Written by Vladimir Moss



    With the death of Otto III, the last Western continental ruler sympathetic to Byzantium, both the “Holy Roman Empire” and the Roman papacy began to lose their last links with the Eastern Church. Their final decline began after the death of Pope Sylvester II in 1003, when “suddenly,” according to Aristides Papadakis, “the papacy was turned into a sort of imperial Eigenkirche or vicarage of the German crown. The pope was to be the instrument and even the pawn of the Germans, as opposed to the Romans.”[1]

     Not that the ethnically Roman Popes were paragons of virtue - the previous century had shown that they usually were far from that: but at least they were usually formally Orthodox. However, in 1009, as Ranson and Motte write, “the last Roman Orthodox Pope, John XVIII, was chased away and a Germanic Pope usurped the Orthodox patriarchate of Rome: Sergius IV, an adulterer-bishop of Rome who, on ascending the episcopal throne, wrote to the four other patriarchs a letter of communion which confirmed the doctrine of the double procession [of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son – the Filioque heresy] and immediately provoked a break. The four Orthodox patriarchs then broke communion with the pope. Some years later [in 1014], Benedict VIII, who was close to the emperor of Germany Henry II, had the Filioque inserted into the Creed.”[2]

     According to Sir Steven Runciman, the popes’ addition of the Filioque was hateful to the Greeks for purely political reasons, since it represented the triumph of German influence in Rome.[3] However, the purely theological zeal of the Byzantines must not be underestimated.

     As for the native Romans, Fr. John Romanides has argued that they remained basically Orthodox (because they were actually Greek!) and only accepted the Filioque unwillingly, it being forced on them by the German emperors and their appointed, reformist popes. The cause of the West’s falling away lay exclusively, according to Romanides, in the Franks… However, contrary to this (essentially racist) theory, the Roman aristocratic families bore their own share of responsibility for the catastrophe, having made the city virtually ungovernable through their rivalries. The fact is that the whole of the West, both Latin and German, formed a single body that fell away from the Church together...

     Another point to remember is that while the German emperors may have appointed German popes in order to clean up the papacy, the papacy remained thoroughly unreformed until the middle of the century – that is, until the pontificate of Leo IX. Thus Lampryllos writes: “After the death of this pope [Benedict VIII], who was… the nephew of the Emperor Henry, another of his nephews, and brother of the last pope, was elevated by the imperialist party to the pontificate under the name of John XIX in 1024. Simple layman though he was, he ascended through all the degrees of the hierarchy in six days. He held the pontificate for nine years, but finally the national party, impatient with the excesses of his behaviour, expelled him from Rome. However, the Emperor Conrad II came down with an army into Italy and restored him; he died in the same year, and another Teuton, the nephew also of the Emperor Conrad, succeeded him under the name of Benedict IX. Henry III, then his son Henry IV, continued to get involved in successive elections of the popes, tipping the scales in favour of their candidates; almost until 1061 the popes were their creatures: they were those who go down in history under the name of the German Popes.”[4]

     The German ascendancy over the papacy came to a head in 1046, when there were no less than three men calling themselves the Pope of Rome. The Emperor Henry III summoned all three to Sutri, north of Rome, and deposed all of them, placing a fellow German, Clement II, in the Lateran. After his death the notorious Benedict IX returned for his third spell as Pope.

     Benedict IX was Pope from 1032 to 1044, again in 1045, and finally from 1047 to 1048, the only man to have served as Pope for three discontinuous periods. Benedict gave up his papacy for the first time in exchange for a large sum of money in 1044. He returned in 1045 to depose his replacement and reigned for one month, after which he left again, possibly to marry, and sold the papacy for a second time, to his Godfather (possibly for over 650 kg /1450 lb of gold). Two years later, Benedict retook Rome and reigned for an additional one year, until 1048. Poppo of Brixen (later to become Pope Damascus II) eventually forced him out of Rome. Benedict’s place and date of death are unknown, but some speculate that he made further attempts to regain the Papal Throne. St. Peter Damian described him as ‘feasting on immorality’ and ‘a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest’ in the Liber Gomorrhianus, a treatise on papal corruption and sex that accused Benedict IX of routine homosexuality and bestiality.”[5]

     Emperor Henry replaced Benedict with another German, and then, when he died, with yet another, Leo IX. However, though a distant cousin of the Emperor, Leo was no pawn of the German Reich. Indeed, it was his policies, as Larry Siedentop points out, “that would put an end to the Carolingian entente of church and empire essentially creating bitter conflicts between the two”.[6]


     It was Leo IX who turned German caesaropapism into German papocaesarism, a political empire with ecclesiastical pretensions into an ecclesiastical one with political ones… However, before discussing his fateful pontificate, we need to examine a monastic movement that had an enormous influence on the tenth- and eleventh-century Church in the West. 

     Now we have spoken little in this history about monasticism - in spite of the fact that Basilian monasticism in the East from the fourth century, and Benedictine monasticism in the West from the sixth century, undoubtedly greatly influenced the evolution of their respective societies. But they had little direct impact on government or Church-State relations… That could not, however, be said of the movement of Frankish monasticism that arose in the tenth century and which is known as the Cluniac movement after the Burgundian monastery of Cluny.

