You are on page 1of 7

Milton V.


Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and

Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum
Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

7. The Acacian schism (484-519) and Pope Gelasius (492-96)

Leo's opposition to the twenty-eighth canon created no obstacle to the continuation

of friendly relations with Constantinople or to the unconditional papal endorsement
of the Chalcedonian theology. But a schism(76) ensued in 484 because Pope Felix III
(483-92) condemned the dogmatic decree known as the Henoticon ("Unifier"), which
the Emperor Zeno (474-91) had issued in 482 in order to put an end to the
disaffection of the monophysites. Unfortunately, however, the Henoticon, though
promulgated by Zeno as a compromise which he hoped would satisfy the
Chalcedonians and conciliate the monophysites, pleased no one; and its sponsor,
Patriarch Acacius of Constantinople (471-89), was excommunicated by Pope Felix
(484). In revenge, Acacius struck the name of Felix from the diptychs (the book
containing the names of those who were mentioned in the liturgical prayers of the
Church of Constantinople), and the resulting "Acacian" schism, as it was called,
lasted until 519.

During the rupture (484-519), Pope Gelasius went further than his predecessors in
asserting the Roman primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church, East and West,
and formulated this doctrine in terms that served as a model for subsequent popes.
He also set forth a theory of the relationship between Church and State, which
exerted great influence over the West in later generations.

(a) Roman primacy of jurisdiction

Believing that Christ had delegated to the see of Rome supreme authority
(principatus) over the whole of the Church, with power to govern in all questions
concerning doctrine and discipline,(77) Gelasius claimed for the pope the right to
confirm or veto the results of all the councils of the Church, which, he maintained,
invariably followed Rome both in what they condemned and in what they endorsed.
Similarly, he held, the pope on his own initiative could make decisions binding upon
the entire Church, without recourse to a council, or even in conflict with one.(78) For
in his judgment the see of Rome constituted the highest tribunal in the Christian
Church, its decisions were irreversible, and it itself could be judged by no one.(79)

On the basis of this theory of papal supremacy, Gelasius strongly repudiated

the twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon, denied that the Church of Constantinople
was entitled to special privileges because it was the capital of the Empire, and even
refused to accord it metropolitan rank or to count it among the chief sees of

(b) The doctrine of the two powers

At the same time, notably in a famous letter to the Emperor Anastasius (491-518),
in his Fourth Tractate, and in other works, Gelasius enunciated what is known as the
"doctrine of the two powers," according to which "this world" is governed by two
sovereignties, the sacred authority of the priests (auctoritas sacrata pontificum) and
the royal power of kings and emperors (regalis potestas).

Each of these he defined as independent and supreme in its own sphere, but
subordinate to the other in that of the other. The emperor, as the sovereign
ordained by God, was entitled to obedience from the clergy in the temporal realm.
But he had no priestly functions, and was required to bow in submission to the
priests, and especially to the bishop of Rome, who was the highest among them, in
all ecclesiastical matters.(81)

"Hearken to my admonitions in this life, beg you," Gelasius warned the Emperor,
"rather than hear me make accusations against you, heaven forbid, at the divine
judgment.(82) Ignoring the papal authorities who had not refused to ascribe priestly
qualities to the emperors, Gelasius declared that it was Christ, the last ruler to have
been both Priest and King, who separated the functions of the two powers, so that
the Christian emperors would need assistance from the priests to attain eternal life,
and the priests would depend upon the emperors for the conduct of temporal

Many clerics had protested against imperial infringements upon the freedom of the
Church in language much like that used by Gelasius.(84)But he was the first to state
formally as a juridical principle that the two powers had equal standing, were jointly
responsible for the administration of human society, and imposed limitations upon
each other.
In the Byzantine court this philosophy of government was totally incomprehensible.
(85) So far as we can tell, Anastasius did not even deign to reply to Gelasius's letter,
nor did he or his successors on the Byzantine throne observe the line of
demarcation which Gelasius had drawn between Church and State. In Byzantine
eyes, Gelasius was arrogant and had exhibited a stubbornness that endangered the
entire Christian community.(86)

