The Frankish Church in Europe and the Schism of Papacy from Orthodoxy
by Fr John Romanides
In the background of dialogue and the Ecumenical Movement for the reunion of Christendom lies the generally recognized fact that there is an interplay between theology and society, which may lead to a dogmatic formulation and become the cause of doctrinal differences.
Within the Roman Empire doctrinal conflicts took place usually among Roman citizens in a atmosphere of religious and philosophical pluralism. With the official recognition of Orthodox Christianity, we witness the beginning of the use of doctrinal differences in support of nationalistic movements of separate identity and secession from Roman rule, both political and ecclesiastical. Both Nestorianism and so-called Monophysitism, although initially promoted by Roman nationals, were finally supported by separatist tendencies among such ethnic groups as Syrians, Copts, and Armenians. Indeed, both Persians and Arabs took care to keep Christians separated.
By the eighth century, we meet for the first time the beginning of a split in Christianity which, from the start, took on ethnic names instead of names designating the heresy itself or its leader. Thus in West European sources we find a separation between a Greek East and a Latin West. In Roman sources this same separation constitutes a schism between Franks and Romans.
One detects in both terminologies an ethnic or racial basis for the schism which may be more profound and important for descriptive analysis than the doctrinal claims of either side. Doctrine here may very well be part of a political, military, and ethnic struggle and, therefore, intelligible only when put in proper perspective. The interplay between doctrine and ethnic or racial struggle may be such that the two can be distinguished, but not separated.
The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans. In actuality, it was a split between East Romans and the conquerors of the West Romans.
The Roman Empire was conquered in three stages: 1st by Germanic tribes who became known as Latin Christianity, 2nd by Muslim Arabs, and finally, by Muslim Turks. In contrast to this, the ecclesiastical administration of the Roman Empire disappeared in stages from West European Romania (the Western part of the Roman nation), but has survived up to modern times in the Roman Orthodox Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
The reason for this is that the conquerors of the West Romans used the Church to suppress the Roman nation, whereas under Islam the Roman nation survived by means of the Church. In each instance of conquest, the bishops became the ethnarchs of the conquered Romans and administered Roman law on behalf of the emperor in Constantinople. As long as the bishops were Roman, the unity of the Roman Church was preserved, in spite of theological conflicts. The same was true when Romanized Franks became bishops during Merovingian times and shared with Roman bishops church administration.
[ Return ]Roman Revolutions and the Rise of Frankish Feudalism and Doctrine
During the seventh century, however, the seeds of schism appear. The Visigoths in Spain had abandoned their Arian heresy and had become nominally Orthodox. But they preserved their Arian customs of church administration, which became that of the Carolingian Franks, and finally, of the Normans. The Visigoths began subjugating the Spanish Romans by replacing Roman bishops with Goths and by 654, had abolished Roman law.
During this same century, especially after 683, the Franks also had appointed Frankish bishops en masse and had rid their government administration of Roman officials.
Earlier, during the sixth and early seventh century, rebellions of leaders in Francia were joint conspiracies of Franks and Romans. By 673, however, the rebellions had become purely Frankish.
The fact that Constantinople sent its navy twice to Spain at the end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth century to reestablish the beachhead lost in 629 is testimony to the plight of Roman Christians in Spain. In the face of the victorious Arabs, who had completed their conquest of the Middle East and had driven across Northern Africa, within striking distance of Carthage, Constantinople seemed ill-prepared for such military ventures into Spain. However, judging from the pattern of events, it seems that these attempted East Roman landings in Spain were supposed to touch off a general uprising of the Christian and Jewish Romans in Spain and Gaul against Visigothic and Frankish rule. The success of such rebellions in Spain and Gaul would perhaps have helped Constantinople in stemming the Arab tidal wave, which at times seemed to swamp the whole empire.
At the Seventeenth Council of Toledo in 694, the Jews were condemned to slavery because they had confessed to a plot to overthrow the ‘Christians’ (meaning Goths) in Spain, with the help of “those who dwelt in lands beyond the sea,” the Roman, and not the later Arabic province of Africa, as is commonly believed. The Arabs at this time had not yet reached Carthage, the capital of this province or exarchate. Egica (687-701), the Gothic king, had fought off an attempt by the East Roman navy to reinstall the beachhead lost in 629. There can be no doubt that the Jews were condemned at this Seventeenth Council of Toledo in 694 for plotting with Constantinople and Spanish Romans for the overthrow of Gothic rule in Spain.
King Witiza (701-708/9), the son of Egica, also defeated an East Roman attempt to liberate some of the cities in Southern Spain. Since 698 the Arabs were in firm control of Carthage and its environs and were establishing their control in the area of Ceuta.
These attempts of Constantinople failed, and the Roman Berber (Numedian) governor of Ceuta[ 1 ]in 711, and a bit later, the Gallo Romans, chose what seemed the lesser evil by establishing ad hoc alliances with the Arabs against Visigoths and Franks. These Roman Arab alliances overthrew Visigothic rule in Spain (711-719), but were defeated by the Frank warlord Charles Martel, first at Poitiers in 732, and then in Provence in 739.
The Roman revolts reduced Francia to the northern kingdoms of Austrasia and Neutrasia. Eudo, the Roman duke of Aquitane, who made the first mentioned alliance with the Arabs against the Franks[ 2 ], had temporarily occupied Paris itself in an attempt to keep the pro-Roman Merovingian Franks in power. It fell to Charles Martel, Pippin III, and Charlemagne to restore Frankish rule over Burgundy, Auvergne, Aquitane, Gascony, Septimania, and Provence.
Carolingian feudalism had its origin in the need to prevent the disaster which had overtaken the Visigoths in Spain. The Franks were obliged to develop and extend the already existing system of controlling slave populations. Their goal was to keep the Romans subjugated and pacified, first in Austrasia and Neustrasia, and then elsewhere in Gaul, and, finally, in Northern Italy, as circumstances permitted.[ 3 ]
While still consolidating their grip on Gaul, the Franks conquered Northern and Central Italian Romania in the middle of the eighth century, in the guise of liberators of Italic of Papal Romania from Lombard oppression. At this time, the papacy was deeply involved in the iconoclastic controversy, having taken a firm stand, against the Roman emperors and patriarchs of New Rome who supported the iconoclastic movement.