     Cluny was founded by Duke William the Pious of Aquitaine in 910. Cluny and its dependencies were distinguished first of all by the fact that they were not Eigenkirchen, but “stavropegial” foundations independent of the control of any feudal lord. As such, they assumed the leadership of a powerful reform movement directed against the corruptions introduced into the Church by the feudal system, and had considerable success in this respect. 

     For example, the founder of the movement, Abbot Odo of Cluny, succeeded in being appointed archimandrite of Rome by Alberic with authority to reform all the monastic houses in the district.[7]

     The Cluniacs, writes Jean Comby, “restored the main principles of the Benedictine Rule: the free election of the abbot, independence from princes and bishops. Moreover, the abbey affirmed its direct allegiance to the pope. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries it became the head of an Order which multiplied throughout Europe. In fact, unlike the old monasteries, all the new ones that were founded remained under the authority of the abbot of Cluny. In its heyday, the ‘state of Cluny’ comprised 50,000 monks.”[8]

    The determination of the Cluniacs to remain completely independent of secular control “led gradually,” according to Siedentop, “to the recasting of relationships in government in terms of the requirements of ‘souls’ rather than the traditional claims of lordship (dominium) and paterfamilias.

     “The new vision of how ‘the Christian people’ should be served would prove to be far more subversive than Charlemagne’s vision. For it not longer combined ancient and Christian moral impulses. Where Charlemagne and his clerical advisers had relied on aristocratic subordination and personal ties to promote unity in the empire and church, tenth-century Frankish reformers engaged in ‘purifying’ monastic life developed attitudes that would, in the next century, lead Pope Gregory VII to put forward what was virtually a constitution for Europe. Monastic reform thus generated a more aggressive, uncompromising ambition in the church, a political ambition…

     “[In this development] it would be difficult to exaggerate the influence, direct and indirect, of this Cluniac reform movement. The ”direct influence can be found not only in the way many older monasteries rapidly submitted to the disciplines of Cluny, but also in the frequent election of monks from Cluny to bishoprics, where they began to defend the principle that the church should choose its own leaders. These bishops sought to restore order to their dioceses, attacking the sale of offices, rooting out clerical immorality and trying to recover church property that had been alienated. They me with fierce resistance from secular lords.

     “The indirect influence of Cluny was perhaps even more important. It restored the prestige of monasticism as representing a truly Christian life, an ordered life of personal dignity, work and self-government. It laid emphasis on learning and prayer as well as physical labour. It offered, tacitly, a challenge to the church to exert itself in a society plagued by the warfare of minor aristocrats and knights, who were profiting from the disappearance of older forms of authority. Such knights went in for banditry and, in the words of one historian, ‘organising protection rackets’. Altogether, the Cluniac reform movement raised the sights of the church, inciting it to defend moral authority in a world apparently given over to mere power. 

     “As the year 1000 approached, the fragmenting of secular power and castle-building by local lords in West Francia created an impression of anarchy – the ‘dissolution of all things’ – which some interpreted as the approach of the Antichrist. As a result, the Frankish church not only had an opportunity but felt an imperious need to stamp its own image on society. It alone now had a coherent conception of right rule. For the previous belief in an imperium – in an autocratic ‘Roman’ empire set over and regulating temporal lordships – no longer corresponded to social facts. It was up to the church to restore order. But how was it to begin?

     “In fact, movements sprang up almost simultaneously in a number of places towards the end of the tenth century. Stimulated by the abbot of Cluny, the clergy encouraged the expression of a new sensibility. In 975 the bishop of Le Puy convened a meeting of the knights and peasants of his diocese, eliciting from them an oath to respect the property both of the church and of paupers or the ‘powerless’. In 989 a church council in Burgundy went even further. It excommunicated ‘those who attacked bishop, priests, deacon or clerk, while at home or travelling; those who robbed a church; those who stole a beast from the poor or the tillers of soil.’ By the end of the century many other public meetings and church councils had extended this ‘Peace of God’, so that it included ‘pilgrims, women and children, labourers and the instruments of their work, monasteries and cemeteries.’ These were to be left ‘undisturbed and in perpetual peace’. 

     “Such councils had first appeared in the south of France. But they soon spread to its northern regions as well. Indeed, the movement became an irresistibly popular one. ‘Peasants of every class, from the most prosperous, through the middling ranks, to the lowest of all’ flocked to the councils. The power of the movement was such that by 1017 it constrained the nobles and knights to accept a ‘truce of God’. They ‘swore to desist from all private warfare from noon on Saturday until prime on Monday.’ ‘This would allow due reverence to be paid to the Lord’s Day; those who broke this ‘truce of God’ would be cut off from the sacraments of the church and the society of the faithful in life; no priest might bury them, no man might pray for their soul. Those who swore to and observed the truce were assured of absolution from God.’