n the Latin West, on the other hand, Gelasius's view led, in later centuries, to the
assertion of wide papal claims to temporal power, especially when it was difficult to
separate the secular from the ecclesiastical, or easy to confuse them. Gelasius, it is
true, had differentiated between the two, and always addressed the emperor in
respectful terms, even when ordering him to remove the name of Patriarch Acacius
from the diptychs.(87) But he also insisted that the pope could never be "bound or
loosed" by any secular power,(88) and made it clear that the realm presided over by
the priests had greater dignity and involved more serious matters than that ruled by
the emperor (gravius pondus est sacerdotum), since the latter received the
sacraments from them, and would, on the Day of Judgment, depend for his salvation
upon the account they gave of his behaviour on earth.(89)

These declarations apply in the strict sense only to the ecclesiastical sphere. But the
"power of binding and loosing" (i.e., forgiving sins or withholding forgiveness: Mt.
16.19; 18.19), supreme authority in the administration of which, according to
Gelasius, was bestowed by Christ on the popes of Rome through Peter,(90) had wide
ramifications. For, in effect, it gave the pope the right to exert control over nearly
the whole range of human activity, which, in the Middle Ages, was conceived as
impinging at every turn upon the divine. ndeed, it is difficult to imagine a single
phase of secular life which the priests could not draw into their own orbit. In
addition, Gelasius took the precaution of ruling that it was the pope who determined
what belonged to the jurisdiction of the Church.(91)

Gelasius himself did not make a practice of intervening in strictly temporal matters.
But he did not hesitate to censure the Emperor Anastasius for deposing the
Patriarchs Calendio of Antioch and John Talaia of Alexandria, both of whom had been
guilty of civil offenses, the former of treason, the latter of perjury.(92) Nor did he fail
to add, in concluding his discussion of these two prelates, that the emperors should
subordinate their legal decrees to those of the priests.(93) Thus Pope Nicholas
(858-67) found Gelasius a congenial authority to quote in support of his attack upon
the Byzantine Emperor Michael III,(94) and the famous text from the Dictatus papae
of Pope Gregory VII (1073-85), prima sedes a nemine iudicatur ("the first see [i.e.,
Rome] is judged by no one"), which was an essential element in Gregory's concept
of the papacy as supreme over the State in all cases of conflict, was derived directly
from the Gelasian views outlined above.(95)

76. - .Schwartz, Publizistische Sammlungen zum acacianichen Schisma (ABAW,

philos.-hist. Abt., N.F 10 [Munich, 1934]), 1 ff. (texts), 161 ff. (notes and discussion);
"Collectio vellana", CSEL, 35, 1, p. 99, pp. 440-53 (Gesta de nomine Acaci);
Liberatus, Breviarium causae Nestorianorum et Eutychianorum, 17-20, ACO, 2, 5,
126-36. Cf. Fritz Hofmann, Der Kampf der Ppste um Konzil und Dogma vn
Chalkedon vn Leo dem Grossen bis Hormisdas (451-519)., in Das onzil vn
Chalkedon, 2 (cited in note 62 above), 13-94, passim; Rhaban Haacke, Die
kaiserliche Politik in den Auseinandersetzungen um Chalkedon (451-553), ibid., 95-
177, passim; Ernest Stein, Histoire du bas-empire, 2, ed. Jean R. Palanque (Paris-
Brussels, 1949), 31-39, 165-92; Haller, Das Papsttum, 1, 218-29, 532 f.; Caspar,
"Geschichte", 2, 10-81; . .Vasiliev, Justin the First (Dumbarton Oaks Studies, 1
[Cambridge, Mass., 1950]), 166 ff.; G. Bardy and L. Brhier in . de Labriolle et al.,
De la mort de Theodose a l'election de Gregoire le Grand" (cited in note 14 above),
29-320, 423 ff.; Theodor Schnitzler, Im Kampfe um Chalcedon: Geschichte und
Inhalt des Codex Encyclius von 458 (nalecta Gregoriana", 16, Ser. fac. theol., Sec.
, 7 [Rome, 1938]), 44 ff.; .Jugie, Acace (9), "DHGE", 1 (1912), 244-48.

