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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John, the Jacobite bishop of Nikiu, whose contemporary account of the Saracen conquest is of the first value, declares that "everyone said that the expulsion of the Romans and the victory of the Mussulmans were brought about by the tyranny of the emperor Heraclius and the troubles which he made the orthodox suffer." A general discontent with the Byzantine government arose, and Rome, which was more in sympathy with the people, was unable to help them. In 646 the patrician Gregory, the imperial governor, orthodox and a protector of the Church, declared that the Monothelite Constans II. had forfeited the throne, and assumed for himself the title of emperor. Within a year he was defeated and slain by the Saracens at Sbeitla, and Byzantine Africa was placed at the mercy of the Muhammadan invader. The Copts long resisted, but their resistance was overcome in the autumn of 646. Alexandria fell a second time and finally into the hands of the Arabs.

[Sidenote: The conquest by the Muhammadans.]

For fifty years the Byzantine power maintained a foothold, precarious and nominal. Inch by inch, and with intervals of repose and even of reconquest,—as when John the Patrician, under Leo the Isaurian, recaptured Carthage,—the infidels advanced, and the Berber tribes of the interior pressed, too, upon the Christians. Carthage was again taken by the Muhammadans in 698: the native tribes joined the invaders, and by 708 Roman Africa was wholly in their hands. Toleration was at first allowed; but from 717 the Christians had only the choice of banishment and {110} apostasy. Still many held out: Christian villages remained, Christian communities, as late as the fourteenth century; and even now it is said that in some parts Christian customs survive. The Church at Carthage existed certainly in some organised form till the eleventh century, and it was not till 1583 that the Church of Tunis was utterly destroyed.

Meanwhile events in other parts of Africa had run a different course. The patriarchate of Alexandria had a long and distinguished history, and from it had spread missions far into the south.

[Sidenote: The Jacobites.]

The Monophysite controversy led to the founding of the Jacobite sect. Secret consecrations at Constantinople by bishops in prison during Justinian's severe rule sent a bishop to Hira for the Arabian Christians in Persia, and another to the borders of Edessa, who founded the Jacobites and with the assistance of Egyptian Monophysite bishops continued the episcopal succession. In Egypt there arose the division between the Melkites, who followed the imperial orders and accepted the decisions of the Councils, and the Copts, who dissented. The Monophysites of Syria, Egypt, and Armenia, with temporary and superficial differences, remained practically at one. National differences confirmed their divergence from the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. Thus while in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere the Church was still powerfully represented, though side by side with strong sectarian organisations, there were, when the followers of Muhammad came to add to the confusion, three nationalistic and heretical bodies, separate from the Church—those of Persia and Armenia and Ethiopia. Of the last something must now be said.


[Sidenote: The Abyssinian Church.]

South of Egyptian territory, properly so called, lay the Ethiopians, vassals of Egypt, tracing in a dim fashion their Christianity back to one of those queens who bore the title of Candace. These wild and warring tribes kept up continual conflict, and among the Blemmyes men still worshipped Isis in the temple of Philae. In 548 began the conversion of the Nobadae of the Soudan, of whose reception into the Christian fold the great Monophysite missionary, John of Ephesus, gives an account. Churches were built, and one inscription at least survives with the name of a Christian king. Beyond them the Alodaei learnt the faith from the same preacher, Longinus. Nubia, or Mugurrah, was also visited by Christian missionaries at the same time. Under Justinian, the temple of Philae was turned into a church, and the Blemmyes became Christian. Christian remains long existed, even down to the neighbourhood of Khartoum; and it was long before the Muhammadan conquerors swept all the worship of Christ away. Further south Christianity spread on both sides of the Red Sea. In Arabia Felix was the kingdom of the Homerites or Himyarites, whose chief city was Safar, and at different times they were ruled by the same king as the land of Axum, "the farthest Ind" of the Greek chronicler Theophanes. After the dispersion, Jewish colonies settled in Arabia, and in the fourth century Christianity followed. At the end of the fifth century a bishop is found among the Homerites, and a Trinitarian inscription is dated 542-3. About the same time the Church in Abyssinia, founded in the time of S. Athanasius, received the national religion of the country through the conversion of the Negus at the end {112} of the fifth century. While the land of Safar at times relapsed into heathenism and massacred Christians, the Abyssinians remained firm in the faith. Procopius tells that Ellesthaeos, an Ethiopian king, during the reign of Justin I., invaded the land of the Homerites to avenge their persecutions and to suppress the Jewish predominance and set up a Christian king. With him and his successors Justinian entered into treaties, as also with the kings of Axum or Abyssinia. While the Muhammadan conquest swept away the Christianity of the Arabians and drove those who clung to it northward to the banks of the Euphrates, the Church in Abyssinia, which had accepted Monophysitism, remained independent, just as its mother church of Egypt obtained toleration. It still continues separate, Monophysite, and in communion with the Coptic Church of Egypt.




[Sidenote: Christianity in Britain.]

When Gregory the Great sent Augustine and his brother monks to preach to the Teutonic tribes which had made Britain their home, there were already two Churches in the island. There was the Church of the Brythons, gradually separated by the advance of the Saxons into the Churches of Cumbria or Strathclyde, Wales, and West Wales or Cornwall. These stood apart from the English for a long time, were late in accepting the Catholic customs of the West, and had no influence on the progress of English Christianity. And there was the Church founded in North Britain by Celtic missionaries from Ireland. In Ireland there seems little doubt that Christianity was known by the end of the fourth century. In the fifth century the progress was extraordinarily rapid. S. Patrick "organised the Christianity which already existed; he converted kingdoms which were still pagan, especially in the west; and he brought Ireland into connection with the Church of the Empire, and made it formally part of Universal Christendom." [1]

The subsequent history of the Church in Ireland forms a fit introduction to that of the Church in {114} England, in spite of the separation between them. Irish Christianity did not long preserve its close union with Western Europe. The popes, as well as the emperors, were too weak to interfere in the distant islands. The Irish relapsed into the use of what is called the Celtic Easter, and to other practices which were usual before Patrick's day and which served to cut them off from the newly-converted Teutons, as well as from the Latin world in general. [Sidenote: Death of S. Patrick, 461.] Patrick died in 461. In 563 Columba, trained in the great schools which had sprung up in the Irish monasteries, crossed to what is now called Scotland to confirm the faith of the Irish settlers and to convert the heathen Picts. The organisation of the Church to which he belonged was essentially tribal and monastic. [Sidenote: The Celtic Church.] Though S. Patrick had probably consecrated diocesan bishops in large numbers, the Church soon became "predominantly monastic." Tribal feeling was so strong that the Church, too, assimilated itself to the tribal idea, and the Church's monasteries were her tribes. In a land where there were no cities monasteries took their place, and the bishops naturally came to dwell in them, and so to seem less prominent in their episcopal than in their monastic aspect. The monks became the chief power in Christian Ireland; and in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries there were many bishops without dioceses, and it seems probable that their rank, though not their function, was less important than that of the abbats, the heads of the tribal monasticism.

In the seventh century again the Irish Church came back into closer association with the Church throughout {115} Europe. This union was due very largely to the influence of learning, and still more to the influence of missionary zeal. "From Iceland to the Danube or the Apennines, among Frank or Burgundian or Lombard, the Irish energy seemed omnipotent and inexhaustible." [2] Into Ireland it would seem that classical culture was introduced by the first Christian teachers, and that from the first it was intended to serve as a preparation for religious teaching.[3] It would seem that it was from Brittany that it spread to Ireland. [Sidenote: The influences outside Ireland] The schools of Ireland became famous. Books as diverse as the Antiphonary of Bangor and Adamnan's Life of Columba show that the teaching in its different ways was a sound and a liberal one.

In England the Irish tradition and influence spread. If the Celtic school of Bangor perished in the stress of the bitter wars between English and Welsh, Malmesbury, which trained S. Aldhelm, showed that the Irish love of letters was capable of transplantation into a land now most prominently Teutonic. But the Roman influence and the influence of the East were still more effective. [Sidenote: in learning,] Benedict Biscop brought back with him to Northumbria the traditions and rules of Italian art and learning, and Theodore of Tarsus brought a wider influence, which was Greek as well as Latin. He himself founded a school at Canterbury, and taught it; and in distant times Dunstan, at Glastonbury and at Canterbury, was his worthy successor. In the north Bede was at {116} Jarrow a writer of great power and wide scope, and the school of York was a nursery of classic studies which produced the great scholar Alcuin. Thus the community of scholarship brings the Churches together.

[Sidenote: in missionary work.]

More prominent was the zeal for the conversion of the heathen. The work of Columban and of S. Gall had its origin in the Irish schools, and there was no more fruitful influence on the Europe of the Dark Age. The work of Columba and his followers was to begin in the north of Britain what Roman missionaries undertook in the south. For more than thirty years Columba, who landed in Iona in 563, taught the Picts and Scots. His Life by his disciple Adamnan is one of the most beautiful memorials of medieval saintliness that we possess. The monastery which he founded lasted till the eighth century. His school did a famous work in North Britain in the seventh; King Oswald of Northumbria was trained there, and S. Aidan, his fellow-helper, the typical saint of Northumbria. From the same source came Melrose, the great Scottish monastery, and S. Chad, the apostle of the Middle English.