     “The movement was at the same time religious and secular. Contemporaries greeted it with such wonder and delight, almost as if it were the Second Coming. They had a sense that they were witnessing something of fundamental importance, that Christian moral beliefs were finally shaping society at large. The church was defending the defenceless. ‘The movement… depended upon and encouraged an outburst of religious fervor such as had not appeared in the written sources since the sixth century, if then.’”[9]

     The question that now arose was: “Could appeals to ‘God’s law’ be translated into practices more durable than the ‘Peace of God’ and ‘Truce of God’? If so, the monastic movement of reform would have to act outside the monasteries. And in order to do that, a fulcrum for action was required. There was only one fulcrum available: the papacy.

     “Only Rome could offer a central agency for general reform. The history of Western Europe from the mid-eleventh to the thirteenth century is the history of the papacy being recruited and transformed by the reform movement. Within a few decades the papacy became so central to the reform movement that some historians have doubted whether the Cluniac movement was as important as the ‘Gregorian’ reforms issuing from Rome. Cluny was not, indeed, the only source of pressure for reform. There were isolated movements for reform of the church in England, Flanders and Italy. But… it was from the new German empire that the first effective impetus for reform at the centre came. German emperors had renewed the Carolingian project of a ‘Christian empire’. A project of moral reform was embedded in their imperial system. So in the eleventh century German emperors began to prise the papacy away from the hold of Roman aristocratic families…”[10] 


     Let us briefly review the development of the papist heresy to this point… Until about 600, the development of Papism was inhibited by the fact that the Popes were subjects of the Byzantine Emperors, to whom they nourished feelings of loyalty, whose basic view of Church-State relations they shared, and whose confirmation they still required before they could be consecrated. In the seventh and eighth centuries, however, both the political and ecclesiastical bonds between the Popes and the Emperors became weaker as Byzantine power in Italy weakened and the Byzantine emperors fell into the heresies of Monothelitism and Iconoclasm. The estrangement from Byzantium was accompanied by a rapprochement with the new Carolingian empire in the north. This relationship was reinforced by the Pope’s double anointing of the first Carolingian, Pepin, the crowning of Charlemagne in Rome and the double anointing of his son, Louis the Pious, in 814. At the same time, the disintegration of the empire and the forgeries known as the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals enabled the Popes to begin propagating the heresy of the unimpeachable power of the papacy over all bishops, and even over kings.[11] However, after the heresies of papal universal jurisdiction and the Filioque had been anathematized by the Council of Constantinople in 879-80, - which decisions were also signed by the legates of Pope John VIII, - the papacy went into a steep moral decline just as Byzantium reached its apogee. There was some recovery towards the end of the tenth century, during the Ottonian dynasty, but then decline set in again. This decline was indicated, not only by the moral decline of the popes, but also by their domination by the secular authority. As Francis Fukuyama writes: “Of the twenty-five popes who held office before 1059, twenty-one were appointed by emperors and five dismissed by them…”[12]

     Now the theory of papal infallibility was not expressed in a fully explicit manner until the middle of the eleventh century. Before then we have an accumulation of grandiloquent epithets, which were seen as no more than rhetorical devices by the majority of Christians. That they were not taken literally is evident from the fact that some Popes were condemned as heretics.

Thus the Monothelite Pope Honorius I was anathematized by the Sixth Ecumenical Council     “Overall, the progress of the new papal program was not all smooth sailing. Widespread protest, often accompanied by violent protest, was to continue for decades. Yet, all in all, by the end of the century the popular defenders of simony, of clerical marriage, and of the evils of the proprietary church had by and large vanished. The champions of reform at any rate proved more unyielding than their often more numerous adversaries. This was particularly evident in the skilful drive of the reformers to make celibacy an absolute prerequisite to ordination. This part of the Gregorian platform was reinforced by the monastic ideal, since many of the reformers were actually monks and had already embraced a continent life. Some, like the ascetic Peter Damian, cardinal-bishop of Ostia, were even eager to treat the problem as heresy and not as a matter of discipline. But the reformers were perhaps also uncompromising on this issue because they were convinced that compulsory clerical continence could advance the process of de-laicization – another more general item of their platform. A monasticized priesthood, quite simply, was viewed by reformers everywhere as a crucial corrective to clerical involvement in the world. If successful, the strategy, it was hoped, would provide the clergy with that sense of solidarity and corporate identity needed to distinguish them from the laity. In all essential respects, as one scholar has put it, the reforming initiatives of the popes were ‘an attempt by men trained in the monastic discipline to remodel Church and society according to monastic ideals… to train churchmen to rethink themselves as a distinct ‘order’ with a life-style totally different from that of laymen.’ Behind the campaign for celibacy, in sum, aside from the moral and canonical issues involved, was the desire to set all churchmen apart from and above the laity; the need to create a spiritual elite by the separation of the priest from the ordinary layman was an urgent priority. Doubtless, in the end, the Gregorian priesthood did achieve a certain libertas and even a sense of community, but only at the expense of a sharp opposition between itself and the rest of society.