77. - "Collectio Avellana, 1, p. 95, 10 (p. 372.15-18); 1, p. 103, 14 (pp. 478.25-

479.4). For the literature n Gelasius, see Wilhelm Ensslin, Auctoritas und
potestas: ur Zweigewaltenlehre des Papstes Gelasius ., HistJb, 74 (1955), 661-68,
who rightly points out that the distinction between "auctoritas" and "potestas",
which Caspar (see end of this note) stressed, is of little moment, in view of the wide
use of these words as synonyms (cf. Schwartz, Publizistische Sammlungen, 14.3,
16; 20.6); Walter Ullman, The growth f papal government in the Middle Ages
(London, 1955), 14-31; . J. Jonkers, Pope Gelasius and civil law," "Tijdschrift voor
Rechtsgeschiednis, 20 (1952), 335-39; Francis Dvornik, Pope Gelasius and
Emperor Anastasius , , 44 (1951), 111-16; idem, Apostolicity, 109-22; Hailer,
Das Papsttum, 1, 232-34, 534; Aloysius . Ziegler, Pope Gelasius and his teaching
on the relation of church and state, Catholic Historical Review, 27 (1941-42), 412-
37 (with English translation of the two principal texts); Peter Charanis, Church and
State in the Later Roman Empire: The religious policy of Anastasius the First, 491-
518 (Madison, 1939); Ulrich Gmelin, Auctoritas: Rmischer Princeps und
ppstlicher Primat, in Geistige Grundlagen rmischer Kirchenpolitik (Forschungen
zur Kirchen- und Geistesgeschichte, 11 [Stuttgart, 1937]), 135 ff.; Lotte Knabe, Die
Gelasianische Zweigewaltentheorie bis zum Ende des Investiturstreits (Historische
Studien, 292 [Berlin, 1936]); Hugo Koch, "Gelasius im kirchen-politischen Dienste
seiner Vorgnger, der Ppste Simplicius (468-483) und Felix . (483-492)" (SBAW,
1935, Heft 6 [Munich, 1935]); Caspar, "Geschichte des Papsttums", 2, 47 ff., 57-81,
749-51, 753-58; R. W. and .J. Carlyle, history of mediaeval political theory in the
West", 1 (Edinburgh-London, reprinted 1950), 184-93.

78. - For the principal texts see . Schwartz, "Publizistische Sammlungen (cited in
note 76 above), 723-8.0, 12.24-28, 23.9-11, 109.24-111.1; "Collectio vellana,
CSEL, 35, 1, p. 95, 10 (p. 372), 12 f. (p. 373.5-19), 24 (p. 377.13-18), 26-31 (pp.
378.7-380.11); p. 98, 1 (pp. 436 f.); p. 103, 12-14 (pp. 478 f.).

79. - Cf. following note and Schwartz, "Publizistische Sammlungen, 17.11 ff, 34-37,

20. 18-212, 23.9-11, 109.24-111.1; "Collectio Avellana, CSEL, 35, 1, p. 95, 12 f. (p.
373.5-19), 24 (p. 377.13-18), 26-31 (pp. 378.7-380.11).

80. - Schwartz, Publizistische Sammlungen, 7.23-8.10; Collecto Avellana, CSEL, 35,