[Sidenote: Scotland.]

A century of intermittent strife swept over the northern lands. Scotland became Christian slowly and with little connection with the south. Heathen onslaughts ravaged the Christian lands, and yet, in spite of all, monasteries for men and women sprang up in the north. The influence of S. Aidan (died 651) was continued by S. Cuthbert and S. Hilda, typical parents of monks and nuns. In 664 (Synod of Whitby) at last came union with the Church of the English, who appealed to the authority of Rome and {117} of S. Peter in favour of their customs, and the Northumbrian king, Oswin, ratified the union of the Celtic and the English Churches. Early in the eighth century other Celtic Churches came into the agreement; only Cornwall held out for two centuries more.

[Sidenote: The mission of St. Augustine, 597.]

The English Church, which thus came to represent the Christianity of the whole island, was founded from Rome by S. Augustine in Kent in 597. It was from the first an active missionary body. It gradually won its way over the whole island, conquering and assimilating the alien influences which were at first opposed to it. So when a storm of heathen persecution swept over England and Scotland at the end of the eighth century, when "the ravaging of heathen men lamentably destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne," when the monks of Iona were given to martyrdom, when English prelates and kings gave their lives to hold the land for Christ, the Church still endured, with material loss but with, for the time at least, enhanced glory and virtue. Three names stand out conspicuously from the seventh and ninth centuries. [Sidenote: Theodore of Tarsus, 668.] Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury from 668 to 693, was the great organiser of the English Church. A scholar, a teacher, a statesman, he knit the different tribes of English, Saxon, Jute, together in the unity of faith and discipline. Church councils sprang up under him to rule, and Church laws to guide men in the way. He kept up a close connection with the Western Church, but he did not surrender independence to a papal supremacy. Wilfrith of Ripon, his contemporary, was great also as a teacher and as a missionary beyond the seas, {118} and among the Saxons of South Britain. The seventh century was the age in which the foundations of the English Church were laid on firm bases.

[Sidenote: Bede.]

Hardly less important, though in a different way, was the work of the monk Baeda, the father of English history. He was a man who knew the history and the theology of the Western Church, and who taught by his writings and his life. His influence on the development of the Church in the north, both by his great history, his religious treatises, and his influence on Egbert, Archbishop of York, is incalculable.

[Sidenote: Alfred.]

The age of Alfred, who died in 899, was equally important. It witnessed a more distinct union with the Church of Wales, whose glories go back to the time of S. David in the fifth century. It confirmed a strong union between Church and State in England, and it witnessed a revival of Christian learning in which Alfred himself and a Welshman, Asser, whom he made bishop of an English see, were the leaders. Alfred was a bright example of what Christianity could do for mankind. Warrior, scholar, saint, pattern king whose heart was given to his people, he bore himself nobly before the world as one who loved and worshipped the Master Christ. Under his sway the Church rose again to instruct and guide the people, and when he died he left the English land a united Christian nation. The Danes, who after years of predatory invasion were become settlers over a large part of England, were brought into the Church; and the British Church in Cornwall was brought nearer to unity with the English, a union which was complete from 931.


[Sidenote: Conversion of the north.]

While in the extreme north, Ross, Cromarty, Sutherland, and Caithness, the Church remained missionary rather than parochial, in the Scotland of the south monasticism became prominent again under a new order called, in Goidelic, "Culdees" (servants of God). In the midlands years of disturbance caused much of the organisation of the Church to disappear, bishoprics to cease, monasteries to be destroyed. After the Danish wars the work of reconstruction was an urgent need, and a great prelate came to lead it.

[Sidenote: Dunstan, 924-88.]

Dunstan (924-88) was a West Saxon who was taught at Glastonbury by Irish priests, and who rose, through his friendship with leaders in Church and State, by the holiness of his life, and by the experience that he won when in exile in Flanders, to be head of the English Church. As archbishop he was "a true shepherd." He gave up all the preferments he had before enjoyed, only visiting Glastonbury occasionally for a time of repose. His friends, Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, with King Eadgar's help, did their utmost to introduce the strict rule of S. Benedict into the monasteries, replacing the clergy of the cathedral churches (secular canons) by monks. Dunstan sympathised, but he did not actively support their action. Abroad there was strong feeling against clerical marriage, and there were many canons passed against it. The danger of the Church falling into the hands of an hereditary class of officials was a real one; but it does not seem to have been much felt in England. Dunstan paid far more heed to the clergy's books than their wives.


[Sidenote: His work as archbishop and reformer.]

He made rules, and encouraged schools for the training of priests. He ordered priests to learn handicrafts that they might teach them to others. He ordered that a sermon should be preached in each church every Sunday. His zeal for moral reform was seen in many canons passed against the abuses of the age, and he did not hesitate to enforce them against the highest in the land. When the pope ordered him to absolve a great lord whom he had excommunicated for an unlawful marriage, he refused to obey.

Early in the tenth century an illustration of the position occupied by the English Church in relation to Rome, and of the learning of its clergy and their style of preaching, is afforded by the writings of Aelfric, who described himself in his early years as "a monk and a mass-priest," and was later on abbat of Eynsham. Of his work, besides educational treatises, eighty sermons, chiefly translated from the Latin, remain. In them he shows clearly that the claims of the papacy with regard to S. Peter were not accepted by all in England, and he taught the spiritual, not corporal, presence of the Lord's Body in the Holy Communion. The English Church differed also from Rome in the fact that many of the clergy were married, and though this was not regarded as lawful, they were not separated from their wives. But in all essential matters the English Church remained in union with the foreign Churches and retained her ancient reputation for unbroken orthodoxy. This reputation was increased by the fame of S. Dunstan, whose sojourn abroad had served to link English churchmen again to their brothers over sea.


The last years of the great archbishop were given to prayer and study, and to the arts of music and handicraft which he had practised in his youth. He set himself to train the young, to succour the needy, and to make peace among all men. He died on May 19th, 988, and with him the new energy he had infused into the Church seemed to pass away. [Sidenote: The Danish invasions.] New Danish invasions turned men's thoughts other ways, but still monasteries made progress. The Benedictine rule was accepted over Southern England, and in the north the see of Durham rose replacing the older northern see, when it became the resting-place of the bones of the great missionary, S. Cuthbert. The Danish invasions were not so barbarous now as in earlier days. Some of the Danes were Christians, and it was at Andover that Olaf Trigvason, King of Norway, was confirmed by Bishop Aelfeah, calling King Aethelred father. He went back to Norway a Christian devoted to the conversion of his people.[4]

The English Church at the beginning of the eleventh century was in full communion with the Western Church, but was practically to a large extent apart from papal influence. Church and State walked hand in hand, and the relations between sovereign and archbishop resembled those of the New rather than the Old Rome. The missionary energy which had in former years sent forth Wilfrith and Winfrith was now for the time exhausted. England needed a new religious revival. It came later, at the time of a political conquest.

Meanwhile the Irish Church was regaining its learning and its missionary zeal: both were expressed in {122} the consuetudo peregrinandi with which the Irish monks were credited in the ninth century. But from the time of the Danish invasions the Irish Church, and the Welsh also, suffered severely. Heathen settlements in Ireland were only gradually converted, as that of Dublin in 943. The disturbed state of their home encouraged Irish monks to cross the seas. Action and reaction led Ireland more close than ever to the Roman papacy.

[1] Bury, Life of S. Patrick, pp. 212-13.

[2] R. L. Poole, Illustrations of the History of Medieval Thought, p. 10.

[3] Cf. Roger, L'Enseignement des lettres classiques, p. 236.

[4] See ch. xi.




[Sidenote: Cyril and Methodius, 868.]

The ninth century was a great age of conversion, and the work is very largely associated with two great names in the development of civilisation and learning, those of two brothers, born in Thessalonica, probably between 820 and 830—Constantine (who changed his name to Cyril when he was consecrated bishop by Hadrian II. in 868) and Methodius. Their lives show the connection still existing between Rome and the East in Church matters, and illustrate the zeal for educational work which was so conspicuous a feature in the converting energy of the Church of Constantinople. Cyril was not only a priest and a missionary, he was a "philosopher." Methodius, it is said, had been a civil administrator. Both were scholars and linguists, and the influence which they exercised upon the Slavs is incalculably great. In missions always it is the personal influence which is the most striking. But the time is needed as well as the man. So much we see again and again, however cursorily we study the evangelising work of this age.

