The Sixth Century
If there is no index on the left, click here: Index
501 During this century, inhumation replaced cremation in Northern France (as seen in evidence from the grave yard at Hordain).
501 In this century, the Penitentials developed in Ireland. The Penitentials were a detailed and wide-ranging list of sins and corresponding penances.
506 At the Armenian council of Dvin, that church rejected the ruling of Chalcedon on the nature of Christ. From that point on, the Armenian church was Monophysite in Christology.
There were Monophysite bodies in Egypt (the Copts), Ethiopia and Syria (later known as the Jacobites - see 542/43) also.
506/7 (508?) The first Monophysite Syriac Bible (known as the Philoxeniana) was commissioned by Bishop Philoxenus of Mabbug (Hierapolis - see 485, 495). Philoxenus collaborated with his auxiliary bishop Polycarp.
a certain point in his career, Philoxenus wrote to denounce the opinion
of a certain Stephen Bar Sudaili of Ephesus that the
punishment of the
wicked was not eternal. Stephen, who spent his closing
years in a monastery near Jerusalem, is thought by some to
have been the
moving force behind the resurgence of Origenism in Palestine during the
century. He has also been proposed as the author of the works
Clovis, king of the Salian Franks (481-511), sent messengers with gifts
to the shrine of St. Martin of Tours, seeking a sign from heaven.
As his men entered the church, the chanter sang, “For thou hast firded
me with strength unto battle; thou has subdued under me those who rose
up against me” (Psalm 18.39). In the summer, Clovis defeated
Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, at Voille (near Poitiers). The
Catholic nobles of southern Gaul had supported their Arian king
(Alaric). The Visigoths managed to retain control over
a strip of land from the Pyrenees to the Rhone, with their capital at
They spread into Spain, and ruled there until their kingdom was
by the Saracens in 711.
508 Caesarius, bishop of Arles (502-43) set up a convent built against the city wall for his sister Caesaria. Around 200 women , recruited from the aristocracy, lived in the Convent of St. John. The holiness of these nuns, kept in total seclusion, was believed to protect the city. (Caesarius had been trained in the monastery at Lerins (see 410).)
On Christmas Day, Remigius,
bishop of Rheims, baptized Clovis,
king of the Salian Franks,
and his entire army (as many as 3000 men). The Franks thus accepted Orthodox,
rather than Arian, Christianity.
508/9 The emperor Anastasios (491-518) wrote to Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, making him an honorary consul. This is indicative of the east Roman diplomatic efforts among the Germanic kingdoms during this era (in particular, against the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy). Clovis celebrated this honor by donning the purple costume of consul and tossing coins to a crowd in Tours as he enacted the “Adventus” ritual of the Roman emperors. The occasion for Anastasios’s congratulatory letter was Clovis’s victory over the Visigoths at Vouille. (The Salian Franks had become Orthodox, while the Visigoths were still Arians at this time.)
508-11 The monk Severus, later patriarch of Antioch, agitated against Chalcedon in Constantinople.
511 The Monophysite patriarch of Constantinople, Timothy, following the example set by Peter the Fuller (see 476 above) introduced the Nicene Creed into the liturgy in that city.
511 Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, presided over a church council at Orleans.
512 Philoxenus of Mabbug was involved in a theological dispute at a synod that met in Sidon.
512 A collection of forged letters to Peter the Fuller (see 476 above) was published in this year. The first letter of the collection, in a fashion that was typical of Chalcedonians of this era, stated that Christ’s sufferings could be attributed to his human nature alone. Chalcedonian denial of theopaschite formulae, in accordance with Antiochene Christology, continued to provide the Monophysites with ammunition.
512 Severus became patriarch of Antioch, after the Emperor Anastasios had deposed the incumbent. Modern theologians generally hold that Severus’ (Monophysite) Christology was simply that of Cyril. Like Cyril, Severus used the terms nature and hypostasis as synonymns. Christ, he held, was “out of” two natures, but the union of the two implied that there is now only one. Where Chalcedon taught that each nature kept its own way of being, for Severus such terminology implied that there were two actual beings in Christ, something he was unwilling to admit. Severus wrote: “One is the agent, the incarnate Word. One is the activity. But the works - what is done by the activity - are varied.”