The Franks applied their policy of destroying the unity between the Romans under their rule and the Romans under the rule of Constantinople and the Arabs. They played one Roman party against the other, took neither side, and finally condemned both the iconoclasts and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (786/7) at their own Council of Frankfurt in 794, in the presence of the legates of Pope Hadrian I (771-795), the staunch supporter of Orthodox practice.
In the time of Pippin of Herestal (697-715) and Charles Martel (715-741), many of the Franks who replaced Roman bishops were military leaders who, according to Saint Boniface, “shed the blood of Christians like that of the pagans.”[ 4 ]
In order to defend itself against foreign interference and protect itself from the fate of conquered Romans elsewhere, the papacy promulgated electoral laws in 769, according to which candidates for the papal dignity had to be cardinal deacons or presbyters of the city of Rome, and Romans by birth. Only Roman nationals were allowed to participate in the elections. Thirteen Frankish bishops were in attendance when these decisions were made.[ 5 ]
Meanwhile, Roman revolutionary activity in Gaul had not yet been fully suppressed. Pippin III had died the year before and Charlemagne and his brother Carloman had taken over the rule of Austrasia and Neustria. Within the surprisingly short period of only twenty-two years, from 732 to 754, the Franks had defeated the Roman-Arab alliance, swamped all the provinces of Gaul, and had swept into Northern Italy. This was made possible by the new feudal order which was first established in Austrasia and Neustria. The Roman administrative units of the civitates were abolished and replaced by the military comitates. The former free Romans were transferred en masse from the cities and were established on the slave labor camps called villae and mansi, alongside the serfs. They were called villeins (villains), a term which, for understandable reasons, came to mean enemies of law and order.
The Visigoths in Spain were overthrown by the Romans, who opened their city gates to the Berbers and Arabs. The Franks reacted with determination to avoid the occurrence of the same in Francia (Land of the Franks) by abolishing Roman urban society.
By the middle of the eighth century, the Frankish armies of occupation were overextended far beyond Austrasia and Neustria, where the main body of their nation was established. They could not yet afford to take over the church administration of Papal Romania as they had done elsewhere. It was expedient to play the part of liberators for the time being. Therefore, they appointed the Roman pope as a vassal of Francia.
The measure of freedom left to the Romans in Papal Romania depended on their right to have their own Roman pope, bishops, and clergy. To lose this right would have been tantamount to the same loss of freedom suffered by their compatriots in Northern Italy and Francia. Therefore, they had to be very careful not to incite the Franks.
[ Return ]The Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne
An unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of Pope Leo III (795-816), the successor of Hadrian. Pope Leo was then accused of immoral conduct. Charlemagne took a personal and active interest in the investigations which caused Leo to be brought to him in Paderborn. Leo was sent back to Rome, followed by Charlemagne, who continued the investigations. The Frankish king required finally that Leo swear to his innocence on the Bible, which he did on December 23, 800. Two days later Leo crowned Charlemagne ‘Emperor of the Romans.’
Charlemagne wanted the title ‘Emperor’, but not that of ‘Emperor of the Romans’. His biographer Einhard claims that had Charlemagne known what the pope was up to, he would not have entered the church.[ 6 ]
Charlemagne had arranged to get the title ‘Emperor’ in exchange for Leo’s exoneration. Leo almost spoiled things because Charlemagne wanted the title recognized by Constantinople-New Rome whose real ‘Emperor of the Romans’ would never recognize this full title for a Frank. This is why Charlemagne never used this title in his official documents, using instead the titles ‘Emperor and Augustus, who governs’ or ‘administers the Roman Empire’. By claiming that he ruled the Roman Empire, Charlemagne thus clearly meant that he governed the whole Roman Empire. The Franks decided that the Eastern part of the Empire had become ‘Greek’, and its leader, an emperor of ‘Greeks’. This is why Otto III (983-1002) is described in the year 1000 by his chronicler as ‘visiting the Roman Empire’, meaning, simply, the Papal States.[ 7 ]
The Romans called their empire Romania and respublica. The Franks reserved these names exclusively for the Papal States and literally condemned the Eastern part of the Empire to be Graecia.[ 8 ] The Franks were very careful to always condemn ‘Greeks’ as heretics, but never Romans, although East and West Romans were one nation. Thus at the Council of Frankfurt (794), the Franks condemned the ‘Greeks’ and their Seventh Ecumenical Synod in the presence of the legates of the Roman Pope Hadrian II, an aggressive promoter of this same Seventh Ecumenical Synod.
Hadrian had already excommunicated all those who had not accepted the Seventh Ecumenical Synod. Technically the Franks were in a state of excommunication. But to implement this would have brought down upon Papal Romania and her citizens the wrath of Frankish feudalism, as had been the fate of the Romans in the rest of Francia (Gallia, Germania, and Italia).
Charlemagne had also caused the Filioque to be added to the Frankish Creed, without consulting the pope. When the controversy over this addition broke out in Jerusalem, Charlemagne convoked the Council of Aachen in 809 and decreed that this addition was a dogma necessary for salvation. With this fait accomplit under his belt, he tried to pressure Pope Leo III into accepting it.[ 9 ]
Leo rejected the Filioque not only as an addition to the Creed, but also as dogma, claiming that the Fathers left it out of the Creed neither out of ignorance, nor out of negligence, nor out of oversight, but on purpose and by divine inspiration.
What Leo is clearly saying, but in diplomatic terms, is that the addition of the Filioque to the Creed is a heresy. The Franks were a too dangerous a presence in Papal Romania, so Leo acted as Hadrian had done before him. Leo did not reject the Filioque outside of the Creed, since there is in the West Roman tradition an Orthodox Filioque which was, and is, accepted as such by the East Romans until today. However, this West Roman Orthodox Filioque could not be added to the Creed where the term procession had a different meaning. In other words in a wrong context.