In missions the ninth century carried out what the eighth neglected or was unable to accomplish. The {124} wars against the Finnish Bulgarians from 755 onwards brought the Church as well as the State into grave danger, or rather were defensive of each. [Sidenote: The conversion of the Bulgarians.] In the eighth century there were several isolated conversions, including a whole family of boiars from whom sprang the recluse, saint Joannicius; but there was no general movement. The Bulgarians remained enemies of Christianity and destroyers of all Roman civilisation: S. Theodore of the Studium declared that it was criminal sacrilege to exchange hostages with them. But gradually the geographical nearness brought closer connection; barbarians enlisted in the Roman armies; at last illustrious prisoners in Constantinople were the cause of light being brought to their own land. Boris, the Bulgarian king, obtained teachers from the New Rome, and applied also to Pope Nicolas I. (858-67) for instruction. In 864 the Bulgarians accepted the faith, and the contest for patriarchal rights over them was hotly pressed between Nicolas and Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (857-86). In the end, after receiving answers from the pope to 106 questions, and after being treated with too little consideration by Hadrian II. (867-72), Boris decided to accept an archbishop from Constantinople in 870, and ten bishoprics were founded.

[Sidenote: The conversion of the Slavs.]

But the great work of Cyril and Methodius was not directly concerned with the Bulgarian conversion. In Pannonia and Moravia and Croatia they were the great missionaries to the Slavs. Cyril invented a Slavonic alphabet, and was able to preach to the Slavs everywhere in their own tongue; and in Serbia a flourishing Church sprang {125} up which retained the Slavonic rite. Early in the tenth century many Slavonian priests were ordained by the Bishop of Nona, himself a Slav by birth. But these districts were weakened by incessant strife, and their contests with the East were often fomented by the popes. Their Christianity was distinctly Byzantine; but they were never able to be a real strength to the emperor or the Orthodox Church.

[Sidenote: Poland.]

Poland, on the other hand, and later, received its Christianity from a Latin source. There may have been earlier Greek influences through the Slavonic Christians to the south-east; but it was not till 965 that the king, Mieczyslaw, was converted, when he married a Bohemian princess. He became a member of the Empire and the vassal of Otto I. The bishopric of Posen was founded in 968, and the gospel was preached by S. Adalbert, already Bishop of Prague. S. Adalbert, who for a short time held the see of Gnesen, passed on to preach to the heathen Prussians, by whom he was martyred in 997. Otto III. visited the Christian king in A.D. 1000, and gave him a relic, the lance of S. Maurice, still preserved at Cracow. The ecclesiastical organisation of the country was then consolidated; Gnesen was made the metropolitan see, and Polish and Pomeranian dioceses were placed under it. The Latin Church was dominant over Polish Christianity.

[Sidenote: The Prussians and S. Adalbert.]

But the pagan Prussians regarded S. Adalbert as a political emissary and a sorcerer who destroyed their crops, and killed him without hesitation; Bruno, whom Silvester II. sent to succeed him, perished within a year, and the attempt to Christianise the Prussians was {126} abandoned for nearly two centuries. Similar was the course of events among the Wends. It is not till the tenth century that we know anything of endeavours for their conversion, and then they were due to the all-embracing energy of Otto I. Henry I. had borne the royal arms in victory over the lands watered by the Elbe, the Oder, and the Saale; and now his successor began the establishment of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, under the see of Magdeburg. Boso, Bishop of Merseburg, set himself to learn and preach in the Slav tongue, but it seems that the German clergy who were introduced were unsuccessful as missionaries, and won the reputation of greedy political agitators. At the end of the tenth century a torrent of pagan fury swept over the land, destroyed the churches, and stamped the growing Christianity under foot.

[Sidenote: The conversion of Russia.]

The beginnings of Russian Christianity may possibly be found, as the patriarch Photius asserted, before the results of the defeat of the barbarians by John Zimisces. But it was not till nearly a century later that anything notable occurred. Olga, a "ruler of Russia," visited Constantinople in 957 and was baptized. Yet the Greek missionaries made but slow progress. It was not till Vladimir married the sister of the emperor Basil in 989, and restored the city of Cherson,—in which Cyril more than a century before had been a missionary,—where he was baptized, to the Empire, that the evangelisation of Russia really began. Vladimir deliberately chose the Greek in preference to the Roman form of Christianity, and acted, it would seem, with some semblance of national consent. The baptism of the people of {127} Kiev in the waters of the Dnyepr, as one flock, "some standing in the water up to their necks, others up to their breasts, holding their young children in their arms," was typical of the national acceptance of Christ. Everywhere churches and schools were built and the Slavonic Scriptures taught the people; at Kiev was built the Church of S. Sophia by Greek masons, in commemoration of the debt to the great Church of the New Rome. [Sidenote: S. Vladimir, 989.] Vladimir became the apostle of his people. The Church pressed forward eagerly, forward over the vast expanse covered by the Russian power, and, not without martyrdoms and tales of heroic adventure, won its way triumphantly to Russian hearts.

[Sidenote: The conversion of the Czechs.]

The early days of Christianity in Moravia and Bohemia are wrapped in obscurity. In 801 Charles the Great endeavoured a forcible conversion of the former country, but with no more than transitory success. Yet in 836 a church was consecrated at Neutra by the Archbishop of Salzburg. A little later than this we hear of the beginnings of Christian faith among the Czechs. Early Bohemian history, when it emerges from an obscurity lighted by legend, is full of romantic incident. There are passages again and again in its records which for weirdness and ferocity remind us of a grim story of Meinhold's. Paganism lingered there with some of its ancient power, when it had perished, at least outwardly, in all neighbouring lands. In the eleventh century Bohemian heathens still went on pilgrimages to the temple at Arcona on the isle of Eugen, till the practice was stopped by Bretislav II. Still a beginning had been made. In {128} 845 fourteen Bohemian nobles, who had taken refuge at the court of Louis the German, were baptized at Regensburg; but the conversion of the country was to come from the East. Cyril and Methodius, sent by the emperor Michael III. from Constantinople, converted the Moravians, and from them the gospel was handed on to the Czechs. It was Methodius, on whom the pope had conferred the title of Archbishop of Moravia, who baptized the Bohemian prince Borivoj. For the history of Bohemian Christianity the earliest authority is Kristian, brother of Duke Boleslav II., in The Life of S. Ludmilla and the Martyrdom of S. Wenceslas. [Sidenote: S. Wenceslas.] This is an extremely valuable book, not only as a biography—hagiological, like so much valuable early material for history, yet truthful—and as a record of manners in the tenth century, but as containing the account of the conversion of Moravia to Christianity, which shows that the conversion came first from the East, and the Church long retained a special connection with the Eastern peoples, Bulgarians and Greeks. The account of the murder of S. Wenceslas is of great interest as showing how close was the connection of religion with family and dynastic feuds. S. Ludmilla was murdered in 927 by the orders of her daughter-in-law, who remained a pagan; a year later,[1] her saintly grandson Wenceslas was slain by the men of his evil brother Boleslav. "Holy Wenceslas, who was soon to be a victim for the sake of Christ, rose early, wishing, according to his holy habit, to hurry to the church, that he might remain there for some time in solitary prayer before the congregation arrived; {129} and wishing as a good shepherd to hear matins together with his flock, and join in their song, he soon fell into the snares that had been laid," and it was outside the church that he was slain.

[Sidenote: Restoration of Christianity in Bohemia.]

It was not till the invasion of the country by the armies of Otto I. in 938 that Christianity was restored even to full toleration, and only when Otto came himself in 950 that it was secured. Boleslav II., the nephew of S. Wenceslas, was named the Pious; and Prague, in 973, was separated from Regensburg and became a bishopric. While among the Moravians the Slavonic rite introduced by Methodius was still largely used, in Bohemia the Roman rite was followed. Voytech (Adalbert), a Czech, was the second bishop, and to him, in spite of failures and difficulties, the conversion of Bohemia was largely due. He died a martyr (as we have said), while preaching to the heathen Prussians, and for a time darkness again settled over the history of the Czechs.

[Sidenote: The conversion of the Danes]

Meanwhile the current of conversion had spread northwards. It was in 822 that Ebbo, Archbishop of Rheims, was sent to Denmark in consequence of a political embassy to Louis the Pious, emperor from 814 to 840. Harold, the Danish king, had asked aid. The emperor gave him also a Christian teacher; and in 826 the king and his wife were baptized. Other missionaries went northwards, but before long the Danes drove out both their king Harold and his teacher Ansgar. From Denmark, however, the mission spread to Sweden, and in 831 an archbishopric was established at Hamburg to direct all the northern {130} missions, and Ansgar was invested with the pallium by Pope Gregory IV. The missions had a chequered career. [Sidenote: and of Sweden.] Hamburg was seized and pillaged by the Northmen in 845, and the Swedish mission was for a time destroyed. In 849 a new revival took place, when Ansgar was given the see of Bremen in addition to that of Hamburg; and before long he won over the king of the Jutes and his people of Schleswig. In 853 Ansgar returned to Sweden, where he was favourably received by the king Olaf. The tale of his vast missionary labours, from which he was rightly called the "Apostle of the north," is told with spirit and feeling by Adam of Bremen, who wrote in the eleventh century, as well as by the biographer who commemorated him on his death. He not only preached, but he "redeemed captives, nourished those who were in tribulation, taught his household. As an apostle without, a monk within, he was never idle." When it was said that his prayers wrought miracles of healing, he said, "If I could but think myself worthy of such a favour from the Lord, I would pray Him to grant me but one miracle—that out of me, by His grace; He would make a good man." [Sidenote: S. Ansgar.] S. Ansgar is, in his work as in his training, a parallel to S. Boniface. Like him one of the finest fruits of monasticism, which first taught in solitude and then sent out to work actively in the world, he was brought up at Corbie. For nearly thirty-five years he laboured incessantly among the peoples of the north, and at the very end of his life he gallantly went among heathen chiefs to rebuke them for buying and selling slaves. He died in 865, and S. Rimbert, {131} his disciple and biographer, was his successor in his sees.

