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The Photian Schism in Western and Eastern Tradition

  • F. Dvornik

The problem of the Patriarch Photius involved one of the most tangled and bitter differences that hamper friendly relations between Eastern and Western Christianity. Since the Renaissance, Photius, a Greek scholar of the ninth century, has been venerated by philosophers and philologists alike as the genius who among others was instrumental in transmitting to later generations classical Greek and Hellenic culture. On the other hand, Photius' name has been associated with the rise of the first schism in the ninth century when, under Pope Nicholas I, Photius played a prominent part in the first clash between the papacy and the East. The result is that the same man who is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Church, and as one of the last living witnesses of the tradition of the early Christian Fathers, has been for centuries regarded by the Christian West as the father of the great schism, as a prevaricator who falsified papal letters and conciliar Acts, and as a symbol of pride and lust for ecclesiastical domination. It is evident that both views cannot be right. Hence, the history of the Patriarch still stands as the greatest stumbling block barring the way to a better understanding between eastern and western Christendom. The apparent impossibility of reconciling such contradictory estimates has left historians with the feeling that history in this case finds itself in a cul-de-sac.

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1 This paper is the Kornes Lecture given at King's College, University of London, 05 8, 1947.

2 For more details on this important problem consult my study “The Circus Parties in Byzantium, their Evolution and Their Suppression,” published in Byzanlina-Metabyzantina (1946), New York, vol. I, pp. 119133.

3 In A History of the Byzantine Empire (London, 1912), pp. 157 ff.Bury, J. B. proved that this accusation was baseless. Cf. my book, Les Legendes de Constantin et de Methode Vues de Byzance, (Prague, 1933). pp. 139 ff.

4 See the evidence in my study “Le Premier Schisme de Photius” in the Bulletin of the Bulgarian Archaeological Institute (Sofia, 1938), vol. IX.

5 See extract from Acts in Deusdedit's work published by von Glanvell, V. WolfDie Kanonessammlung des Kardinals Deusdedit (Paderborn,, 1905, pp. 604 seq.) Some declarations by the legates and the representatives of the Byzantine Church are of the utmost importance in the evolution of the Roman Primacy. Here are a few on the papacy as the supreme tribunal in the Church. At the second session of the synod the legates said: “Though you have already pronounced judgment, we are bringing this case before our tribunal by the authority of the canon law and as representatives of the Pope.” The bishop of Laodicea answered in the name of the Byzantines: “The synod has no objection to the reopening of this case. On the contrary, the Church and the citizens greatly rejoice that you should have these powers and are examining his case.” The legates: “Believe us, brethren, it is because the Fathers at the Council of Sardica decided that the bishop of Rome has power to reopen the case of any bishop as may seem desirable, and the authority to reexamine it, as we have stated.” The bishop of Laodicea: “Our Church rejoices at it, has no objection to it and is not offended by it.”

6 For the problem of the emperor's right to convoke and preside at oecumenical councils see my short paper published in the Christian East (1932), vol. X. I hope to deal with this problem thoroughly in my book on The Political Philosophy of the Christian East, on which I am at present engaged.

7 See my study, “Le second schisme de Photius—une mystification histotique,” published in Byzaniion (1933), vol. VIII, pp. 425475.

8 Parissinus Graecus Suppl. 1232: Controversies between Cardinal Benedict, legate Innocent III and the Greeks in 1205, summarized by his interpreter, Nicholas of Otranto. The MS—palimpsest—is contemporary. The passage in question, folio 38.

9 See my summary in the Annals of the Kondalion Institute (Prague, 1938), vol. X: “L'Affaire de Photius dans la literature Latin du Moyen Age.”

10 See von Sichel, M., Liber Dlwrnas Romanorum Poniificum (Wien, 1888).On the Liber Diurnus consult the study published by the late Pope Pius XI in the Royal Institute of Science and Literature, Milan, 1913, vol. 46, pp. 238–52 (A. Ratti, “La Fine d'una Leggenda”).

11 Additional MS no. 8873 (end of eleventh century), containing the famous collection of canon law, called Collectio Britannica. The passage in question on folios 205, 206.

12 See for details my study, “L'oecumenicite du VHIe concile dans la tradition occidentale du Moyen Age,” published in the Bulletin of the Royal Academy of Belgium (Classe des Lettres, vol. XXIV, 1938), and chapters 2 and 3 of the second part of my forthcoming book.

13 Cf. what the Assumptionist Father Jugie, M. says on the cult of Photius in the tenth century in his Theologica dogmaiica of the Eastern Churches (Paris, 1926, vol. I, p. 684).

14 Arundel, MS No. 528. I am publishing the passage in question in Appendix III of my book. The Photian Schism. History and Legend, to be issued by the Cambridge University Press in 1948.

15 Parisinus Graecus no. 1712, folios 4–6.

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