In any event, Charlemagne cared very little about the pope’s thoughts on icons and the Filioque. He needed the condemnation of the East Romans as heretics in order to prove that they were no longer Romans, but Greeks, and he succeeded in getting this in the only way the Frankish mind at this time could devise. Believing that the Franks would eventually take over the Papacy, he knew that future Frankish popes would accept what Roman popes of his day had rejected. Charlemagne in his youth heard stories of his father’s and uncle’s struggles to save Francia from the Roman revolutions, which had destroyed Visigothic rule in Hispanic Gothia (Spain) and had almost destroyed the Franks in Gaul.
Many historians take for granted that, by this time, the Franks and Romans in Gaul had become one nation, and that the Romans were supposedly included under the name Frank or populus Francorum.
So there is not doubt about the identity of the revolutionaries in Gaul, we quote a contemporary Frankish chronicler who reports that in 742, the year of Charlemagne’s birth, the Gascons rose in revolt under the leadership of Chunoald, the duke of Aquitaine and son of Eudo, mentioned above. Charlemagne’s father and uncle “united their forces and crossed the Loire at the city of Orleans. Overwhelming the Romans, they made for Bourges.”[ 10 ]Since Chunoald is here described as a beaten Roman, this means that his father Eudo was also a Roman, and not a Frank, as claimed by some.
The resulting Carolingian hatred for Romans is reflected in Charlemagne’s Libri Carolini and in Salic law, and is clearly expressed by Liutprand, Bishop of Cremona, during the following century, as we shall have occasion to see.
Meanwhile, the West Romans and the pope continued to pray in church for their emperor in Constantinople. Even the Irish prayed for the Imperium Romanum. However, when the emperor supported a heresy like iconoclasm, West Romans stopped praying for him and prayed only for the Imperium.
The name Roman had come to mean Orthodox, while the name Greek, from the time of Constantine the Great, meant pagan.[ 11 ] By Frankish logic this meant that if the East Romans became heretics, this would be proof that they had given up Roman nationality and that their empire was no longer Romania. Thus, West Roman prayers would no longer apply to a heretical emperor of ‘Greeks’, but to the Orthodox Frankish emperor of ‘doctrinally true’ Romans. Also part of Frankish logic was the belief that God grants conquests to the orthodox and defeats to the heretics. This supposedly explains the explosive growth of Franacia already described, but also the shrinkage of Romania at the hands of the Germanic and Arabic tribes.
These Frankish principles of reasoning are clearly spelled out in a letter of Emperor Louis II (855-875) to Emperor Basil I (867-886) in 871. Louis calls himself “Emperor Augustus of the Romans” and demotes Basil to “Emperor of New Rome.” Basil had poked fun at Louis, insisting that he was not even emperor in all of Francia, since he ruled only a small part of it, and certainly was not emperor of the Romans, but of the Franks. Louis argued that he was emperor in all of Francia because the other Frankish kings were his kinsmen by blood. He makes the same claim as that found in the Annals of Lorsch: he who holds the city of Old Rome is entitled to the name “Emperor of the Romans.” Louis claimed that : “We received from heaven this people and city to guide and (we received) the mother of all the churches of God to defend and exalt.”
Louis claimed that Rome, its people, and the papacy were given to the Franks by God because of their orthodox beliefs and were taken by God away from the ‘Greeks’, who used to be Romans when they were orthodox.
Louis responded by saying: “We have received the government of the Roman Empire for our orthodoxy. The Greeks have ceased to be emperors of the Romans for their cacodoxy. Not only have they deserted the city (Rome) and the capital of the Empire, but they have also abandoned Roman nationality and even the Latin language. They have migrated to another capital city and taken up a completely different nationality and language.”[ 12 ]
These remarks explain the Frankish use of the name Romania for territories they conquered from the East Romans and Turks during their so-called crusades. These provinces, and the Greek language, now become once again Romania because the Frankish armies had restored them to the ‘orthodoxy’ of the Frankish Papacy and to the ‘supremacy’ of the Latin language.[ 13 ]
[ Return ]Roman Reactions to Charlemagnian Policies
Emperor Basil I fully understood the dangers of Frankish plans revealed in the letter of Emperor Louis II and answered by sending his army to expel the Arabs from Southern Italy in 876. Frankish occupation of Papal Romania and Arab pressure from the South had put a tremendous strain on the papacy, and gave rise to a pro-Frankish party of Romans who managed to elect Nicholas I (858-867) as pope.
However, with the Roman army now established in the south, the papacy gained enough freedom and independence to react doctrinally to the Franks on the questions of icons and the Filioque. Pope John VIII (872-882) felt strong enough to participate in the Eighth Ecumenical Synod of 879 in Constantinople, which condemned Charlemagne’s Councils of Frankfurt (794) and Aachen (809). However, this Synod of Constantinople did not mention these Frankish Councils or the Franks by name. It simply condemned and excommunicated all those who rejected the Seventh Ecumenical Synod[ 14 ] and altered the Creed, either by addition or by deletion.[ 15 ]
Pope John VIII was on good terms with the Frankish rulers and kept them pleased with gifts of the title emperor. He never ceased to appeal to them for aid against the Saracens. The Franks were not as powerful then as they were in the time of Charlemagne, but they were still dangerous, and could be useful.