[Sidenote: Norway.]

Gradually, and in different ways, Christianity spread in the far north. Haakon, the son of Harold Haarfager of Norway, was sent to be foster-son to Aethelstan of England, who "had him baptized and brought up in the right faith," and he became a great king under the name of Haakon the Good. From England he brought over teachers, and he built churches; and then at last he addressed all the leaders of his people and besought them "all, young and old, rich and poor, women as well as men, that they should all allow themselves to be baptized, and should believe in one God, and in Christ the Son of Mary, and refrain from all sacrifices and heathen gods, and should keep holy the seventh day, and abstain from all work on it, and keep a fast on the seventh day." [2] But it was long before his people obeyed him. Rebellion and dynastic war followed in rapid succession; and he died of a wound from a chance arrow that struck him as he pursued his defeated foes. The first Christian king of Norway died in a land which was still heathen. But the seed was sown in the hearts of the men who had seen the brave, strong, chivalrous life of him who owned Christ for Lord.

[Sidenote: Olaf Trigvason.]

In Denmark the conversion begun in the ninth century was long delayed, and it was not till Otto I. conquered the Danes and sent Bishop Poppo who instructed King Harold and his army so that they were baptized, that the land {132} became definitely a Christian kingdom. From Denmark the gospel spread again to Norway; but it was not till near the end of the tenth century that Olaf Trigvason was baptized by a hermit on one of the Scilly Isles, and then in his short reign devoted himself to converting his people, often forcibly, as a choice between death and baptism. To Iceland and Greenland too Olaf sent missionaries. He died at last, like a true Wiking hero, in a sea fight; and it was not until the next century and the days of Olaf the Saint that the faith of Christ conquered the North.

[Sidenote: The conversion of Iceland.]

There seems no doubt that Christianity in Iceland began by missionary enterprise from Irish monks. From time to time anchorites sought refuge in that ultima Thule, "that they might pray to God in peace"; but whether they did any direct work of conversion is doubtful. The actual conversion came undoubtedly from Norway. A Christian queen lived in Iceland at the end of the ninth century, the wife of the Norse Olaf who was king in Dublin; but little if any impression was made on the heathenism of the people. Nearly a century later an Icelander called Thorwald Kothransson brought a Christian bishop Frederic from Saxony, who wrought some conversions and left a body of baptized Christians behind him. In the year 1000 came a priest Thormod and several chiefs back from the Norse court of Olaf, and in a meeting of the Althing—the great assembly of the people—preached to them the One God in Trinity. The whole people became Christian, and the few heathen {133} customs that still lingered, as it were by permission, after the great baptism, soon fell away like raindrops in the bright sun. Among the last news that came to Olaf Trigvason was that his distant people had fulfilled the wish of his heart.

[1] According to the chronicle of Kristian.

[2] The Saturday fast was still observed in many parts of Christendom.




[Sidenote: The Lombards in Italy.]

The acceptance of Christianity and of Catholicism by the barbarian tribes which conquered Europe was a slow process. The conversion of the Lombards, for example, whom we have seen as Arians, sometimes tolerant, sometimes persecuting, was gradual. The Church always held its own, in faith though not in possessions, in Italy; and from the pontificate of Gregory the Great the moral force of the Catholic Society began to win the Lombards to its fold. It was proved again and again that heresy was not a unifying power. The Catholic Church held together its disciples in the Catholic creed. It is possible that Agilulf, the husband of the famous Catholic queen Theodelind, himself became a Catholic before he died. Paul the Deacon says that he "both held the Catholic faith and bestowed many possessions on the Church of Christ, and restored the bishops, who were in a depressed and abject condition, to the honour of their wonted dignity." Whatever may be the meaning of this, it certainly expresses the fact that before the middle of the seventh century the Lombards were passing almost insensibly into the Catholic fold, and Italy had practically become united in one faith though far from united in one government.


[Sidenote: The Church in the Frankish kingdoms.]

With Germany it was different. As the Merwing kingdoms decayed, the Eastern one, Austrasia, with its capital, Metz, was but a poor bulwark against heathen tribes on its borders, which were yet, it might seem at times, little more barbarous than itself. The kingdom of Austrasia stretched eastwards from Rheims "spreading across the Rhine an unknown distance into Germany, claiming the allegiance of Thuringians, Alamanni and Bavarians, fitfully controlling the restless Saxons, touching with warlike weapons and sometimes vainly striving with the terrible Avars." [1] Kings of the Bavarian line came to rule in Northern Italy, but Bavaria was little touched by Christian faith. At last when the descendants of Arnulf[2] came as kings over a now again united Frankish monarchy, when Charles Martel made one power of Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, the time for a new advance seemed to have come. Theodelind, the Catholic queen of the Lombards, was herself of Bavarian birth, but a century after her time the people of her native land, it seems, were still heathen. They were apart from the Roman civilisation and the Catholic tradition: conversion, to touch them, must be a direct and aggressive movement.

At the end of the seventh century S. Rupert began the work. He settled his episcopal throne at Salzburg. He was followed by Emmeran, and by Corbinian. Slowly the work proceeded, hindered by violence on the part of dukes and saints, favoured by popes and making a beginning for Roman missionary interest in the distant borders of the Empire under the Germans.


But it was not to these Frankish missionaries, or to Roman envoys, that the most important work was due. It was due to an outburst of converting zeal on the part of the newly converted race who had made Britain the land of the English.

[Sidenote: Saint Boniface.]

Of all the great missionaries of the eighth century perhaps the greatest was Winfrith of Crediton, an Englishman who became the father of German Christianity and the precursor of the great religious and intellectual movement of the days of Charles the Great. He followed the Northumbrian Willibrord who for twenty-six years had laboured in Frisia, and supported by the commission of Gregory II. he set forth in 719 to preach to the fierce heathens of Germany. He was instructed to use the Roman rite and to report to Rome any difficulties he might encounter. He began to labour in Thuringia, a land where Irish missionaries had already been at work, and where he recalled the Christians from evil ways into which they had lapsed. He passed on through Neustria and thence to Frisia, where for three years he "laboured much in Christ, converting not a few, destroying the heathen shrines and building Christian oratories," aiding the venerable Willibrord in the work he had so long carried on. But he felt the call to labour in lands as yet untouched, and so he determined to go to the Germans. As he passed up the Rhine he drew to him the boy Gregory afterwards famous as abbat of Utrecht, and at last he settled in the forests of Hessen and built a monastery at Amoeneburg. From his old friends in England he received sound advice as to the treatment of heathen customs and the gentle methods of conversion which befit the gospel of {137} Christ. [Sidenote: His mission from Rome, 723.] From Rome he received affectionate support; and in 722 he was summoned to receive a new mission from the pope himself. On S. Andrew's Day, 723,[3] after a solemn profession of faith in the Holy Trinity and of obedience to the Roman See—the first ever taken by one outside the Roman patriarchate—he was consecrated bishop. He set out with letters from the pope to Christians of Thuringia and to the duke Charles. Charles Martel accepted the trust and gave to Winfrith (who had assumed the name of Boniface) the pledge of his protection. The missionary's first act on his return to Hessen was to destroy the ancient oak at Geismar, the object of devotion to the worshippers of the Germanic gods; and the act was followed by many conversions of those who saw that heathenism could not resent the attack upon its sacred things. Still there were difficulties. Those who had learned from the old Celtic mission were not ready to accept the Roman customs. Gregory II. wrote in 724, exhorting him to perseverance: "Let not threats alarm thee, nor terrors cast thee down, but stayed in confidence on God proclaim the word of truth." The work grew: monasteries and churches arose: many English helpers came over: the favour of Charles Martel was a protection. As the Benedictines opened out new lands, ploughed, built, studied, taught, religion and education spread before him. [Sidenote: Boniface archbishop, 732.] In 732 Boniface was made archbishop, received a pallium from Rome, and was encouraged by the new pope Gregory III. to organise the Church which he had founded and {138} to spread forth his arms into the land of the Bavarians. There Christianity had already made some way under Frankish missionaries: it needed organisation from the hand of a master. He "exercised himself diligently," says his biographer Willibald, "in preaching, and went round inspecting many churches." In 738 he paid his last visit to Rome, where he stayed nearly a year and was treated with extraordinary respect and affection. On his return he divided Bavaria into the four dioceses of Salzburg, Regensburg, Freising, and Passau, and later on he founded other sees also, including Wuerzburg. It was his next aim to do something to reform the lax morals of the Frankish Church, which had sunk to a low ebb under the Merwings. The Austrasian Synod, which bears in some respects a close resemblance to the almost contemporary English Synod of Clovesho (747), of 742 dealt boldly with these matters. Other councils followed in which Boniface took a leading part, and which made a striking reformation. [Sidenote: His missionary work and martyrdom.] His equally important work was to complete the conquest of the general spirit of Western Christendom, which looked to Rome for leadership, over the Celtic missionaries, noble missionaries and martyrs who yet lacked the instinct of cohesion and solidarity. A long series of letters, to the popes, to bishops, princes and persons of importance, shows the breadth of his interests and the nature of his activity. To "four peoples," he says, he had preached the gospel, the Hessians, Thuringians, Franks and Bavarians, not to all for the first time but as a reformer and one who removed heathen influences from the Church. As Archbishop of Mainz he was untiring even in advanced age: in politics as well as in {139} religion he was a leader of men. It was he who anointed Pippin at Soissons in 751 and thus gave the Church's sanction to the new Karling line. He determined to end his days as a missionary to the heathen. In 755 he went with a band of priests and monks once more to the wild Frisians, and at Dokkum by the northern sea he met his death at the hands of the heathen whom he came to win to Christ. The day, ever remembered, was June 5, 755.