     “By contrast, in the Christian East, as in primitive Christianity, a wholly celibate priesthood never became the norm…”[18] 

     It sometimes happens that one important historical process going in one direction masks the presence of another going in precisely the opposite direction. The process of ecclesiastical reformation initiated by Pope Leo IX in 1049, which aimed at the liberation of the Church from secular control, was in many respects a laudable and necessary programme. But the increasing distance it placed between clergy and laity was fraught with danger. In particular, it threatened to undermine the traditional place in Christian society of the anointed kings, who occupied an intermediate position between the clergy and the laity. And in the hands of two ambitious northern clerics whom Leo brought with him to Rome, Bishop Humbert of Silva Candida and Archdeacon Hildebrand, it threatened simply to replace the caesaropapist variety of feudalism with a papocaesarist variety – that is, the subjection of the clergy to lay lords with the subjection of the laity, and even the kings, to clerical lords – or rather, to just one clerical lord, the Pope.For, as Fr. Patric Ranson and Lauren Mott write, “in many respects, in its structure the papacy is nothing other than the religious form of feudalism…”[19] 

     Indeed, on the eve of the papal revolution Church and State in the West were so deeply entangled with each other through feudalism that nobody could conceive of a return to the traditional system of the symphony of powers, which allowed for the relative independence of both powers within a single Christian society. The Church wished to be liberated from “lay investiture”; but she did not want to be deprived of the lands, vassals and political power that came with investiture. The only solution, therefore, from the Pope’s point of view, was to bring the whole of Christian society, including its kings and emperors, into vassalage to the papacy…

     But before undertaking this assault on the whole structure of Western Christendom, the papacy needed to secure its rear in the East, in the south of Italy. There the Normans, had carved out a dominion for themselves that was independent both of the Byzantines and of the German Emperor. They had even encroached on some lands given to the papacy by the Emperor. Leo declared a holy war against the Normans, promising “an impunity for their crimes” to all who answered his call (those who died in the battle were declared to be martyrs), and set off with himself at the head of the papal army. But at Civitate he was roundly defeated and taken hostage. The Normans, remarkably, asked forgiveness of the captive Pope for having seized territory from him. But, less remarkably, they did not want to give back this territory and wanted the Pope to bless their rapacity. Since the German Emperor could not come south to help him, Leo had to give in to the “penitent” Normans. He legitimized the robbery in exchange for the Norman leaders Richard of Capua and Robert Guiscard becoming his feudal vassals and swearing to support the Papacy. In addition, Robert Guiscard specifically promised: “If you or your successors die before me, I will help to enforce the dominant wishes of the Cardinals and of the Roman clergy and laity in order that a pope may be chosen and established to the honour of St. Peter.”[20]

      However, he now decided to try and forge an alliance with the Byzantines against the Normans, and sent Cardinal Humbert and two others to Constantinople as his envoys. This was always going to be a difficult mission, for there were tensions between Rome and Constantinople on ecclesiastical questions, especially that of the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist. In 1053, Archbishop Leo of Ochrid, had criticized the Latins’ use of unleavened bread in a letter to Bishop John of Trania, and had asked the latter to convey his views to Pope Leo IX. In September the Pope replied[21]: “In prejudging the case of the highest See, the see on which no judgement may be passed by any man, you have received the anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable Councils… You, beloved brother of ours, whom we still call in Christ and primate of Constantinople, with extraordinary presumption and unheard-of boldness have dared openly to condemn the apostolic and Latin Church – and for what? For the fact that she celebrates the commemoration of the sufferings of Christ on unleavened bread. That is your imprudent abuse, that is your unkind boasting, when you, supposing that your lips are in heaven, in actual fact with your tongue are crawling on the earth and striving by your human reasonings and thoughts to corrupt and shake the ancient faith. If you do not pull yourself together, you will be on the tail of the dragon [cf. Revelation 12], by which this dragon overthrew and cast to the earth a third of the stars of heaven. Almost 1200 years have passed since the Saviour suffered, and do you really think that only now must the Roman Church learn from you how to celebrate the Eucharist, as if it means nothing that here in Rome there lived, worked for a considerable period, taught and, finally, by his death glorified God he to whom the Lord said: ‘Blessed are thou, O Simon, son of Jonah’…”[22]