In a private letter to Patriarch Photios (858-867, 877-886), Pope John VIII assured his colleague that the Filioque was never added to the Creed in Rome (as had been done by the Franks when they feudalized Northern Italy), that it was a heresy, but that the question should be handled with great caution…”so that we will not be forced to allow the addition…”[ 16 ] This papal letter was added at the end of the minutes of the Synod and explains why the Synod did not name the heretics who were condemned.[ 17 ]
Pope John also proposed to this same Synod of Constantinople the adoption of two of the provisions of the 769 decree on papal elections by a college of cardinal clergy already mentioned. However, they were to be applied to the election of the Patriarch of Constantinople. One proposed canon forbids the candidacy of laymen. The second restricts candidacy to the cardinal clergy of the city of Constantinople.[ 18 ] Both papal proposals were rejected as inapplicable to New Rome, but accepted as applicable to Old Rome.[ 19 ] Thus in this indirect manner, the 769 decree on papal elections became part of Roman law when the acts of this Synod were signed by the emperor.
Pope John could not directly petition that the 769 papal election law be incorporated into Roman law, since this would be tantamount to an admission that for more than a hundred years popes were being elected illegally. It appears that Franks and pro-Frankish Romans had been promoting the argument that papal election practice was neither that of the East Roman Patriarchates, nor legal, since not a part of Roman law. Now it was at least part of Roman law.
It was very important for the Romanism and Orthodoxy of the papacy that it remain self-perpetuating, without the possibility of infiltration by pro-Franks such as Nicholas I, or even of a Frankish takeover, if clergy from outside of the papacy could become candidates, as had happened in the East where it was permissible for a presbyter of one Patriarchate to become patriarch of another.
In addition, the canons which forbid the transference of bishops became extremely important. The successor of John VIII was not recognized as pope by Emperor Basil I because he had been bishop and had become pope by transference.
[ Return ]The Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals
The sixth and seventh centuries witnessed a continuing controversy in Francia over the place of the Frankish king in the election of bishops. One party insisted that the king had no part in the elections. A second group would allow that the king simply approve the elections. A third group would give the king veto power over elections. A fourth group supported the right of the kings to appoint the bishops. Gregory of Tours and most members of the senatorial class belonged to this fourth group. However, while supporting the king’s right to appoint bishops, Gregory of Tours protested against the royal practice of selling bishoprics to the highest bidder.
From the time of St. Gregory the Great, the popes of Old Rome tried to convince the Frankish kings to allow the election of bishops according to canon law by the clergy and people. Of course, the Frankish kings knew very well that what the popes wanted was the election of bishops by the overwhelming Roman majority. However, once the Franks replaced the Roman bishops and reduced the populus Romanorum to serfdom as villeins, there was no longer any reason why the canons should not apply. Thus Charlemagne issued his capitulary of 803, which restored the free election of bishops by the clergy and people secunda statuta canonum. Charlemagne restored the letter of the law, but both its purpose and that of the popes were frustrated. The church in Francia remained in the grip of a tyrannical Teutonic minority.
It is within such a context that one can appreciate the appearance of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, a large collection of forged documents, mixed with and fused into authentic ones compiled and in use by 850.
Incorporated into this collection was the forgery known as the Donation of Constantine whose purpose was to prevent the Franks from establishing their capital in Rome. This is strongly indicated by the fact that Otto III (983-1002), whose mother was an East Roman, declared this document a forgery as part of his reason for establishing Old Rome as his capital. Constantine the Great allegedly gave his imperial throne to the pope and his successors because “it is not right that an earthly emperor would have power in a place where the government of priests and the head of the Christian religion has been established by the heavenly Emperor.” For this reason he moved his “empire and power” to Constantinople. And it was hoped that the Franks would fall for the ruse and leave Rome to the Romans.
Translated into feudal context, the Decretals supported the idea that bishops, metropolitans or archbishops, patriarchs and popes are related to each other as vassals and lords in a series of pyramidal relations, similar to Frankish feudalism, except that the pope is not bound by the hierarchical stages and procedures and can intervene directly at any point in the pyramid. He is at the same time the pinnacle, and directly involved by special juridical procedure in all levels. Clergy are subject only to the church tribunals. All bishops have the right of appeal directly to the pope who alone is the final judge. All appeals to lower level church courts are to be reported to the pope. Even when no appeal is made, the pope has the right to bring cases before his tribunal.
The throne of Saint Peter was transferred to Rome from Antioch. Constantine the Great gave his throne to Pope Silvester I and his successors in Rome. Thus the pope sat simultaneously on the thrones of Saints Peter and Constantine. What more powerful rallying point could there be fore that part of the Roman nation subjugated to Teutonic oppression?
The Decretals were strongly resisted by powerful members of the Frankish hierarchy. However, they very quickly had wide distribution and became popular with the oppressed. At times the Frankish kings supported the Decretals against their own bishops as their interests dictated. They were also supported by pious Frankish clergy and laymen, and even by Frankish bishops who appealed to the pope in order to nullify decisions taken against them by their metropolitans.
The forged parts of these Decretals were written in Frankish Latin, an indication that the actual work was done in Francia by local Romans. The fact that the Franks accepted the Decretals as authentic, although not in the interests of their feudal establishment, means clearly that they were not a party to the forgery. The Franks never suspected the forgery until centuries later.
Both Old and New Rome knew that these Decretals were forgeries.[ 20 ] Roman procedure for verification of official texts can leave no doubt about this. Therefore, it is very possible that agents of Constantinople, and certainly, agents of Old Rome, had a hand in the compilation.
The strongest argument that Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims (845-882) could conjure up against the application of these Decretals in Francia was that they applied only to Papal Romania. He made a sharp distinction between canons of Ecumenical Synods, which are immutable and applicable to the whole Church because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and laws which are limited in their application to a certain era and to only a part of the Church.[ 21 ] One can see why Hincmar’s contemporary, Pope John VIII (872-882), expressed to Patriarch Photios his hope, that he, John, might be able to persuade the Franks to omit the Filioque from the Creed. What Pope John did not fully grasp was the determination with which the Franks decided that the East Romans be only ‘Greeks’ and heretics, as is clear from the Frankish tradition now inaugurated to write works against the errors of the ‘Greeks’.[ 22 ]
The Decretals were an attack on the very heart of the Frankish feudal system, since they uprooted its most important administrative officials, i.e., the bishops, and put them directly under the control, of all things, of a Roman head of state.
