Catholic writers, would seem to show rather that, when he became a monk at any rate, he was orthodox. From him, however, we obtain knowledge of the wide field of Nestorian missions. Recent discoveries have largely added to our knowledge. It is clear that in the sixth century, {98} apparently before 540, Nestorian bishoprics were founded in Herat and Samarkand. Monumental inscriptions date back as far as 547. [Sidenote: in the Far East.] Merv, as early as 650, is spoken of as a "falling church" [9] amid the triumphs of Islam. China has been already mentioned, and though it is not clear that only Nestorian missions prospered in the far land, there is no doubt that their success was the most prominent. Christian communities existed near the borders of Tibet[10] in the seventh century; and in the eighth and ninth they were strong in India. Even in the eleventh century the "Nestorian worship retained a great hold over many parts of Asia, between the Euphrates and the Gobi desert." Into the later and fragmentary history of these missions it is not here the place to enter. Let it only be remembered that the labours of "those Nestorian missionaries who preached and baptized under the shadow of the wall of China, and on the shores of the Yellow Sea, the Caspian, and the Indian Ocean" [11] were made possible by the diplomatic and military triumphs which radiated from Constantinople in the sixth century, and by the Christian zeal of orthodox emperors and patriarchs.

[Sidenote: Nestorianism in Persia.]

Meanwhile in Persia the Monophysites contended for supremacy with the Nestorians, and organised themselves with considerable skill. But the Nestorians, who founded schools and developed a Christology on lines different from those on which European thought was {99} proceeding, became still more rigid in their rejection of the Catholic teaching. Maraba the catholicos (540-52) and Thomas of Edessa, his pupil, seem to have drawn very near to orthodoxy; but the controversy of the Three Chapters widened the breach. Council after council, theologian, catholicos, monastery, bishop, alike denounced Justinian; and they had the support of the pagan philosophers whom he had expelled from the schools of Athens.

In Persia monasticism and the life of hermits—though the introduction of either is difficult if not impossible to trace[12]—flourished and developed on lines of their own. For a long time there was no distinction between monastic and secular life: it was only gradually that an organised monasticism grew up out of the coenobitic life for men and for women. But from the sixth century onward the organisation of monasticism gave strength to the Church, and enabled it for some time to resist the Muhammadan invasion. The Church, mapped out into dioceses and well served by numerous clergy, and having its own canon law, its own liturgical forms, and its own theology, was able for long, in spite of the absence of all state support and in spite often of state persecution, to survive in some appearance of strength till the Muhammadan invasion. The Mussulman conquest, when once it was achieved, gave something like security to the Nestorians. Though there was a time of persecution in the ninth century, it was short. Christians as teachers, physicians, philosophers, were famous in the foundation of the learning of the palmy days of the khalifs. But the whole {100} structure fell before the invasions, in later days, of the Mongols and the Turks.

[Sidenote: The Church in Palestine.]

From the more distant parts of the Persian Empire we may pass to the land where the Church had its birth. During the period of revived power in the Empire, Palestine was at peace under Justinian's rule.

In Jerusalem itself[13] it is chiefly to be said that the emperor engaged in large restorations and some original church building after the style of his better known work. He had a severe struggle with the Samaritans, but it led to many conversions.[14]

[Sidenote: Conquest by the Persians.]

But here, as elsewhere, as time went on the encroachments of the Persians were a perpetual danger to the Christianity of the East. In 615 Jerusalem fell into their hands. The Jews, whom earlier emperors had, like Justinian, kept in subjection, had grown in the days of Heraclius to be much more powerful in Syria than the Christians, and it was they who secured Jerusalem and gave it into the hands of the Persians; and again, after the Christians had overpowered the garrison, the city was given back to them and to scenes of pillage and outrage; the churches, so splendid as early as the fourth century, and described in glowing language by Procopius in the sixth, were sacked and defiled; the clergy and the patriarch were made captive; the Holy Cross, discovered by the Empress Helena, was sent away into Persia; and "all these things," says the chronicler, "happened not in a year or a month, but within a few days." The ruined churches were, however, restored {101} before long by the alms of the faithful, and it was not long before the Christians themselves were favoured by the Persian king, and Chosroes, in consequence of a council at Jerusalem in 628, legalised, it would seem, the Monophysite heresy as the representative of Christianity. [Sidenote: Reconquest by Heraclius, 622.] The conquest of Egypt followed on that of Syria; and the union of the Coptic Church with that of the Syrian Monophysites was a result, natural and almost inevitable, of the community of suffering between them. Within a few years—his campaign began in 622—the heroic emperor Heraclius won back all that had been lost, utterly defeated the Persians, won back the Holy Rood, restored the patriarch Zacharias to Jerusalem, and returned in triumph to the imperial city. In 629 he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy City, and on September 14th—still observed as the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross—he restored the Rood to the Church of the Resurrection.

[Sidenote: Conquest by the Muhammadans.]