     “Then,” continues A.P. Lebedev, “the Pope explained in detail why the Roman Church could not tolerate any instructions from other Churches, but remained the leader of all the rest. ‘Think how senseless it would be to admit that the heavenly Father should conceal the rite of the visible sacrifice [of the Eucharist] from the prince of the apostles, Peter, to whom He had completely revealed the most hidden Divinity of His Son. The Lord promised to Peter, not through an angel, nor through a prophet, but with His own lips: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church’ (Matthew 16.16). But in the opinion of the Pope an important place in the question of the headship of the Roman high priest was occupied by the miracle-working power of Peter’s shadow. This argument of the Pope in his favour was so original that we cite it in full. ‘In Peter,’ said the Pope, ‘what is particularly remarkable is that the shadow of his body gave health to the infirm. Such power was given to none of the saints; even the Holy of holies Himself did not give the gift of healing from His own most holy body; but to His Peter alone He gave this privilege that the shadow from his body should heal the sick. Here is a great sign of the Church of the present and the future, that is, Peter has become the manager of both Churches and indicates their condition beforehand in himself: it is precisely the present Church which by the power of its visible sacraments and those that are still to come as it were by her shadow heals souls on earth, and presents to us an as yet invisible but firm image of truth and piety on earth.’ Or here is one more cunning papal interpretation of one saying with which the Lord addressed Peter, and interpretation whose aim was to prove the overwhelming significance of the Roman high priests among the other bishops of the whole Church. The Pope takes the saying of the Lord: ‘I have prayed for thee, O Peter, that thy faith should not fail, and when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22.32). 

     “’By this the Lord showed,’ says the Pope, ‘that the faith of the other brethren will be subject to dangers, but the faith of Peter will remain unshaken. Nobody can deny that just as the whole door is ruled by the hinge, so by Peter and his successors is defined the order and structure of the whole Church. And as the hinge opens and closes the door, while remaining itself unmoved, so Peter and his successors have the right freely to pronounce sentence on every Church, and nobody must disturb or shake their condition; for the highest see is not judged by anybody (summa sedes a nemine judicatur).’”[23]

      Leo’s also claimed to have royal as well as priestly power. Thus he not only tried, as Gilbert Dagron writes, “to impose obedience [on the Eastern Church] by multiplying the expected scriptural quotations…  He also added that the rebels of the East should content themselves with these witnesses ‘to the simultaneously earthly and heavenly power, or rather, to the royal priesthood of the Roman and apostolic see (de terreno et coelesti imperio, imo de regali sacerdotio romanae et apostolicae sedis).”[24]

     Lebedev writes that “the very new papal ideas about his secular lordship… are developed by the Pope in his letter to Cerularius and… rely on a false document – the so-called Donatio Constantini. Setting out his superior position among the other hierarchs of the Church, the Pope, in order to humiliate the Church of Constantinople – the aim of the letter – he develops the thought that the Popes are immeasurably superior to the representatives of all the other Churches since they are at one and the same time both first priests and emperors. In the East, it would seem, nothing of the sort had ever been heard; and for that reason it is understandable how such a novelty would affect the Church of Constantinople! 

     “Since the time of Constantine the Great the Popes had become at the same time emperors, insinuated Leo to Cerularius. The Pope wrote: ‘So that there should remain no doubt about the earthly [secular] power of the Roman high priest, and so that nobody should think that the Roman Church is ascribing to herself an honour that does not belong to her, we shall cite the proofs of from that privileged deed which the Emperor Constantine with his own hands laid upon the holy tomb of the heavenly key-bearer [Peter], and that the truth should be manifest and vanity disappear.’ In this privileged deed Constantine, according to the words of the Pope, declared the following: ‘We have considered it necessary, we together with all our rulers, the Senate, the nobles and the people of Rome, that, just as St. Peter was the vicar of the Son of God on earth, so the high priests, the heirs of the prince of the apostles, should retain the power to rule – and to an even more complete extent than is given to the earthly imperial dignity. That is, we are decreeing that reverent honour should be accorded both to our earthly imperial might, and in exactly the same way to the most holy Roman Church, and, so as more fully to exalt the see above our own earthly throne, we ascribe to her a royal power, dignity and honour. Moreover, we decree that the see of Peter should have the headship over the four sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople and also over all the Church in the inhabited world; the high priest of this Roman see must be considered for all time to be higher and more glorious than all the priest of the whole world, and in relations to questions of Divine service and faith his judgement should rule over all.’ Then Pope Leo describes what precisely Constantine bestowed upon his contemporary, Pope Sylvester, so as to exalt the papal altar. In the opinion of the Pope, it turns out that Constantine bestowed upon the Pope first of all the palace in Rome. The privileged deed, according to the letter of Pope Leo, said the following about this: ‘We cede to the holy apostles themselves, the most blessed Peter and Paul, and through them to our father Pope Sylvester and all his successors who will be on the see of St. Peter to the end of the ages the Lateran palace, which is superior to all the palaces in the world.’ Then the Emperor Constantine adorns, as the Pope puts it, the person of the Roman high priest with royal regalia. The deed, according to the words of Pope Leo, said this about that: ‘We transfer to the Pope of Rome the diadem, that is the crown, from our own head, the garland that adorns the imperial neck, the purple chlamys, the scarlet tunic and all the other royal vestments. We entrust to him the imperial sceptre and all the other marks of distinction and the shoulder-belt – in a word, all the appurtenances of royal majesty.’ The letter even informs us that the Emperor with his own hands want to place his crown on the Pope’s head, but ‘the Pope did not want to use a crown of gold, and for that reason the Emperor placed on him with his own hands his Phrygian wreath (phrygium), shining white and signifying the Resurrection of Christ.’ In the words of Pope Leo, the Emperor Constantine, having adorned the Pope with royal regalia, in correspondence with this wanted to put the clergy who constituted his suite on a level with the royal courtiers. The deed, in the words of the letter, made the following legal ruling: ‘We raise the most honourable clergy of every rank in the service of the Roman Church to the same height of power and brilliance as our Senate, and decree that they should be adorned as our patricians and consuls are adorned. In a word, just as there are various kinds of servants attached to the imperial dignity – bed-makers, doormen and guards, so must it be with the holy Roman Church. And more than that: for the sake of the greater brilliance of the papal dignity let the clergy travel on horses adorned with the whitest of materials, and let them wear exactly the same shoes as are worn by the senators. And in this way let the heavenly [papal] power be adorned like the earthly [imperial], to the glory of God.’ In his concern for the person of the Pope and those close to him, according to the words of the Pope’s letter, Constantine bestowed on Sylvester and his heirs a broad, de facto royal power over a whole half of the Roman kingdom: the Roman high priest became the Roman emperor. In the words of the Pope, the deed said the following on this score: ‘So that the high priestly power should not decline, but should flourish more than the imperial power itself, we have decreed that besides the Lateran palace, the city of Rome, the provinces of Italy and all the western lands, and all the places and cities in them, should be transferred to our father Sylvester, so that he should have complete use of and dominion over them.”[25]