The astute Franks understood the danger very well. Behind their arguments against the application of the Decretals in Francia, one finds lurking two Frankish concerns. On the one hand, they contended with a Roman pope, but on the other hand, they had to take this pope very seriously because the villeins could become dangerous to the feudal establishment if incited by their ethnarch in Rome.
Pope Hadrian II (867-872), John VIII’s predecessor, threatened personally to restore Emperor Louis II (855-875) to his rightful possession in Lotharingia, taken by Charles the Bald (840-875), who had been crowned by Hincmar of Rheims (845-882).[ 23 ]Hincmar answered this threat in a letter to the pope. He warned Hadrian not to try “to make slaves of us Franks”, since the pope’s “predecessors laid no such yoke on our predecessors, and we could not bear it…so we must fight to the death for our freedom and birthright.”[ 24 ]
Hincmar was not so much concerned with bishops becoming slaves of the pope, but that a Roman should “make slaves of us Franks.”[ 25 ]
In 990, King Hugh Capet (987-996) of West Francia (Gaul or Gallia) and his bishops applied to Pope John XV (985-996) for the suspension of Archbishop Arnulf of Rheims as required by the Decretals. Arnulf had been appointed by Hugh Capet, but subsequently betrayed his benefactor, in favor of the Carolingian Duke Charles of Lotharingia who was his uncle.
Impatient with the pope’s eighteen month delay in making a decision, Hugh Capet convened a council at Verzy near Rheims in 990. Arnulf pleaded guilty and begged for mercy. Nonetheless, a group of abbots challenged the proceedings as illegal because they were not consistent with the Decretals.[ 26 ] The Council deposed Arnulf. Hugh Capet caused Gerbert de Aurillac, the future Pope Silvester II, to be appointed in his place.[ 27 ]
Pope John, however, rejected this council as illegal and unauthorized. He sent a Roman abbot named Leo to depose Gerbert, restore Arnulf, and pronounce suspension on all the bishops who had taken part in the council. The pope’s legate announced the pope’s decision at the Council of Mouson in 995.[ 28 ]
Gerbert vigorously defended himself.[ 29 ] He rejected the papal decision in the presence of the papal legate Leo and refused the advice of colleagues to desist from his duties until the matter could be brought before the next Council of Rheims. The bishop of Triers finally persuaded him not to celebrate mass until the final decision on his case was reached.[ 30 ]
Thus Gerbert was completely abandoned by both the ecclesiastical and lay Frankish nobles who felt obliged to display, at least publicly, their support for the pope’s decision. They even avoided every kind of contact with Gerbert. But Abbot Leo had aroused the faithful in support of the pope who sat on the thrones of Saints Peter and Constantine the Great. Out of prudence, Gerbert went into seclusion.
At the next Council of Rheims in 996, Gerbert was deposed and Arnulf was restored.[ 31 ]The Frankish ecclesiastical nobility could not afford to oppose popular support for the pope.
It seems that it was not popular superstition and piety alone that was the foundation of the people’s fervor for the pope, but also the common Romanism the majority shared with the pope. It is this Romanism which constituted the power basis for the papal thrones of Saints Peter and Constantine the Great.
That the underlying problem was a clash between Romans and Franks is clearly stated by Gerbert in a letter to Wilderod, bishop of Strassburg. He writes: “The whole Church of the West Franks lies under the oppression of tyranny. Yet remedy is not sought from the West Franks, but from these (Romans).”[ 32 ] It is easy to understand the enthusiasm with which the subject populus Romanorum welcomed the Roman pope’s interventions, punishing and humiliating Frankish nobles guilty of injustice. That the legate Leo could reverse the decisions of Hugh Capet and his bishops, and drive the nobility into conformity and Gerbert into seclusion by means of the faithful indicates that the makings of a revolution were present.
[ Return ]The Frankish Counterattack
The Frankish establishment, however, had the power to react, and it did so on two fronts. It stepped up its propaganda against alleged papal “corruption” and, of all things, “illiteracy,” and made the decisive move to replace Roman popes with alleged “pious” and “literate” Germanic popes.
The alleged corrupt Roman popes could have been replaced by pious Roman popes. At the time there were at least some 200 monasteries and 50,000 Roman monks south of Rome.[ 33 ] But this was exactly the danger that had to be avoided. The Decretals in the hands of the pious Roman popes were even more dangerous than when in the hands of corrupt ones. The purpose of this smear campaign was to shatter the people’s confidence in the Roman Papacy and justify the need to cleanse it with “virtuous” and “literate” Lombards, and East and West Franks.
Otto II (973-983) had appointed a Lombard, Peter of Pavia to the papacy in 983. He became the first non-Roman pope as John XIV (983-984), and thus provoked a revolution of the Roman populace aided by Constantinople. However, it took another forty years for the noble vassals of King Robert the Pious (996-1031) to get up enough Christian courage to take an oath that they would no longer violate “noble women.” They were careful not to include villeins and serf women in the oath.
The concern of the Frankish bishops for the morality of Roman popes is quite interesting, as they did not seem concerned with their own morality when passing the death sentence in their episcopal courts. Charlemagne’s many wives and fifteen illegitimate children were taken in stride, together with the fact that he forbade the marriage of his daughters. But Charlemagne did not mind their having children, although he castigated such practices in his capitularies.
At the Council of Rheims in 991, already mentioned, Arnuld, the bishop of Orleans, lists and violently attacks the alleged “corrupt” popes and, of course, praises Peter of Pavia, i.e., Pope John XIV, the Lombard already mentioned. It is, perhaps, not by accident that the allegedly corrupt popes were attached to Constantinople and the pious one was a Lombard.