In the year 610 Muhammad began his career as a prophet. It is no part of Church history to trace the origin of his opinions or his power, to tell how he learnt from Jews and Nestorians, or how he established a marvellous organisation on a basis of theocratic militarism. The migration from Meccah to Medinah in 622 was the beginning of his active ministry, of religious teaching carried forward by sword and fire. The capture of Meccah, the submission of Arabia, the extinction of the Christian (Monophysite) communities in the peninsula, were followed before long by the invasion of Syria and the capture of Jerusalem by the Khalif Omar in 637. The year before, Heraclius {102} had taken away the Holy Rood and the treasures of the churches to Constantinople. Two years later the Muhammadans seized Egypt, from which the Persians had not so long been driven out by the armies of the Empire. The fatal policy of the Monothelite emperors had opened the way to the triumph of Islam. Of this we shall see more, in Africa and in Southern Europe, in later days.

[1] See The Church of the Fathers (vol. ii. of the present series), chapter xxix., for the earlier history.

[2] Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, i. 441.

[3] Aedif., iii. 6.

[4] Joannes Biclarensis, p. 853.

[5] I quote from the admirable summary in the Reports of the Archbishop's Mission to the Assyrian Christians.

[6] See an interesting account in Williams's Middle Kingdom.

[7] His name was Ung; his title Khan; Ung Khan was Syriacised into Yukhanan, i.e. John.

[8] The Christian Topography was written between 535 and 537. Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, p. 279.

[9] Assemani, Bibl. Orient, iii. i. 130, 131.

[10] See Waddell, Buddhism in Tibet, pp. 421, 422.

[11] Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, p. 211.

[12] Cf. Budge, The Book of Governors, i. cxvi., and Labourt, Le Christianisme dans l'empire perse, 303.

[13] Cf. Procopius, Aedif.; and John Moschus, Pratum Spirituale (Migne, Patr. Groec., lxxxvii. [3]).

[14] Procopius, Aedif., v. 8.




[Sidenote: The Church in North Africa.]

In the middle of the fifth century the Christian power in North Africa fell under the domination of the Arian Vandals. S. Augustine died in 430 while the foe was at the gates of his city. In 439 Carthage fell, and Roman civilisation was extinguished. The rule of the Vandals was not only Arian but barbarous. It is not unlikely that their victory was won with the aid of the remaining Donatists and the heathen Moors. With the reign of Gaiseric some degree of toleration was allowed to the Catholic Church, but the persecution which had marked the earlier days of the Arian power now took the form of confiscation and the suppression of public worship. The Church suffered grievously, and not least in the class of persons ordained to the ministry and consecrated to the episcopate. But still the Catholics were the great majority, and it was seen that the Arian Vandals were in danger of absorption by the subtle influence of the truth. It was a last effort of Gaiseric's to deprive the Catholics of their leaders, which eventually brought about their restoration. The Bishop of Carthage and several of his clergy were put on board a ship and told to escape whither they could. They reached Naples, {104} and their piteous plight and the news they brought helped to direct the attention of the imperial power to its lost heritage. [Sidenote: The Vandal persecution.] Meanwhile the suffering Church, enjoying now a scanty toleration, now suffering a severer persecution, continued to make converts and to produce martyrs. In 477 Gaiseric died. A year before his death he had allowed the Catholics to reopen their churches and to bring back their bishops and clergy from exile. And still their missionary efforts had never been relaxed. Church life still continued; inscriptions remaining to-day preserve the epitaphs of men buried in the darkest days with Catholic rites; and in the interior ancient monasteries remained undisturbed. Hunneric, the next Vandal king, though nominally an Arian, set himself to extirpate heresies which he did not accept: Manichaeans under his sway received treatment more severe than Catholics. Indeed, the Catholics began to raise their heads under the leadership of Eugenius, who was elected in 479 to the see of Carthage, the only bishopric in the country which held metropolitan rank. The Bishop of Carthage was the spiritual head of the whole province, held a superiority over the bishops outside the limits of Proconsularis, and was, as it were, the patriarch of the African Church. For twenty-three years the see had had no pastor, and the restoration marked a distinct step towards the ending of the Vandal domination. But there was a final effort; Hunneric, unable to decoy the Catholics, determined to exterminate them; a writer of the time tells that nearly five thousand clergy were banished to the desert, where their fate was a practical martyrdom. A conference was {105} summoned in 484, at which it was endeavoured to make the Catholic clergy abate the strictness of their orthodoxy, but Eugenius stood firm. Persecution again followed. The writer already mentioned, Victor Vitensis, says, "The Vandals did not blush to set forth against us the law which formerly our Christian emperors had passed against them and other heretics for the honour of the Catholic Church, adding many things of their own as it pleased their tyrannical power." Thus evil deeds bring their necessary consequences. A bitter persecution swept over the land, and till the death of Hunneric, at the end of the year, atrocities of the most terrible kind were perpetrated. It was a brief age of martyrs, and rooted the Church more firmly in the affections of its children. It was an age, too, of saints, and Fulgentius shines out by the side of Eugenius as a pattern of Christian devotion and asceticism. In the years that followed king succeeded king, and the condition of the Church became gradually more tolerable, till under Hilderic much of the old organisation was restored and the monastic houses were established in a condition of considerable independence. When Gelimer usurped the Vandal throne, the power of Justinian was able to intervene, and in 533 Belisarius recovered North Africa for the Empire. [Sidenote: Reconquest of Africa by Belisarius, 533.] The restoration of the direct rule of the emperors was of necessity the restoration of Catholicism to dominance. But materially the Church had received blows from which she never fully recovered. Her possessions, buildings, treasures had for the most part passed from her hands: and many sees, many parishes, {106} still remained without pastors. Such was the result of "the violent captivity of a century."