In his criticism of Chalcedon, Severus pointed out that the council had failed to identify the hypostasis of the union of natures with the pre-existent Logos. The fact that many supporters of the council refused to admit that one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh reinforced Monophysite rejection of the council. Before he was deposed as patrarch of Antioch in 518, Severus himself deposed Epiphanius, the bishop of Tyre, for repeating one of Theodoret’s arguments against theopaschism.
Severus criticized the extreme Monophysitism of Julian of Helicarnassus. One aspect of the dispute dealt with original sin. In Julian’s view, original sin involved human nature in corruption, and his Christology was designed to shield Christ from it. Julian taught that Christ’s body was incorrupt from the moment of His incarnation, not from His resurrection. Christ was homoousios with unfallen Adam, but not with us in our fallen state. Severus referred to Julian as a Manichee. For Severus, and the Christian East as a whole, original sin does not involve the transmission of guilt, but rather of mortality. It is not, in itself, a state of sin, but a condition that Christ came to repair.
514-18 An apology for the council of Chalcedon written by John Philoponus (the Grammarian), an Alexandrian, appeared during this time. John asserted that Christ must be consubstantial to both God and man. He maintained that Christ’s humanity never existed without his divinity, but that the two together constituted a single hypostasis - which he also termed “nature” as Cyril of Alexandria had done. Without doubt, John admitted Cyril’s theopaschite formulae. As a philosopher, John developed an interpretation of Aristotle in the light of Christian revelation. He wrote commentaries on several of Aristotle’s works.
516 Sigismund (516-23) kind of the Burgundians. During his reign, the Burgundians renounced the Arian heresy and became Orthodox.
517 A synod at Epaone in Burgundy forbade the clergy to hunt.
Justin I (518-527) became Roman (Byzantine)
emperor. Justin, under the influence of his nephew Justinian,
pursued a reconciliation along Chalcedonian lines. The schism
over the Henoticon ended (519).
518 Severus, Monophysite bishop of Antioch, was deposed. He removed to Alexandria where he became the leader of a Monophysite faction. Severus died there between 538 and 542, but not before a visit to Constantinople that ended in 536.
519 In order to appease Hormisdas, the bishop of Rome, the emperor Justin I had eastern prelates sign the following statement (drafted by Hormisdas) in the cathedral of Constantinople on Holy Thursday, 28 March.
The Formula of Hormisdas: “The
first point of salvation is that we should keep the right rule of faith
and in no
way deviate from the tradition of the Fathers. For it is
impossible to bypass the determination of our Lord Jesus Christ who
said, ‘Thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. These
are proven by their effects, for in the apostolic see the Catholic
is always kept inviolable. From this hope and faith we desire not
be separated and, following in all things the ordinances of the
anathematize all heresies, and, especially, the heretic Nestorius,
former bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Council of
Ephesus, by Blessed Celestine, bishop of Rome, and by the venerable
Cyril, bishop of Alexandria.
We likewise condemn and declare to be anathema Eutyches and Dioscorus
Alexandria, who were condemned in the holy Council of Chalcedon, which
venerate and follow and embrace. This Council followed the holy
of Nicaea and preached the apostolic faith. And we anamethatize
parricide Timothy, surnamed Aelurus [“the Cat”] and also Peter [Mongos]
Alexandria, his disciple and follower in everything. We also
anathematize Acacius, formerly bishop of Constantinople, who became
their accomplice and follower, and those, moreover, who persevere in
their communion and fellowship. For if anyone embraces the
communion of these persons, he falls under a similar judgment of
condemnation with them. In like manner, we also condemn and
anathematize Peter [“the Fuller”] of Antioch with his followers
together with all those mentioned above. Wherefore we approve and
embrace all the epistles of blessed Leo, pope of the city of Rome,
which he wrote concerning the right faith. On which account, as
we have said before, following in all things the apostolic see, we
preach all things which have been declared by her deceased. And
consequently I hope that I shall be in one communion with you, the
communion which the apostolic see preaches, in which is the whole and
perfect solidarity of the Christian religion, promising for the future
that at the celebration of the holy mysteries there shall be no mention
made of the names of those who have been separated from the communion
Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the apostolic
But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit
according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I
condemned. I have signed this my profession with my own hand and
directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of
[The concern relative to commemorating those who disagree with Rome
have been motivated by Macedonius’s actions - see 495 above.]