Boniface was truly attached to the popes, truly respectful to the Roman See: but he preserved his independence. His attitude towards the secular power was precisely similar. He was a great churchman, a great statesman, a great missionary; but his religious and political opinions cannot be tied down to the limits of some strict theory. His was a wide, genial nature, in things spiritual and in things temporal genuine, sincere; a true Saint, a true Apostle. Through the lives and sacrifices of such men it was that the Church came to exercise so profound an influence over the politics of the Middle Age.

[Sidenote: The Emperors and missions.]

The work which S. Boniface began was continued by weapons other than his own. When the Empire of the Romans was revived (as we shall tell in the next chapter) by the chiefs of the Arnulf house, when a Catholic Caesar was again acclaimed in the Roman churches, the ideas on which the new monarchy was to rest were decisively Christian and Catholic. Charles the son of Pippin was a student of theology, among many other things. He believed firmly that it was a real kingdom of God which he was called to form and govern upon earth. The spirit which inspired the followers of {140} Muhammad inspired him too. He was determined not to leave to priests and popes the propagation of the faith which he believed.

[Sidenote: Charles and the Saxons.]

For thirty-two years Charles the Great, as his people came to call him, was engaged in a war which claimed to be waged for the spread of the Christian faith. Charles was before all things in belief (though not always in life) a Christian, and it was intolerable to him that within the German lands should remain a large and powerful body of heathens. In 772 he marched into the land of the Angarii and destroyed the Irminsul, a column which was representative of the power which the Saxons worshipped. It was destroyed, and the army after its victories returned in triumph. In 774 the Saxons turned the tables and burnt the abbey of Fritzlar which had been founded by S. Boniface. In 775 Charles resolved to avenge this loss, but made little progress. In 776 he was more successful, and a great multitude of Saxons submitted and were baptized. In 777 there was another great baptism, but, says the chronicler, the Saxons were perfidious. In 778 when Charles was in Spain the Saxons devastated a vast tract of land, and even for a time stole the body of S. Boniface from its tomb at Fulda. Charles crushed the resistance, and from 780 he set himself to organise the Church in the Saxon lands, issuing severe edicts which practically enforced Christianity on the conquered Saxons with the penalty of death for the performance of pagan rites, and even for eating meat in Lent. A law was also decreed that all men should give a tenth of their substance and work to the churches and priests. Still the conquest was not {141} durable, for a terrible insurrection in 782 slew a whole army of the Germans and massacred priests and monks wherever they could be found. Then came years of carnage: once Charles—it is said—caused 4,500 Saxons to be beheaded in one day. In 793 there was a new outbreak. The Saxons "as a dog returneth to his vomit so returned they to the paganism they had renounced, again deserting Christian faith and lying not less to God than to their lord the king." Churches were destroyed, bishops and priests slain, and the land was again defiled with blood. They allied with the Avars, and Charles was thus beset with heathen foes in Hungary and in North Germany at once. He tried every measure of devastation and exile; but it seems that by 797 he had come more clearly to see the Christian way. "Let but the same pains be taken," he wrote—or the English scholar Alcuin wrote for him—"to preach the easy yoke and light burden of Christ to the obstinate people of the Saxons as are taken to collect the tithes from them or to punish the least transgression of the laws imposed on them, and perhaps they would be found no longer to repel baptism with abhorrence." But he was far from always acting up to this view, and he even allied with heathen Slavs to accomplish the subjugation of his enemies. As he conquered he mapped out the land in bishoprics and planted monasteries at important points: he took Saxon boys to his court and sent them back trained, often as ecclesiastics, to teach and rule. Among such was Ebbo, afterwards Archbishop of Rheims, the "Apostle of Denmark." From abroad too came other missionaries, and notable among them was another Englishman, Willehad of {142} Northumbria, who became in 788 the first bishop of Bremen. At last Christianity was, at least nominally, in possession from the Rhine to the Elbe, and in the words of Einhard "thus they were brought to accept the terms of the king, and thus they gave up their demon worship, renounced their national religious customs, embraced the Christian faith, received the divine sacraments, and were united with the Franks, forming one people."

Under Charles the organisation of the German Church, begun by Boniface, received a great extension. It was possible, after his death, to regard Germany as Christian and as organised in its religion on the lines of all the Western Churches.

[1] Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, v. 203.

[2] See p. 1-14.

[3] This seems to me the most probable date. Cf. Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, i. 448.




[Sidenote: Growth of papal power.]

The growth of the temporal power of the bishops of Rome was due to two causes, the withdrawal of the imperial authority from Italy and the conversion of the barbarians. As the emperors at Constantinople became more and more busied with affairs Eastern, with the encroachments of barbarians, heathen and Muhammadan, and the imperial rule in Italy was destroyed by the Lombards, the popes stood out as the one permanent institution in Northern and Central Italy. As gradually the barbarians came to accept the faith they received it at the hands of the great ecclesiastical organisation which kept together the traditions, so strangely transformed, of the Old Rome. The legislation of Justinian also had given great political power to the popes: and this power was greatly increased when the papacy found itself the leader in the resistance of the great majority of Christian peoples against the policy of the Iconoclastic emperors. The history of Rome began to run on very different lines from that of Venice, Naples, or other great cities. It became for a while a conflict between the local military nobility and the clergy under the rule of the pope. The {144} struggle was a political one, just as the assumption of power by the popes, of power over the country and a considerable district around it, was a political act.

The popes had but very slight relations with the kings of the Merwing house. It was different when the Karlings came into power. Zacharias, both directly and through S. Boniface, came into close connection with Pippin and Carloman. At first he was concerned simply with reform in the Frankish Church, but before long he found himself able to intervene in a critical event and to take part in the inauguration of the Karling House, the revival as it claimed to be of the Empire in the West.

[Sidenote: The Karling reformation.]

The growth of the papal power was closely associated with two other historic events: the growth of the Karling house among the Franks, and the process of revival in the Church's spiritual activity, showing itself in missions without and reforms within. The last leads back to the first.

Whatever may be thought of the Karling reformation, it cannot be denied that for the century before Charles assumed the Imperial crown the Church showed many signs of corruption. The darkness of the picture is relieved only by the lives of some remarkable saints.

[Sidenote: The Karling House.]