     In the letter Leo sent to the Patriarch with Cardinal Humbert he continued his assault: “We believe and firmly confess the following: the Roman Church is such that if any nation (Church) on earth should in its pride be in disagreement with her in anything, then such a Church ceases to be called and to be considered a Church – it is nothing. It will already be a conventicle of heretics, a collection of schismatics, a synagogue of Satan.”[26] This was hardly calculated to mollify the Byzantines, and things were made worse when Humbert called them pimps and disciples of Mohammed! Humbert made it clear where the first loyalties of all Christians should lie when he told the Byzantines: “All men have such reverence for the holder of the apostolic office of Rome that they prefer the holy commandments and the traditions from the mouth of the head of the Church than from the Holy Scriptures and patristic writings. [Thus the Pope] makes almost the whole world run after God with delight and enthusiasm.”[27] 

     As a consequence of these events, the Greeks refused to enter into negotiations with the papal legates about an alliance against the Normans…  Humbert claimed that the Patriarch had closed the churches of the westerners which served the Eucharist on unleavened bread. However, as Smith writes, “it is doubtful that the patriarch had actually committed himself to suppressing the Latin rite even on a local basis. For Humbert admits that he is only repeating a rumor that he has learned from some unidentified source. And he does not appear to have repeated the charge as the controversy progressed. For the church closings are not mentioned in the second papal letter to [Patriarch Michael] Cerularius or the note to [Emperor] Constantine Monomachus, complaining about the patriarch’s behavior. Nor was this made an issue in the debates with Nicetas [Stethatos] during his mission to Constantinople. Although Humbert does mention that before leaving the imperial city he brought the practice of certain churches – most likely those founded for Latins – into conformity with the standards of Rome, he does not claim that he found these churches actually closed. Therefore, it seems that the cardinal himself did not have certain evidence that Cerularius had actively persecuted Constantinople’s Latins before his arrival. But, in developing his reasons for excommunicating his opponent, he included the earlier report, though without claiming to have personally verified it…”[28]

     The climax came on July 16, 1054, when the papal legates marched into the cathedral of Hagia Sophia and placed a bull of excommunication on the altar, anathematizing the Church of Constantinople and accusing her of every possible heresy in a “fantastically ignorant” document.[29]

     Four days later, the Patriarch convened a Council that excommunicated the legatesumHH.  “O you who are Orthodox,” he said, “flee the fellowship of those who have accepted the heretical Latins and who regard them as the first Christians in the Catholic and Holy Church of God!” For “the Pope is a heretic.”[30] 

     Pope Leo IX had actually already died in April, 1054, so the papal anathema was technically invalid as not representing the will of a living Pope. In fact, the Byzantines seem to have regarded it as a forgery.[31] However, although the next Pope, Stephen IX, wanted to send an embassy to Constantinople to repair the damage, he also died before the embassy could set off.

     “No further missions were sent. Already, in the space of a few years, the mood in Rome had decisively shifted. What was at stake, many reformers had begun to accept, was nothing less than a fundamental point of principle. Cardinal Humbert had sounded out a trumpet blast on a truly decisive field of battle. The message that it sent to the rest of Christendom could hardly have been more ringing: no one, not even the Patriarch of the New Rome, could be permitted to defy the authority of the Pope…”[32] 


     The other Eastern Churches were informed of the decision, and accepted it. And so 1054 has conventionally been taken as the date of the severing of the branch, the moment when the Western Church finally fell away from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. However, many have doubted that this was the real cut-off point. Thus a Byzantine council of 1089 acted as if the schism of 1054 had not taken place.[33] Again, Dvorkin writes that “the popular consciousness of that time in no way accepted the schism as final: nobody pronounced a ban on mutual communion, and concelebrations of priests and hierarchs of the two halves of Christianity continued even after 1054. The name of the pope of Rome was commemorated in the diptychs of other Eastern Churches (at any rate, sometimes). In our [Russian] lists of saints there were western saints who died after 1054.”[34]