Formula of Hormisdas was accepted in Constantinople, being read with
the understanding that the Apostolic See in view is the common property
of Rome and Constantinople. The patriarch of Constantinople,
John II of Cappadocia (518-20), signed only after affixing his own
preamble to the text: “Know
therefore, most holy one, that, according to what I have written,
agreeing in the truth with thee, I too, loving peace, renounce all the
heretics repudiated by thee: for I hold
the most holy churches of the elder and of the new Rome to be one; I define that see of the apostle Peter and
this of the imperial city to be one see.”
bishop of Thessalonica, tore the Formula of Hormisdas in two in front
people. He was brought to Constantinople for trial, exiled to
Heraclea while his case was being considered, but then restored to his
see in Thessalonica without ever signing the Formula. The emperor
Justin wrote to Hormisdas that many found it difficult to sign the libellus:
they “esteem life harder than death, if they should condemn those, when
dead, whose life, when they were alive, was the glory of their
people.” In reply, Pope Hormisdas urged the emperor to use force
to compel them to sign.
523 The Jews of Yemen, under Yusuf Dhu Nuwas, massacred the Christian population of that country. They were revenged by Elesbaan, King of Abyssinia, who conducted a terrible slaughter of Jews in Yemen.
523 The Roman emperor Justin I issued an edict against Arianism.
524 Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (~470-524) executed at the order of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric. Boethius may have been suspected of having conspired with the Justin I, the Orthodox Roman Emperor, perhaps to end the schism over the Henoticon. (Theodoric was an Arian, and it was to his advantage that the Orthodox Roman population of Italy (roughly 90% of the total) view the Empire to the east as heretical.) While in prison, Boethius wrote his most important work, The Consolation of Philosophy. It is said to be the most influential book in the western Church during the medieval period, after the Bible. The Consolation transmitted the main doctrines of Platonic philosophy to the Middle Ages. Boethius’ solution to the supposed conflict between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom, contained in Book Five of the Consolation, relies upon a distinction between conditional and simple necessity. It was considered authoritative for centuries. “[T]here are two kinds of necessity: one is simple, as the necessity by which all men are mortals; the other is conditional, as in the case when, if you know someone is walking, he must necessarily be walking. ... God sees as present those future things which result from human free will. Therefore, from the standpoint of divine knowledge these things are necessary because of the condition of their being known by God; but, considered in themselves, they lose nothing of the absolute freedom of their own natures.” Boethius also tranlated Aristotle’s Organon and Porphyry’s Introduction to the Categories of Aristotle into Latin.
525 The Pascal Tables of Dionysios Exiguus (the Small) appeared about this year. They were an attempt to settle the question of the date of Easter for both East and West. His tables, predicting Pascha for the years 532-626, employed a 19-year cycle, and were grounded in St. Cyril of Alexandria’s tables. They eventually replaced those of Victor of Aquitaine (see 457) in the West. This occurred at Rome in the 630s. Dionysios, an eastern monk, Scythian by birth, had come to Rome at the behest of bishop Gelasius (492-96), and had been employed translating Greek documents for the papal archive. He also invented the Anno Domini system for counting the years. According to modern scholarship, his system is in error – the birth of Jesus being fixed variously from 2 to 8 B.C. (See year 731.)
525 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, ordered John I (523-26), bishop of Rome, to travel to Constantinople as his ambassador, with orders to convince Justin to retract his 523 edict against Arianism. John was the first bishop of Rome to visit Constantinople. When he arrived on 19 April, the emperor Justin greeted the pope at the twelfth milestone and prostrated himself before him. Justin agreed to stop persecuting the Arians, and he returned their churches. But he would not allow the Arians whom he had converted by force to return to Arianism.
When John I came to Ravenna after his unsuccessful mission to
imprisoned him, where he died, probably of starvation.
526 Death of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths.
526 Ephrem of Amida (526-44) became patriarch of Antioch. Ephrem’s Christology was similar to that of Leontius of Jerusalem (see 532 below), and influenced both Justinian and the Fifth Ecumenical Council. He observed the fact that the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us”) was viewed by the Monophysites as a hymn to the Lord Jesus Christ, while Chalcedonians saw it in reference to the Holy Trinity. Hence, Peter the Fuller’s addition (see 476 above) was logical to the Monophysites and problematic to Chalcedonians.