1, p. 95, 21 f. (pp. 376.8-377.4), 26 f. (pp. 378.13-379.1), 53-57 (pp. 387.16-

81. Schwatz, "Publizistische Sammlungen, 20.5 ff.: duo sunt quippe, imperator
auguste, quibus principaliter mundus hic regitur, auctoritas sacrata pontificum et
regalis potestas, in quibus tanto gravius pondus est sacerdotum quanto etiam pro
ipsis regibus hominum in divino reddituri sunt examine rationem. nosti etenim, fili
clementissime, quoniam licet praesedeas humano generi dignitate, rerum tamen
praesulibus divinarum devotus colla summittis atque ab eis causas tuae salutis
expetis hincque sumendis caelestibus sacramentis eisque, ut competit, disponendis,
subdi to debere cognoscis religionis ordine potius quam praeesse, itaque inter haec
illorum to pendere iudicio, non illos ad tuam velle redigi voluntatem. si enim
quantum ad ordinem publicae pertinet disciplinae, cognoscentes imperium tibi
superna dispositione conlatum legibus tuis ipsi quoque parent religionis antistites,
ne vel in rebus mundanis exclusae ... videantur obviare sententiae, quo, oro te,
decet affectu eis et convenit oboedire qui praerogandis venerabilibus sunt attributi
mysteriis? ... et si cunctis generaliter sacerdotibus recte divina tractantibus fidelium
convenit corda submitti, quanto potius sedis illius praesuli consensus est
adhibendus quem cunctis sacerdotibus et divinitas summa voluit praeminere et
subsequens ecclesiae generalis iugiter pietas celebravit? ... rogo, inquam, ut me in
hac vita potius audias deprecantem, quam, quod absit, in divino iudicio sentias
accusantem. See also the Fourth tractate, ibid., pp. 7-15, n.b. 143 ff., for his denial
of priestly functions to civil rulers.

82. - See the end of the Latin text in the previous note.

83. - Schwartz, Publizistische Sammlungen, 14.14-24. These words passed into the
Decretum of Gratian (ca. 1150), ed. cit. (in note 62 above), 21, Distinctio 10, c. 8
(via a letter of Pope Nicholas ). Gratian cites this text in support of his proposition
that the laws of secular rulers yield before those of the Church: "Constitutiones vero
principum ecclesiasticis constitutionibus non preminent, sed obsecuntur" Cf. note 93

84. - See the examples given by Ensslin, HistJb, 74 (1955), 661 ff., to which add John
Chrysostom of Constantinople (d. 407), who declared the ecclesiastical authorities
to be superior to the secular just as heaven is to earth, and the soul is to the body:
Homily 15.4 ff on 2 Corinthians, PG, 61, 507-12; English translation, The homilies of
S. John Chrysostom n the Second Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians
(by J. Ashworth and J. F. Christie, who are named only in the preface) ( library of
the fathers of the Holy Catholic Church anterior to the division of the East and West,
27 [Oxford, 1848]), 187-92.

85. - See 21 (c).

86. - Schwartz, Publizistische Sammlungen, 18.29-31 (Communitorium Fausto),

24.8-14 (p. ad Anastasium), 44.10, 48.8 ff (De vitanda communione Acacii);
Dvornik, Apostolicity, 119 f.

87. - Schwartz, p. cit., 22.24 ff., and passim. 88.- Ibid. 14.23 f.

89. - Text quoted in note 81 above.

90. Schwartz, p. cit., 15.1-109.24-111.1; Collectio Avellana, CSEL, 35, 1, p. 95, 26

(p. 378, 7 ff.).

91. - Schwartz, p. cit., 18.36-19.2: "si quantum ad religionem pertinet, non nisi
apostolicae sedi iuxta canones debetur totius summa iudicii; si quantum ad saeculi
potestatem, ille a pontifcibus et praecipue a beati Petri vicario debet cognoscere
quae divina sunt, nn ipse eadem indicare."So Ullmann, Growth of papal
government, 19; Caspar Geschichte, 2, 68, n. 4.

92. - n Calendio and John Talaia, see Ulmann, p. cit.,18, 27; Caspar, p. cit., 2,

93. - Schwartz, p. cit., 36.3 f.: "imperatores Christiani subdere debent exsecutiones
suas ecclesiasticis praesulibus, non praefene." Cf. ibid., 35.34-36: "... saeculi
potestates, ... si fideles sunt, ecclesiae suae et sacerdotibus voluit [sc. deus] esse
subiectas"; and 129.1 f.; Gratian, lc. cit. in note 83 above.

94. - PL, 70, 73 f.; cf. note 83 above.

95. - Collectio Avellana, CSEL, 35, 1, p. 95, 26 (p. 378.7-13) and other texts cited in
note 80 above. Cf. Ullman, Growth of papal government, 27, n. 6.