The first, of course, is S. Arnulf, Bishop of Metz, the great-grandfather of Charles Martel. Born about 582, he died in 641, and the holy simplicity of his life as statesman and priest comes like a ray of sunshine in the gloom of the days of "half heathen and wholly vicious" kings. Mr. Hodgkin, with an eye no doubt to modern affairs, comments thus on the career of the prelate so different from the greedy, turbulent, and licentious men whom {145} Gregory of Tours describes: "In reading his life one cannot but feel that in some way the Frankish nation, or at least the Austrasian part of it, has groped its way upwards since the sixth century." [Sidenote: S. Arnulf.] Arnulf was a type of the good bishops of the Middle Ages, strong, able to hold his own with kings, a friend of the poor, eager to pass from the world to a quiet eventide in some monastic shade. The tale that is told of him is typical of the sympathies and passions of his age. Bishop of Metz, and chief counsellor of Dagobert whose father Chlothochar he had helped to raise to the throne, when he expressed his wish to retire from the world the king cried out that if he did he would slay his two sons. "My sons' lives are in the hands of God," said Arnulf. "Yours will not last long if you slay the innocent"; and when Dagobert drew his sword on him he said, "Would you return good for evil? Here am I ready to die in obedience to Him Who gave me life and Who died for me." Queen and nobles cried out, and the king fell penitent at the bishop's feet. Like S. Arnulf's is the romantic figure of his descendant Carloman, who turned from the rule of kingdoms and the command of armies to the seclusion of Soracte and Monte Cassino. The "great renunciation" is a striking tale. The disappearance, the long days of patient submission to rule, the discovery of the real position of the humble brother, and then the last dramatic appearance to follow an unpopular cause, make a story as striking as any which have come to us from the Middle Age. But before Carloman come many other noble figures. The fifty years that followed Arnulf's death are but a dreary tale of anarchy and blood. It is broken here and there {146} by records of Christian endurance or martyrdom: bishops who tried to serve the State often served not wisely but too well and met the fate of unsuccessful political leaders. Leodegar, Bishop of Autun, who helped Ebroin to raise Theoderic III to the throne of Neustria, was blinded, imprisoned and at length put to death and appears in the Church's calendar as S. Leger.

The crisis came when the long march of the successful Muhammadans was stayed by the arms of S. Arnulf's descendant Charles Martel, mayor of the palace to the King of Austrasia 717, to all the kingdoms from 719, who lived till 741. In 711 the Wisigothic monarchy of Spain had fallen before the infidels: in 720 the Moors entered Gaul. From then to 731 there was for Abder Rahman an almost unbroken triumph. The power of the Prophet reached from Damascus to beyond the Pyrenees. Then Charles Martel came to the relief of Southern Gaul, and on an October Sunday in 732 the hosts of Islam were utterly routed at Poictiers by the soldiers of the Cross. [Sidenote: The defeat of the Saracens.] It was a great deliverance; and there is no wonder that imagination has exaggerated its importance and thought that but for the Moorish defeat there might to-day be a muezzin in every Highland steeple and an Imam set over every Oxford college. Charles had still to reconquer Septimania and Provence. Arles and Nimes, the great Roman cities, had to be recovered from the Arabs who had seized them, and Avignon, Agde, Beziers, cities whose future was as wonderful as was the others' past, were also won back by the arms of the Christian chief.

Charles died in 741. He had refused to help Pope {147} Gregory III. in 739 against the Lombards. It was reserved for his son Pippin to make that alliance between the papacy and the Karling house which dictated the future of Europe. [Sidenote: Pippin.] To Pippin came the lordship of the West Franks, to Carloman his brother that of the East Franks, when their father died. They conquered, they reformed the Church among the Franks, with the aid of Boniface, and then came that dramatic retirement of Carloman in 747 which showed him to be true heir of S. Arnulf. Four years later the house of the Karlings became the nominal as well as the real rulers of the Franks. In 751 the bishop of Wuerzburg for the East Franks, and the abbat of S. Denis for those of the West, went to Rome to ask the pope's advice. Were the wretched Merwings "who were of royal race and were called kings but had no power in the realm save that grants and charters were drawn up in their names" to be still called kings, for "what willed the major domus of the Franks, that they did?" Zacharias answered as a wise man would, that he who had the power should bear the name. And so, blessed by the great missionary S. Boniface, Pippin was "heaved" on the shield, and became king of the Franks, and Childerich, the last of the Merwings, went to a distant monastery to end his days.

[Sidenote: The end of the Imperial power in Italy.]

But this was only a beginning. The pope was threatened by the barbarians, neglected by the emperors who reigned at Constantinople, and at last was in actual conflict with those who tried to impose Iconoclasm upon the Church. In 751 the exarchate, the representation of the Imperial power in Italy, with its seat at Ravenna, was overwhelmed by the {148} arms of Aistulf, the Lombard king. The time had come, thought Pope Stephen II. (752-7), when the distant barbarians, now orthodox, should be called to save the patrimony of S. Peter from the barbarians near at hand. In S. Peter's name letters summoned Pippin to the rescue of the church especially dear to the Franks.[1] But before this Stephen had made Pippin his friend. In 753 he left Rome and failing to win from Aistulf any concession to the Imperial power made his way across the Alps, and on the Feast of the Epiphany, 754, met in their own land Pippin and his son who was to be Charles the Great. The pope fell at the king's feet and besought him by the mercies of God to save the Romans from the hands of the Lombards. Then Pippin and all his lords held up their hands in sign of welcome and support. Then Stephen on July 28, 754, in the great monastery which was to become the crowning-place of Frankish kings, anointed Pippin and his sons Charles and Carloman as king of the Franks and kings in succession.

[Sidenote: The crowning of Pippin.]

A point of special interest in this event is the title given to Pippin at his crowning at Saint Denis. The title of Patrician of the Romans was given by the pope, as commissioned by the emperor, "to act against the king of the Lombards for the recovery of the lost lands of the Empire." Pippin was made the officer of the distant emperor, and the pope would say as little as possible about the rights of him who ruled in Constantinople, and as much as he could about the Church which ruled in Rome. It was a step in the assertion of {149} political rights for the Roman Church. A new order of things was springing up in Italy. The popes were asserting a political power as belonging to S. Peter. They were asserting that the exarchate had ceased in political theory as well as in practical fact. In this new order Pippin was to be involved as supporter of the protectorate which the papacy assumed to itself.

Then the Franks came forward to save Rome from the Lombards. The last act of the romantic life of Carloman was to plead for justice to Aistulf,—that what he had won should not be taken from him,—and to be refused. Twice Pippin came south and saved the pope: and then the cities he had won he refused to give up to the envoys of the distant emperor and declared that "never should those cities be alienated from the power of S. Peter and the rights of the Roman Church and the pontiff of the Apostolic See." From this dates the Roman pope's independence of the Roman emperor, the definite political severance of Italy from the East, and therefore a great stop towards the schism of the Church. Iconoclasm and the independence of the popes alike worked against the unity of Christendom.

[Sidenote: The papal power.]

Pope Stephen, thanks to Pippin, had become the arbitrator of Italy. The keys of Ravenna and of the twenty-two cities which "stretched along the Adriatic coast from the mouths of the Po to within a few miles of Ancona and inland as far as the Apennines" were laid on the tomb of S. Peter. The "States of the Church" began their long history, the history of "the temporal power."

And this new power was seen outside Italy as well {150} as within. From the eighth century, at least, the popes are found continually intervening in the affairs of the churches among the Franks and the Germans, granting privileges, giving indulgence, writing with explicit claim to the authority which Christ gave to S. Peter. Into the recesses of Gaul, among Normans at Rouen, among Lotharingians at Metz, to Amiens, or Venice, or Limoges, the papal letters penetrated; and their tone is that of confidence that advice will be respected or commands obeyed. And this is, in small matters especially, rather than in great. The popes at least claimed to interfere everywhere in Christian Europe and in everything.[2] Within Italy events moved quickly.

The first step towards a new development was the destruction of the Lombard kingdom by Charles, who succeeded his father Pippin in 768. At first joint ruler with his brother he became on the latter's death in 771 sole king of all the Franks. In 772 Hadrian I., a Roman, ambitious and distinguished, succeeded the weak Stephen III. on the papal throne. He reigned till 795 and one of his first acts was to summon Charles and the Franks to his rescue against the Lombards. [Sidenote: Charles the Great and Rome.] In the midst of his conquests—which it is not here our part to tell—Charles spent the Holy Week and Easter of 774 at Rome. Thus the one contemporary authority tells the tale of the great alliance which was made on the Wednesday in Easter week: "On the fourth day of the week the aforesaid pontiff with all his nobles both clerkly and knightly went forth to S. Peter's Church and there {151} meeting the king in colloquy earnestly prayed him and with paternal affection admonished him to fulfil entirely that promise which his father of holy memory the dead king Pippin had made, and which he himself with his brother Carloman and all the nobles of the Franks had confirmed to S. Peter and his vicar Pope Stephen II. of holy memory when he visited Francia, that they would grant divers cities and territories in that province of Italy to S. Peter and his vicars for ever. And when Charles had caused the promise which was made in Francia at a place called Carisiacum (Quierzy) to be read over to him all its contents were approved by him and his nobles. And of his will and with a good and gracious mind that most excellent and most Christian king Charles caused another promise of gift like the first to be drawn up by Etherius his most religious and prudent chaplain and notary, and in this he gave the same cities and lands to S. Peter and promised that they should be handed over to the pope with their boundaries set forth as is contained in the aforesaid donation, namely: From Luna with the island of Corsica, thence to Surianum, thence to Mount Bardo, that is to Vercetum, thence to Parma, thence to Pihegium, and from thence to Mantua and Mons Silicis, together with the whole exarchate of Ravenna, as it was of old, and the provinces of the Venetia and Istria; together with the whole duchy of Spoletium and that of Beneventum." [3] The donation was confirmed, says the chronicler, with the most solemn oaths.