In this same speech, Arnulf remarks: “But as at this time in Rome (as is publicly known) there is hardly anyone acquainted with letters-without (as it is written) one may hardly be a doorkeeper in the house of God-with what face may he who has himself learnt nothing set himself up as a teacher of others? Of course, in comparison with the Roman pontiff, ignorance is tolerable in other priests, but in the Roman (pope), in him to whom it is given to pass in review the faith, the morals, the discipline of the priesthood, indeed, of the universal church, ignorance is in no way to be tolerated.” [ 34 ]
This deliberate fabrication should raise the question of the veracity of such Frankish sources concerning the corruption and illiteracy of Roman popes. Certainly many of them were neither saints nor scholars, but it is likely that Frankish propaganda exaggerates their weaknesses and it is certain that it does not stop short of fabrication.
In this same speech Arnulf lists among the papal “monsters” Pope John XII (955-964), who was put on trial in 963 by Otto I (936-973) and condemned in absentia. The report of Liutprand, the Lombard bishop of Cremona, that no proof was necessary at the trial because the pope’s alleged crimes were publicly known may be indicative of the need to reexamine such cases.
Perhaps the most important incentive for replacing Roman popes with Franks and Lombards is that revealed by this same Liutprand, a chief adviser to Otto I. He writes: “We…Lombards, Saxons, Franks, Lotharingians, Bajoarians, Sueni, Burgundians, have so much contempt [for Romans and their emperors] that when we become enraged with our enemies, we pronounce no other insult except Roman (nisi Romane), this alone, i.e., the name of the Romans (hoc solo, id est Romanorum nomine) meaning: whatever is ignoble, avaricious, licentious, deceitful, and, indeed whatever is evil.”[ 35 ]
Perhaps the real reason that Pope John XII became the monster of Frankish propaganda was that he dared restore the older tradition of dating papal documents by the years of the reign of the Roman emperor in Constantinople. In any case, Liutprand’s tirade against the Romans, just quoted, reveals the fact that he knew very well that East and West Romans were one nation, and that the emperor in Constantinople was the real emperor of the Romans.
This tirade also reveals the fact that Liutprand was not aware of the prevailing theory among modern European historians that the Germanic nations became one nation with the Romans in Western Europe. As is clear from Liutprand, the Germanic peoples of his time would have been insulted by such claims.
Otto III (983-1002) solved the main problem of Frankdom in 996 by appointing to the papacy Bruno of Carinthia, an East Frank, who, as Gregory V (996-999), demanded the reinstatement of Arnulf as archbishop of Rheims. Thus Gerbert de Aurillac gave up trying to be restored to Rheims. He was compensated, however, by his fellow Frank, now on the papal throne, with confirmation of his appointment as archbishop of Ravenna (998-999).
Upon the death of Bruno, Gerbert was appointed to the papacy by Otto III and ruled Papal Romania as Silvester II (993-1003). For European and American historians, this Silvester II is one of the great popes in the history of the papacy. But for Romans, he was the head of the Frankish army of occupation, and the pope who introduced the feudal system of suppression into Papal Romania and enslaved the Romans to the Frankish nobility. There was no other way the people of Old Rome would accept Germanic popes.
In defending himself against the decision of the Roman pope, John XV, the future Frankish Pope Gerbert d’Aurillac, staunchly and eloquently supported the positions of Hincmar against the universal application of the Decretals. When d’Aurillic became Pope Silvester II, he found their universal application useful. The Decretals in the hands of the Frankish Papacy, sealed the tomb of the West Romans very firmly for many centuries.
Between the years 973-1003, and especially between 1003-1009, the Romans of Papal Romania made valiant efforts to preserve their freedom and independence from Frankish feudalism by having or attempting to have their own popes; once, at least, with the assistance of the East Roman army which had reached Rome and entered the city. The German emperors, however, devised an interim method of keeping the Romans somewhat pacified, by confirming the election of Roman popes from the Roman Tusculan family, which secured the papacy for itself, in exchange for the betrayal of Constantinople and her Orthodoxy represented by the Crescenti family. However, this temporary facade was abolished at the Council of Sutri in 1046. Thenceforth, Germanic popes were once again appointed by the German emperors, until the Normans became the deciding factor in allowing the reformer Franks to wrest the papacy from the imperial Germans. Even Italian popes like Gregory VII are descended from the Frankish army of occupation, established in Italy since the time of Charlemagne. It is no wonder that Beatrice and Matilda, wife and daughter of Boniface II, marquess of Tuscany, should become the great supporters of the reformed Papacy, since this is also a Frankish family established there since the ninth century.
[ Return ]Conclusions
The conclusions, I believe, seem clear. The underlying forces which clashed on the battlefield were not the Decretals, canon law, and the Filioque, but Romans and Franks. The Franks used church structure and dogma in order to maintain their birthright, to hold the Roman nation in “just subjection.” The Romans also used church structure and dogma to fight back for their own freedom from oppression and for their independence.
Both sides used the most convenient weapons at hand. Thus, the same canonical and decretal arguments are to be found now on one side, now on the other, according to the current offensive and defensive needs of each nation. The Filioque, however, became a permanent feature of conflict between East Romans and Franks with the West Romans attempting to side with the East Romans.
From all that has been pointed out, it should be evident that there are strong indication that Roman historical terms are much closer to the reality of the schism than is Frankish terminology. The first is consistent with its own past, whereas the second is a deliberate provocation of a break with the past.
To speak of the schism as a conflict between Franks and Romans, to which theology was subjected as an offensive weapon on the Frankish side, and as a defensive and counter-offensive weapon on the Roman side, would seem close to taking a picture of history with a movie camera. On the other hand, to speak of a conflict between so-called “Latin” and “Greek” Christianities is tantamount to commissioning Charlemagne and his descendants to prophesy the future, and see to it that the prophecy is fulfilled.
There is strong evidence that the higher and lower nobility of European feudalism were mostly descendants of Germanic and Norman conquerors, and that the serfs were mostly descendants of the conquered Romans and Romanized Celts and Saxons. This explains why the name Frank meant both noble and free in contrast to the serfs. This usage was strong enough to get into the English language by way of the Normans. Thus, even the African-American was described as receiving his franchise when set free.