[Sidenote: The revival of the North African Church.]

Justinian aimed at restoring all things to their first estate. "We would be the guardians and defenders of the ancient traditions," he wrote in 542 to the primate of Byzacene. He confirmed the Bishop of Carthage in his metropolitan dignity; he restored sees, allowed synods to meet, gave special privileges to the clergy. An era of church building set in, and fine monasteries were erected, in all the impressive solidity of the Byzantine style, even in distant parts of the Roman territory. Tebessa remains a marvellous example of the wealth and dignity which came anew to the North African Church. The literary power of the Church revived with her material prosperity: a school of writers arose again in the land of Augustine. Primasius, Facundus, Liberatus, Victor of Tonnenna, were among those who restored the activity and knowledge of the Church in history, theology, and apologetic. Over all the emperor Justinian kept his watchful eye, directing, interfering, exhorting, as seemed to him good. The controversy of the Three Chapters had its echoes in Africa, and the deacon Ferrand, a learned theologian, represented a very wide feeling when, in his Defensio, he deprecated any condemnation of the dead theologians; and in Facundus, Bishop of Hermiane, the unhappy hesitating pope Vigilius found an adviser who, if anyone, might have given him firmness. In the result, the emperor, by the pen at least as much as the sword, overpowered resistance, and Africa accepted the decisions of Constantinople. Reparatus, Bishop of Carthage, who resisted, was deposed, Liberatus {107} preserves the record of bitter persecution, and Victor of Tonnenna, who equally refused to accept the decision against the Three Chapters, is especially bitter in his denunciation of Justinian. But the pope Pelagius was able, in 560, to announce the assent of Africa to the statements of the Fifth General Council. The Church from the death of Justinian settled down in peaceable habitations, strong in the imperial support and the affection of the people. But as, in the relaxation which set in as time went on, the power of the imperial administration decayed, the power of the popes in Africa was gradually strengthened, and the power of the bishops rose equally. But this was not all. In time relaxation set in in the Church as well as in the State. There are tales of immoral and corrupt bishops, of disobedience to authority, of a recrudescence, from 591 to 596, of Donatism. It was the pope Gregory the Great who took in hand the needed reformation. [Its relation to Gregory the Great.] His letters are full of African affairs: his keen attention, his instructions to Hilarus, the administrator of the Roman Church's possessions in Italy, his minute knowledge, his wise understanding of the many difficult problems which beset the Church, are prominent in his correspondence. It was he who reversed the conception of Justinian in regard to the Church of North Africa. The emperor had striven for orthodoxy, without the supremacy of the pope. Gregory was determined to secure the latter, and the history of North Africa affords an excellent example of how the papal power grew. It was by continual intervention, in affairs small as well as great, and by constant solicitude: it was by the use of prudent {108} and sympathetic agents, and the firm adherence to a policy of charity, orthodoxy and discretion, that the great pope enforced his views on the bishops, the Church, the imperial representatives. While he sternly rebuked all abuse of the political authority which had fallen into the hands of the bishops, he tenaciously clung to the right of hearing appeals in cases between churchmen and public officials which circumstances had placed in his hands. From a right of control he passed to a right of direct intervention; and in State as well as Church the administrators felt the power of his indomitable will. While disorganisation was spreading in the civil order the Church was growing in concentration and authority.

[Sidenote: The Monothelite controversy.]

But the Monothelite controversy went far to shatter the power which the labour of Gregory had built up, and with it the Christianity of Northern Africa. The orthodox felt less and less bound to emperors who supported heresy, and the Arab invasion drew near without the people perceiving the full extent of their danger. Fortunatus, Bishop of Carthage, declared himself a Monothelite, but in every other province besides his the Church formally repudiated the heresy. In 646 Fortunatus was deposed and Victor succeeded him; and this is almost the last recorded incident in the history of the North African Church. As the Arab invader advanced, refugees from Syria and Egypt poured into the land, and, since many of them were heretical, added to the religious diffusions of the country. The abbat Maximus upheld the banner of orthodoxy against all comers. The victory which he won over the heresiarch Pyrrhus in 645, followed by the declarations of {109} provincial synods in 646, was the last expression of African orthodoxy.

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