Now if this records the facts, and if two-thirds of Italy were given by Charles (who possessed very little {152} of it) to the popes, it is almost incredible that his later conduct should have shown that he did not pay any regard to it. But the question is of political rather than ecclesiastical interest, and it may suffice to say that there are very strong reasons for believing the passage to be a later interpolation.[4]

[Sidenote: The revival of the Empire, 800.]

Within four mouths Charles had subdued the Lombards and become "rex Francorum et Langobardorum atque patricius Romanorum." For nearly a quarter of a century Charles was employed in other parts of his empire: he dealt friendly but firmly with the pope; but he kept away from Rome. But in 799 the new pope Leo III., attacked by the Romans probably for some harshness in his rule, fled from the city and in July came to Charles at Paderborn to entreat his help. It is probable that the great English scholar, Alcuin, who has been called the Erasmus of the eighth century, had already suggested to the great king that the weakness of the Eastern emperors was a real defeasance of power and that the crown imperial might be his own. However that may be Charles came to Rome and made a triumphal entry on November 24, 800. The charges against the pope were heard and he swore to his innocence. On the feast of the Nativity, in the basilica of S. Peter, when Charles had worshipped at the confessio, the tomb of S. Peter, Leo clothed him with a purple robe and set a crown of gold upon his head. "Then all the faithful Romans beholding so great a champion given them and the love which {153} he bore towards the holy Roman Church and its vicar, in obedience to the will of God and S. Peter the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, cried with one accord in sound like thunder 'To Charles the most pious Augustus, crowned of God, the Emperor great and peaceable, life and victory!'"

Thus the Roman pope and the Roman people claimed to make anew in Rome the Roman Empire with a German for Caesar and Augustus. It was not, if we believe Charles's own close friend Einhard, a distinction sought by the new emperor himself. "At first he so disliked the title of Imperator and Augustus that he declared that if he had known before the intention of the pope he would never have entered the church on that day, though it was one of the most holy festivals of the year." [5] It may well be that Charles, who had corresponded with the Caesars of the East, hesitated to take a step of such bold defiance. Men still preserved the memories of how the soldiers of Justinian had won back Italy from the Goths. Nor was Charles pleased to receive such a gift at the hands of the pope. He did not recognise the right of a Roman pontiff to give away the imperial crown. What could be given could be taken away. It was a precedent of evil omen.

But none the less the coronation of Charles the Great, as men came to call him, was the greatest event in the Middle Age. It allowed the vitality of the idea of empire which the West inherited from the Romans, and it showed that idea linked to the new power of the popes. It founded the Holy Roman Empire. Twelve years later the Empire of the West won some sort of recognition from the Empire of the East. In 812 an ambassage from Constantinople came {154} to Charles at Aachen, and Charles was hailed by them as Imperator and Basileus. The Empire of the West was an accomplished and recognised fact.

[Sidenote: Results of the revived Empire.]

Its significance was at least as much religious as poetical. Charles delighted in the works of S. Augustine and most of all in the De Civitate Dei; and that great book is the ideal of a Christian State, which shall be Church and State together, and which replaces the Empire of pagan Rome. The abiding idea of unity had been preserved by the Church: it was now to be strengthened by the support of a head of the State. The one Christian commonwealth was to be linked together in the bond of divine love under one emperor and one pope. That Constantine the first Christian emperor had given to the popes the sovereignty of the West was a fiction which it seems was already known at Rome: Hadrian seems to have referred to the strange fable when he wrote to Charles the Great in 777. It was a legend very likely of Eastern fabrication, and it was probably not as yet believed to have any claim to be authentic; but when the papacy had grown great at the expense of the Empire it was to be a powerful weapon in the armoury of the popes. Now it served only, with the revival of learning at the court of Charles the Great, to illustrate two sides of the great movement for the union of Europe under two monarchs, the spiritual and the temporal. The coronation of Charles was indeed a fact the importance of which, as well as the conflicts which would inevitably flow from it, lay in the future. But it showed the Roman Church great, and it showed the absorption of the great Teutonic race in the fascinating ideal of unity at once Christian and imperial.

[1] Cod. Car. in Muratori, Rer. Ital. Script., iii. (2) 90.

[2] Cf. Dr. J. von Pflugk-Hartung, Acta Pontificum Romanorum inedita, 1880, 1884.

[3] Liber Pontificalis, i. 498.

[4] The question may be read in Mgr. Duchesne's Introduction to the Liber Pontificalis, ccxxxvii.-ccxlii.; and Dr. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vii. 387-97.

[5] Liber Pontificalis, ii. 6.




We have spoken already of two important periods in the history of the Eastern Church. We must now briefly sketch another.

[Sidenote: Sketch of the period, 725-847.]

The third period (725-847) is that of Iconoclasm. Of this, the originator was the emperor Leo III., one of those soldiers who endeavour to apply to the sanctuary the methods of the parade-ground. He issued a decree against the reverence paid to icons (religious images and pictures), and, in 729, replaced the patriarch S. Germanus by the more supple Anastasius; a docile assembly of bishops at Hieria, under Constantine V. (Copronymus), passed a decree against every image of the Lord, the Virgin, and the saints. A fierce persecution followed, which was hardly ended before the accession to power of Irene, widow of Leo IV., under whom assembled the Seventh General Council at Nicae in 787, a Council to which the West and the distant East sent representatives. This Council decreed that icons should be used and receive veneration (proskuesis) as did the Cross and the book of the Gospels. A persecution followed, as bitter as that of the iconoclastic emperors, and the troubled years of the first half of the ninth century, stained in Byzantium by every crime, found almost their only brightness in the patriarchate (843-7) of S. Methodius, a wise ruler, an {156} orthodox theologian, a charitable man. In Antioch and Jerusalem, about the same period, orthodox patriarchs were re-established by the toleration of the Ommeyads and the earlier Abbasaides; but on the European frontiers of the Empire conversion was at a standstill during the whole period of iconoclastic fury and reaction, while in the north-east of Syria and in Armenia the heresy of the Paulicians (Adoptianism) spread and flourished, and the Monophysites still throve on the Asiatic borders. In theology the Church of Constantinople was still strong, as is shown by the great work of S. Theodore of the Studium, famous as a hymn-writer, a liturgiologist, and a defender of the faith.

Such are the facts, briefly summarised, of the history of rather more than a century in the East. But we must examine more attentively the meaning of the great strife which divided the Eastern Church.

[Sidenote: The orthodox doctrine of images.]

The orthodox doctrine, as it is now defined, is this—that "the icons are likenesses engraved or painted in oil on wood or stone or any sort of metal, of our Saviour Christ, of the Mother of God, and of the holy men who from Adam have been well-pleasing to God. From earliest times the icons have been used not only to give internal dignity and beauty to every Christian church and house, but, which is much more essential, for the instruction and moral education of Christians. For when any Christian looks at the icons, he at once recalls the life and deeds of those who are represented upon them, and desires to conform himself to their example. On this account also the Church decreed in early times that due reverence should always be paid {157} by Christians to the holy icons, which honour of course is not rendered to the picture before our eyes, but to the original of the picture." This statement represents the views of the orthodox Eastern theologians of the eighth as clearly as it does the teaching of the nineteenth century. It represents also the opinions of the popes contemporary with the Iconoclastic movement, who withstood the emperors to the face. Leo was threatened by Gregory II., and the patriarch who had yielded to the storm, Anastasius, was excommunicated. The pope advocated, in clear dogmatic language, the use of images for instruction of the ignorant and encouragement of the faithful. In Greece there was something like a revolution, but it was sternly repressed. [Sidenote: The acceptance in the West.] In 731 a council, at which the archbishops of Ravenna and Grado were present, and ninety-three other Italian prelates, with a large representation of the laity, under Pope Gregory III., ordered that if anyone should stand forth as "a destroyer, profaner, and blasphemer against the veneration of the holy images, that is of Christ and His sinless Mother, of the blessed Apostles and the Saints, he should be excluded from the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and from all the unity and fabric of the Church." The answer to this, it would seem, was the separation of the Illyrian territories and sees from the Roman patriarchate, as well as the sees in Sicily and Calabria: the pope's authority was restricted to the territory of the exarchate, including Rome, Venice and Ravenna. In Constantinople the resistance of the people to the Iconoclastic decrees was met by a bitter persecution, which Constantine V. began in 761. Under {158} his father Leo III. the virgin Theodosia was martyred, who is revered among the most popular of the Saints in Constantinople to-day. [Sidenote: The Iconoclastic persecution.] The position of the people who clung to their old ways of worship in the eighth century was indeed not unlike that of those who to-day struggle on, always in dread of active persecution, under the Muhammadan rule. Muhammadanism, with its stern suppression of all representation of things divine or human, was believed to have been one of the suggesting forces which brought about the Iconoclastic movement. Leo III. had been brought into intimate association with the Saracens; and it was said in his own day that he had learned his fury against images from one of them. The tale was a fable, but it showed how entirely Leo's action was contrary to the religious feeling of his time.