The implications are quite tantalizing when applied to the task of understanding the framework of Frankish or Latin Christianity and theology in relation to Roman Christianity and theology. Feudalism, the Inquisition, and Scholastic theology were clearly the work of the Franks, Germans, Lombards, Normans, and Goths, who took over the Church and her property, and used the religion of the Romans to keep the conquered Romans in a servile state. In contrast to this, the Romans who were conquered by Arab and Turkish Muslims, had their own Roman bishops. Thus in the one case, the institutional aspects of Christianity became a tool of suppression, and in the other, the means of national survival.
Because it is impossible to believe that four Roman Patriarchates broke away from a Frankish Papacy, the Franks were forced to forge the somewhat more believable myth that four “Greek” Patriarchates broke away from a so-called Roman but, in reality, Frankish Papacy. European and American historians continue to teach and support this.
The schism began when Charlemagne ignored both Popes Hadrian I and Leo III on doctrinal questions and decided that the East Romans were neither Orthodox nor Roman. Officially, this Frankish challenge was answered at the Eighth Ecumenical Synod in 879 by all five Roman Patriarchates, including that of Old Rome.
There was no schism between the Romans of Old and New Rome during the two and a half centuries of Frankish and German control over Papal Romania.[ 36 ]
The so-called split between East and West was, in reality, the importation into Old Rome of the schism provoked by Charlemagne and carried there by the Franks and Germans who took over the papacy.
The atmosphere for dialogue between Old and New Rome may be cleared by the realization that the so-called “French” Revolution was essentially not much different from the so-called “Greek’ Revolution. One was a revolt of Romans against their Frankish conquerors, and the other, a revolt of Romans against their Turkish conquerors.
It would seem that there is a much stronger unity among the Romans extending from the Atlantic to the Middle East than there can ever exist among those working for a union based on only a Charlemagnian Europe.
Perhaps the best path to the political reunion of Europe is to first realize that the already existing Roman Republics should, and can, unite into a Federation of Roman Republics. In other words, the so-called “French” and “Greek” Revolutions must be completed by becoming a Roman Revolution.
However, the path to the reunion of Christianity is not at all political or ethnic in nature. The Church’s involvement in politics, and state structures for the preservation or the suppression of Roman society produced an interplay between church and society, but not necessarily between dogma and society.
The Medieval papacy incorporated the feudal structure into her fabric of administration and elevated it to the level of dogma.
The Orthodox Churches have also been adapting themselves to changing circumstances which affect their administrative fabric also, but have left this at the level of canon law.
The Protestant churches have rejected not only the dogmatic aspects of the Medieval papal administrative structure, but, on the whole, they have rejected the Orthodox development also, and have attempted to go back to what they understand to be Biblical or Apostolic Christianity.
Thus, Roman Orthodox and so-called “Roman Catholics” find themselves heirs to differences due to historical circumstances, and Protestants see themselves as a series of third alternatives.
[ 1 ] There are two factors which may shed further light on the events surrounding the role played by the governor of Ceuta in the overthrow of Gothic rule in Hispanic Romania. The first is mentioned by Ibn Khaldoun who claims that the Berber tribes (the Numidians of Roman history) were converted to Islam twelve times. This means that the Berber tribesmen who participated in the liberation of Spain were either still outright Roman Christians, or still Roman Christians in sentiment and no different from their leader, the governor of Ceuta who was a Berber, a Roman (Rum), and an Orthodox Christian. The second factor, testified to by St. John of Damascus (circa 675-749) is that the Romans at this time still considered Islam to be a Christian heresy. The Koran (S.30) itself considers the Romans as coreligionists. This means that the Hispanic Romans accepted the Numidians as fellow Romans and the Arabs as heretical Christians. These factors explain the otherwise mysterious rapidity and total effectiveness of the overthrow of Gothic power. The tradition that the Jews alone aided the Berbers and Arabs in “conquering” Gothia (Goth occupied Spain) is clearly a fabrication. Both Jewish and Christian Romans assisted in the liberation which, in reality, was the implementation of revolutionary plans several decades old, with two known attempts to incite rebellions via landings of the free Roman army, already mentioned.[ 2 ] “When Duke Eudo saw that he was beaten and an object of scorn, he summoned to his assistance against Prince Charles and his Franks the unbelieving Saracen people. So they rose up…and crossed the Garonne…From thence they advanced on Poitiers…” Fredegarii, Chronica Continuationes 13, trans. J.M. Wallace-Hadril (London, 1960), p. 90
[ 3 ] On the origins of European feudalism, see my books Romanism, Romania, Roumeli (in Greek) (Thessaloniki, 1975).
[ 4 ] Migne, PL 89: 744.
[ 5 ] F. Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, 3 (London, 1936), pp. 351-55. The main conditions of this decree were restated in 817 in an agreement between Louis the Pious (814-840) and Pope Paschal I (817-824), but reversed in 824 by Emperor Lothar (823-855) who added the provision that the pope was to be elected with his consent and consecrated after swearing an oath of fealty. Brian Pullan, Sources for the History of Medieval Europe (Oxford, 1971), pp. 47-52.
[ 6 ] It is within such a context that the seeming contradiction between Einhard and the Annals of Lorsch may be resolved.
[ 7 ] Thietmar of Mersebourg, Chronicon, 4.47; Brian Pullan, Sources for the History of Medieval Europe (Oxford, 1971), pp. 120-121.
[ 8 ] John S. Romanides, Romanism, pp.33, 50-51, 205-249.
[ 9 ] For a review of the historical and doctrinal aspects of this question, see J.S. Romanides, The Filioque, Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions, St. Albans 1975-Moscow 1976 (Athens, 1978).
[ 10 ] Fredegarii, Chronica Continuationes 25.
[ 11 ] Thus Saint Athanasios the Great’s work entitled Discourse against the Greeks, Migne, PG 25: 3-96.
[ 12 ] Pullan, Sources, pp. 16-17.
[ 13 ] Romanides, Romanism, pp. 224- 249.
[ 14 ] Mansi, 17. 493-496.