     Nevertheless, the balance of evidence remains in favour of the traditional dating.[35] For after 1054, there is a sharp and noticeable change in the papacy’s policies and attitudes to dissidents in Church and State. The bloody destruction of Orthodox England in 1066-70 was followed by the less violent subjection of Churches throughout Western Europe. Then came the papal blessing of the Norman invasion of Greece in the 1080s and the first of the crusades – which did so much damage to Eastern Orthodox Christendom - in 1095. Ironically in view of Romanides’ semi-racist theory that it was the Germans who destroyed the papacy, the last powerful opponent of the new, “Reformed” papacy was the German Emperor Henry IV, who was anathematized and deprived of his crown by Pope Gregory VII – an Italian Jew…

     The momentous event of the Great Schism was heralded in the heavens by a huge explosion. “Arab and Chinese astronomers recorded the appearance of the bright Crab Supernova in [July] 1054. At X-ray and gamma-ray energies above 30 KeV, the Crab is generally the strongest persistent source in the sky today.”[36] From now on, the whole of the West would be steadily sucked into the great black hole formed through the apostasy of the Roman papacy - the explosion of the first star in the firmament of the Church on earth. 

August 31 / September 13, 2017.

[1] Papadakis, The Orthodox East and the Rise of the Papacy, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994, p. 28. However, Papadakis dates this transformation to 962 rather than 1002, on the grounds that “during the century following the revival of the empire [in 962], twenty-one popes from a total of twenty-five were virtually hand-picked by the German crown” (p. 29).

[2] Patric Ranson and Laurent Motte, introduction to Cyriaque Lampryllos, La Mystification Fatale, Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 1987, p. 14.

[3] Runciman, The Eastern Schism, Oxford, 1955, p. 161.

[4] Lampryllos, op. cit., pp. 65-66.


[6]Siedentop, Inventing the Individual, London: Penguin, 2010, p. 196.

[7] Llewellyn, The Dark Ages in Rome, London: Constable, 1996, p. 309.

[8] Comby, How to Read Church History, London: SCM Press, 1989, pp. 140-141.

[9] Siedentop, op. cit., p. 184.

[10]Siedentop, op. cit., p. 195.

[11] Not only the pope, but also the episcopate as a whole became more powerful in relation to the Carolingian kings in the ninth century. Thus in 859 the Council of Savonnières pronounced: “Bishops, according to their ministry and sacred authority, are to be united and by mutual aid and counsel are to rule and correct kings, the magnates of their kingdoms and the people committed to them” (in I.S. Robinson, “Church and Papacy”, The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c. 350 – c. 1450, Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 298).

[12] Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order, London: Profile, 2012, pp. 263-264.

[13]Session XIII: "The holy council said: After we had reconsidered, according to the promise which we had made to your highness, the doctrinal letters of Sergius, at one time patriarch of this royal God protected city to Cyrus, who was then bishop of Phasius and to Honorius some time Pope of Old Rome, as well as the letter of the latter to the same Sergius, we find that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics...And with these [Sergius, Pyrrhus, Cyrus, etc.] we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by Honorius to Sergius, that in all respects Honorius followed Sergius’ view and Honorius confirmed his impious doctrines."

Session XVI: To Theodore of Pharan, the heretic, anathema! To Sergius, the heretic, anathema! To Cyrus, the heretic, anathema! To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!...

[14] For example, Pope Leo II (+683), who wrote to Emperor Constantine VI: “"We anathematize also even Honorius, who did not purify this Apostolic Church with the Doctrine of the Apostolic Tradition, but by wicked betrayal sought to subvert the Immaculate [Faith]." (P.L. 96, fol. 408). Again this is an excerpt from the Profession of Faith required upon the Consecration of a new Bishop of Old Rome, used from the late 7th century until sometime in the 11th century: "Also the authors of the new heretical dogmas: Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter of Constantinople, together with Honorius, who paid incentive to their depraved assertions." (P.L. 105, fol. 52, Liber Diurnus).

[15] As even the Roman Catholics admit, the epiclesis was present in all the ancient liturgies. See

[16] Stethatos, in Jean Comby, How to Read Church History, London: SCM Press, 1985, vol. 1, p. 132).

[17]Siedentop, op. cit., p. 196.

[18] Papadakis, op. cit., pp. 34, 36-37. Peter de Rosa (op. cit., p. 420) agrees with this estimate: “The chief reason for maintaining the discipline [of clerical celibacy] was the one dearest to the heart of Gregory VII: a celibate priest owed total allegiance not to wife and children but to the institution. He was a creature of the institution. The Roman system was absolutist and hierarchical. For such a system to work, it needed operatives completely at the beck and call of superiors. The conservatives at Trent [the papist council of 1545] were quite frank about this. They actually said that without celibacy the pope be nothing more than the Bishop of Rome. In brief, the papal system would collapse without the unqualified allegiance of the clergy. Celibacy, on Trent’s own admission, was not and never was primarily a matter of chastity, but of control…”

[19] Ranson and Motte, in Lampryllos, op. cit., p. 14.