[Sidenote: Iconoclastic theology.]

It is difficult perhaps for a Western, or at least an Anglican, to-day to form a just estimate of the strong feeling of the majority of the Eastern Christians in favour of "image-worship." It is easy to see how the stern simplicity of the Muhammadan worship, which in all the strength of the creed that carried its disciples in triumphant march over continents and over ancient civilisations was present to the eyes of the soldiers of Heraclius and Leo, appealed to all those who knew the power and the need of stern self-restraint. That Islam should seem to be more spiritual than Christianity seemed irony indeed, but an irony which seemed to have facts to prove it. An age of superstition, an age of credulous limits after the miraculous, an age when materialism made rapid progress among {159} the courtiers of the great city, was an age, it might well seem, which needed a protest against "iconoduly," as the iconoclasts termed the custom of the Eastern Church. And if the controversy could have been kept away from the field of pure theology it might well have been that an Iconoclastic victory would not have been other than a benefit to religion. Leo was content to replace the crucifix by a cross. But it is impossible to sunder the symbol from the doctrine, and the Greeks would never rest satisfied with a definition, still less with a practical change, without probing to its inner meaning. This feeling was expressed in form philosophical and theological by one of the last of the great Greek Fathers, S. John Damascene, and by the united voice of the Church in the decision of the Seventh General Council.

[Sidenote: S. John Damascene.]

S. John of Damascus, who died about 760, was clear in his acceptance of all the Councils of the Church, clear in his rejection of Monophysitism and Monothelitism. He described in clear precision the two natures in one hypostasis, the two wills, human and Divine, with a wisdom and knowledge related to each; but he was equally clear that the composite personality involves a communicatio idiomatum (antidosis idiomaton). The human nature taken up into the Divine received the glory of the Divinity: the Divine "imparts to the human nature of its own glories, remaining itself impassible and without share in the passions of humanity." S. John Damascene taught then that our Lord's humanity was so enriched by the Divine Word as to know the future, though this knowledge was only manifested progressively as He increased in age, and {160} that only for our sakes did He progressively manifest His knowledge. While he declared that each Nature in the Divine Person had its will, he explained that the One Person directed both, and that His Divine will was the determinant will. It might well seem that in his desire to avoid Nestorianism he did not attach so full a meaning to our Lord's advance in human knowledge as did some of the earlier Fathers. But the practical bearing of S. John's writings was in direct relation to the great controversy of his age, to which he devoted three addresses in particular. He defined the "worship" of the icons as all based upon the worship of Christ, and attacked iconoclasm as involving ultimately an assault upon the doctrine of the Incarnation. On this ground S. Theodore of the Studium and Nicephorus the patriarch of Constantinople, who was driven from his see by the emperor, are at one with S. John Damascene.

[Sidenote: S. Theodore of the Studium.]

Theodore of the Studium occupies a place in Greek thought which is, perhaps, comparable to that of S. Anselm in the Latin Church. If there never was anything in the East exactly corresponding to the era of the schoolmen in the West, if the theology of Byzantium throughout might seem to be a scholasticism, but a scholasticism apart, still it would not be untrue to describe S. Theodore as the last of the Greek Fathers. He came at a time in Byzantine history when a great crisis was before the Church and State, so closely conjoined in the Eastern Empire. Born in the last half of the eighth century, and dying on November 11th, 826, Theodore lived through the most vital period of the Iconoclastic struggle, and he left, in his {161} theological and familiar writings, the most important memorial of the orthodox position which he did so much to render victorious.

Theodore of the Studium is a striking example of the influence of environment, tradition, and esprit de corps. His life is inextricably bound up with the history, and his opinions were indubitably formed to a very large extent by the influence, of the great monastery of S. John Baptist of the Studium, founded towards the close of the fourth century by Fl. Studius, a Roman patrician, the remains of which still charm the traveller who penetrates through the obscurest part of Constantinople to the quarter of Psamatia. The house was dedicated to S. John Baptist, and according to the Russian traveller, Antony of Novgorod, it contained special relics of the Precursor. A later description shows the extreme beauty, seclusion, severity of the place, surrounded by cypress trees and looking forth on the great city which was mistress of the world. Even to-day the splendid columns which still remain and the impressive beauty of the crypt make the church, though in an almost ruinous condition, a striking object in Constantinople. The monastery first became famous as the home of the Akoimetai, or Sleepless Monks, (as they were called from their hours of prayer,) when they withstood the heresies of the later fifth century,[1] and fell themselves into error, but from the date of the Fifth General Council to the outbreak of the Iconoclastic controversy they remained in comparative obscurity.

The era of Iconoclasm, which did so much to devastate the East, and which, by the emigration of some {162} 50,000 Christians, cleric and lay, to Calabria, exercised so important an influence on the history of Southern Italy, might have cast a fatal blight on the Church in Constantinople had it not been for the stand made by the Monks of the Studium. [Sidenote: The Monks of the Studium and the Iconoclastic Controversy.] The age of the Iconoclasts was the golden age of the Studite monks. Persecuted, expelled from their house by Constantine Copronymus, they were restored at his death in 775, but had dwindled, it seems, to the number of twelve. A new era of power began for them under their Archimandrite Sabbas, and this was increased by his successor, Theodore, whose life covered the period of the greatest theological importance in the history of Iconoclasm. When the patriarchal see was held for seven-and-twenty years by Iconoclasts, Theodore upheld the spirits of his brethren, and even in exile contrived to be their indefatigable leader and support. His was never a submissive, but always an active resistance to the imperial attempt to dragoon the Church, and a typical audacity was the solemn procession with all the monastery's icons, the monks singing the hymn "Ten achranton eikona sou proskunoumen, agathe" which caused his expulsion. His exile produced a series of impressive letters in which, with every vigour and cogency of argument of which a logical Greek was capable, he exhorted, encouraged, and consoled those who, like himself, remained steadfast to their faith. The Studium gave, too, its actual martyrs, James and Thaddeus, to the traditional belief; and Theodore in exile, who would gladly have borne them company in their death, commemorated their heroism and {163} implored their intercessions. Theodore's whole life was one of resistance, active or passive, to the attempt of the emperors to dictate the Church's Creed; and though he did not live to see the conclusion of the conflict, its final result was largely due to his persistent and strenuous efforts. For a while after his death there is silence over the history of the Studites, till, in 844, we find them bringing back his body in solemn triumph from the island of Prinkipo. Till the middle of the ninth century they remained a potent force; from that time up to the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, if they retained their fame, their activity was diminished.

[Sidenote: The rule of the Studium.]

Professor Marin[2] has collected interesting details from many sources as to the rule of the house, its dress, liturgical customs, learning, discipline. The liturgy was said at six on days when the fast lasted till nine, at three on other days; and the monks were expected to communicate daily. While the house was essentially a learned society, a community of sacred scholars, Theodore stands out from its whole annals as a great preacher, and no less for the charm of his personal character. It was he, fitly, who gave to the house that special Rule, which stood in the same relation to the general customary observance by Eastern monks of that somewhat vague series of laws known as "the Rule of Basil," that the reform of Odo of Cluny stood to the work of S. Benedict himself. It was an eminently sensible codification of floating custom in regard to monastic life. All that Theodore did—and this applies with special force to the sermons which he {164} preached—seems to have been eminently practical, charitable, and sane. There is an underlying force of the same kind in the argument of his three Antirrhetici, in which he triumphantly vindicates the worship of Christ in His Godhead and His manhood as being inseparable and essential to the true knowledge of the faith as it is in Jesus. There can be no rivalry between icon and prototype: "The worship of the image is worship of Christ, because the image is what it is in virtue of likeness to Christ."

This was the point on which the orthodox met the theologians who defended iconoclasm: the iconoclasts in seeking to destroy all images were seen to strike at a vital truth of the Incarnation, the true humanity of Jesus. The theologians demanded the preservation and worship,—reverence rather than worship in the modern English use of the words,—of the icons as a security for the remembrance of the Manhood of the Lord. The worship was not latreia, which can be paid to God alone, but proskunesis schetike. Christ, said S. Theodore, was in danger of losing the quality of being man if not seen and worshipped in an image.

The long dispute ended, as we have said, after the accession of the Empress Irene, who, unworthy though she was to have part in any great religious movement, yet had always been attached to the traditional opinions of the Greek people. The monks of Constantinople had exercised a steady influence during all the years of disturbance: and they were to triumph. [Sidenote: The Seventh General Council, 787.] The Empress Irene replaced the patriarch Paul in 783 by her own secretary Tarasius, and it was determined at once to reverse the decrees that {165} had been passed at Constantinople in 754. In 787 for the second time a council met at Nicaea, across the Sea of Marmora, which became recognised as the Seventh General Council. To it came representatives of East and West, and the decision which was arrived at was practically that of the whole Church.

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