[ 15 ] Ibid., 17.516-517.
[ 16 ] Ibid., 17.525. Romanides, Romanism, p. 62ff.
[ 17 ] It has been argued that the surviving version of this letter is a product of the fourteenth century. However, the letter fits in quite snugly with the conditions of Papal Romania at this time and could not have been known by either the Franks or East Romans in the fourteenth century.
[ 18 ] Mansi 17.489.
[ 19 ] Ibid., Romanides, Romanism, pp. 149-50,, 325-27.
[ 20 ] It is no accident that Otto III declared the Donation of Constantine to be a forgery, as already mentioned, a fact he probably learned from his East Roman mother and tutors. However, he evidently never suspected that the rest of the decretals had been tampered with.
[ 21 ] Hincmar’s copious arguments are contained in his writings about his nephew’s illegal appeal to the pope, Opuscula et Epistolae quae spectant ad causam Hincmari Laudunensis, Migne, PL 126:279-648.
[ 22 ] Of these, the following three survive: 1) Responsio De Fide S. Trinitatis Contra Graecorum Haeresim, Migne, PL 110:111-112; 2) Ratramnus of Corbie, Contra Graecorum Opposita, Migne, PL 121:225-346; 3) Aeneas of Paris, Liber Adversus Graecos, Migne, PL 121:685-762.
[ 23 ] Mansi 16.555-60.
[ 24 ] “…nos Francos non jubeat servire, quia istud jugam sui antecessores nostris antecessoribus non imposuerunt, et nos illud portare non possumus, qui scriptum esse in sanctis libris audimus, ut pro libertate et haereditate nostra usque ad mortem certare debeamus.” Migne, PL 126:181.
[ 25 ] Mansi 19.97-100.
[ 26 ] It is interesting to carefully note that Richerus (Historiae 68), a student of Gerbert, reports that the abbotts were answered by the claim that it was impossible to notify the Roman pontiff about the matter because of obstacles caused by enemies and the bad conditions of the roads.
[ 27 ] Mansi 19.103-08. For Gerbert’s own spontaneous version of the proceedings, see his report to Wilderod, bishop of Strassbourg. Mansi 19.107-68. It is clear that Richerus s attempting to cast the factual material in such a way as to cover up the clash that was in process between the West Frankish establishment and the Roman papacy. This is nowhere so much in evidence as in the fact that he carefully avoids mentioning that Gerbert and the bishops who ordained him were deposed by Pope John XV, a fact which Gerbert himself complains about in his letter to Empress Adelaide. Mansi 19.176-78.
[ 28 ] Mansi 19.193-96. This evidence should be used in the light of Gerbert’s letter to Empress Adelaide, already mentioned in the previous footnote. Richerus makes a feeble attempt to present pope John as having sent Leo to simply investigate the matter at the Council of Mouzon (Historiae 4.95) and for this reason the text of the Papal decision had to be omitted from his acts of the Council. One can understand why this text has also disappeared from the Papal archives most probably when Bruno of Carinthia or Gerbert himself took over the Papacy.
[ 29 ] Richerus, Historiae 4.101-05. Mansi 19.193-96.
[ 30 ] Mansi 19.196. Richerus gives us an important key to these deliberations. Gerbert finally promised to abstain from the celebration of mass in order to avoid the appearance of an open revolt against the pope. Historiae 4.106. In other words, there was a general agreement among the lay and church nobles (i.e., the Franks) that the pope and the Gallo-Roman (Walloon) multitude are to be out-flanked, and for this reason, a final decision was at all costs avoided. That a Frankish candidate for the Papacy was being prepared for the succession of John XV was perhaps already decided upon and known by key Frankish leaders. In order to govern the predominantly Roman multitude effectively, the Franks had to always give the impression that they were faithful and obedient to the Roman pope.
[ 31 ] Mansi 19.197-200. Richerus mentions this council, but is silent about its decisions. Historiae 4.108. As already mentioned, he carefully avoids giving out the information that Gerbert was suspended by John XV. By not mentioning the death of this pope, Richerus gives us the impression that Gerbert twice visited the same papacy, which also recognized his appointment to the Archbishopric of Ravenna.
[ 32 ] “Pressa jacet tyrannide omnis Ecclesia Gallorum; atqui non a Gallis, sed ab his sperabatur salus,” Mansi 19.166. Gallia, Germania, and Italia were parts of the Frankish Empire ruled in the past by members of the Carolingian families. Within this context, Ecclesia Gallorum signifies the Church of the West Franks and certainly not the French, who at this time were predominantly the Gallo-Roman serfs and villeins under Frankish rule. This is clear from the use of the title Rex Francorum by the Capetian Kings. See, e.g., Mansi, 19.93-94, 97, 105, 107-08, 113, 129, 171-72, 173-74.
[ 33 ] F. Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, 3 (London, 1936), p. 439; J. Gay, L’Italie Meridionale et L’Empire Byzantine (867-1071) (Paris, 1904), p. 285.
[ 34 ] Mansi 19.132-33.
[ 35 ] Relatio de Legatione Constantinopolitana 12. Migne, PL 136. 815
[ 36 ] In his letter to Emperor Michael I (811-813), Charlemagne refers to the restoration of the unity of the Churches within the context of the establishment of peace between the Western and Eastern Empires, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae4, p. 556ff. Charlemagne is here thinking in terms of the Frankish West and the Roman or Greek East and not of Old and New Rome. Pope Leo III had never accepted Charlemagne’s doctrinal adventures about icons and the Filioque, and the East Roman Patriarchs desisted from reacting against them, evidently in support of the delicate and dangerous position of the West Romans under Frankish occupation. In any event, Charlemagne’s remarks are his own admission that he himself had provoked a schism which existed only in his own mind, since all five Roman Patriarchs avoided being provoked, and seemed not to take the Franks doctrinally serious at that time. For an English translation of this letter, see Robert Folz, The Coronation of Charlemagne (London, 1974), pp. 242-43.