[20] Guiscard, in David C. Douglas, The Norman Achievement, 1050-1100, London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969, p. 132.

[21] Some scholars, such as Anton Michel, believe on stylistic grounds that these letters of Leo IX were in fact written by Cardinal Humbert. However, we shall continue to ascribe them to the man in whose name they were written. See Mahlon Smith III, And Taking Bread: The Development of the Azyme Controversy, Paris: Beauchesne, 1978, p. 81.

[22] Henry Bettenson and Christopher Maunder, Documents of the Christian Church, London: SPCK, 1999, p. 106.

[23] Lebedev, “Vek odinnadtsatij – Okonchatelnoe razdelenie Tserkvej (1053-1054gg.)” (“The 11th Century – the Final Division of the Churches”),, pp. 23.

[24] Dagron, Empereur et Prêtre (Emperor and Priest), Paris : Éditions Gallimard, 1996, p. 247.

[25] Lebedev, op. cit., pp. 3-5.

[26] Lebedev, op. cit., p. 7.

[27] Humbert, in Peter Heather, The Restoration of Rome, London: Pan Books, 2013, p. 384.

[28] Smith, op. cit., pp. 130-131.

[29] Alexander Dvorkin, Ocherki po Istorii Vselenskoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi (Sketches on the History of the Universal Orthodox Church),Nizhni-Novgorod, 2006, p. 618. Humbert wrote: “May Michael the neophyte…and all those who follow him… fall under the anathema, Maranatha…” Comby (op. cit., p. 133) supposes that “he did not know that Maranatha means ‘Come, Lord’, and is not a condemnation”. But was he simply quoting I Corinthians 16.22?

[30] The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy, Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent, 1990, p. 155.

[31] See the italicized parts of the Byzantine decision: “When Michael, our most holy ruler and Ecumenical Patriarch was presiding, certain impious and disrespectful men--what else could a pious man call them? -- came out of the darkness, because they were begotten of the West [i.e. sun rises in the east, sets in the west]. They came to this pious and divinely protected city from which the springs of Orthodoxy flow as if from on high, disseminating the teachings of piety to the ends of the world. They came like a thunderbolt, or an earthquake, or a hail-storm, or to put it more directly, like wild wolves trying to defile the Orthodox belief by different doctrines...

     “We do not wish to tamper with the Sacred and Holy wrongful arguments, improper reasoning and extreme boldness. Unlike them, we do not wish to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son -- What a devilish deceit! -- but we say that the Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father. We also declare that they do not follow the Scripture which says, ‘Do not shave your beards.’ (Leviticus 19:27).
     “They do not want to understand that God created woman, and He decreed that it was improper for men to be alone. We continue to observe inviolate the ancient Canons of the Apostolic perfection and order, and affirm that the marriage of ordained men should not be dissolved. Neither should they be deprived of having sexual relations with their wives, which from time to time is appropriate. So if anyone is found to be worthy of the office of deacon or sub-deacon, he should not be kept form this office. He should be restored to his lawful wife in order that we not dishonor what God has Himself ordained and blessed, especially since the Gospel declares, "Those whom God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) If someone then dares to act against the Apostolic Canons by removing anyone of the clergy who is a presbyter, deacon, or sub-deacon, depriving him of his lawful bond with his wife, let him be excommunicated....
     “But they come against us and against the Orthodox Church of God...arriving before the most pious emperor. They intrigued against the faithful and even 'counterfeited' their arrival with the pretext that they came from Rome, and pretended that they were sent by the Pope.... They even produced fraudulent letters which allegedly had been given them by him. This fraud was detected, among other things, also from the seals which were clearly tampered with...The original of the impious document deposited on the Altar of the Great Church by these irreligious and accursed men was not burned, but was placed in the depository to bring the perpetual dishonour to those who have committed such blasphemies against us, and as permanent evidence of this condemnation." (From
Readings in Christianity, by Robert Van Vorsts, pp. 129-130)

[32] Tom Holland, Millenium, London: Abacus Books, 2009, p. 280.

[33]Papadakis, op. cit., pp. 76-77.

[34] Dvorkin, op. cit., p. 619.

[35]Cf. O. Barmin, “Sovremennaia istoriografia o datirovke tserkovnoj skhizmy mezhdu Zapadom i Vostokom khristianskoj ekumeny” (“Contemporary Historiography on the Dating of the Church Schism between the West and the East of the Christian Oikumene”), in D.E. Afinogenov, A.V. Muraviev, Traditsii i Nasledie Khristianskogo Vostoka (The Traditions and Heritage of the Christian East), Moscow: “Indrik”, 1996, pp. 117-126.

[36] Dr. Jerjis Alajaji, personal communication, March 22, 2010.

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