526 An earthquake struck Antioch in Syria causing widespread damage.
527 Justinian (527-565) Roman emperor. In one of his edicts, Justinian referred to the patriarch of Constantinople as “the head of all other churches.”
Apparently, the title “patriarch” began to be used of the bishops of the larger cities during Justinian's reign - though these bishops had enjoyed a certain influence over broad areas surrounding their cities since before the council of Nicaea.
War between the Persian and Roman empires.
The emperor Justinian (527-65) commanded all pagans to receive baptism
within 3 months.
Symeon the Younger (521-92) left Antioch at age 7 to live in the
mountains near the
city. It was popularly believed that Symeon’s sanctity restored
to earth, at least to the extent that he, like Adam, had mastery over
animal kingdom: Symeon was said to have played safely with
529 Benedict of Nursia founded the monastery at Monte Cassino in Central Italy. The Lombards destroyed it in 580.
529 The emperor Justinian (527-65) closed the university of Athens, replacing it with a Christian university. Since all knowledge was Christian, “persons diseased with the insanity of the unholy Helenes” [quoted from Justinian’s Code] could not teach it. Damascius, the last Scholarch, travelled to Persia with six other Neo-Platonic philosophers. They returned to Athens in 533. The closing of the university signals the end of pagan Neo-Platonic philosophy. (Justinian's decree had forbidden city council funds to be used to hire pagans in education.)
529 Council of Orange (Auriculum). Taught that (a) as a result of Adam’s transgression both death and sin have passed to all his descendants; (b) man’s free will is so weakened that he cannot believe in or love God without the assistance of grace; (c) the Old Testament saints owed their merits to grace, not any natural good; (d) the grace of baptism enables all Christians to accomplish all that’s needed for salvation; (e) predestination to evil is to be anathematized; and (f) in every good action the first impulse comes from God, and it is this impulse that causes us to seek baptism and, with God’s help, fulfill our duties.
529 Note on the “Glory Be.” St. John Cassian had mentioned in his Institutes (Book II), on the subject of nocturnal prayers, that the custom in Gaul was to repeat the Glory Be at the end of each Psalm. In the East, it was sung once, at the end of all of the Psalms. The Greek form of this doxology translates as, “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, amen.” In this year, the words “as it was in the beginning, is” were added just before “now” by the Council of Vaison, “after the example of the apostolic see.”
529 Five thousand people killed due to an earthquake at Antioch in Syria. The emperor Justinian (527-65) bankrolled the city’s reconstruction.
529 A revolt broke out in Samaria in the summer of this year, provoked by the destruction of some Samaritan synagogues as part of Justinian’s program of repression. The Samaritans, under a certain Julian, massacred Christians, then attempted (unsuccessfully) to convince the Persians to invade Palestine.
530 Seven thousand people killed due to an earthquake in Laodicea. Again the emperor provided funds for reconstruction from the treasury.
530 The emperor Justinian (527-65) conducted a persecution of pagans in Constantinople. The property of many of the accused was confiscated.
During his reign, Justinian also persecuted the Montanists (see 157), greatly reducing their numbers. Their final persecution occurred in 722.
531 St. Sabbas, the founder of the Laura of Mar-Sabbas, arrived in Constantinople in April and asked the emperor to intervene against the current abbot, Nonnus, and his followers, who were promoting Origenism. Justinian acted in 542 (see below - some authorities say this was in 543).
St. Sabbas died the following year (532). He had become a monk in Cappadocia, travelling on pilgrimage to Palestine in 457. In around 483, he began a monastic community in the Kidron gorge, northwest of the Dead sea. Altogether, he established 14 monasteries and four hospices in southern Palestine. St. Sabbas was also an opponent of Monophysite Christology.
531 Abbot Nonnus’ (see 531 immediately above) principal lieutenant, Leontius of Byzantium, traveled from the Mar-Sabbas monastery near Jerusalem, where he had lived since ~520, to Constantinople, to participate in a synod considering the Christological dispute. Leontius’ most famous work, Three Books Against the Nestorians and the Eutychians, was likely written between this year and 542, when Justinian condemned Origenism. For Leontius - as typical with Origenists - Christ was the intellect that had not fallen before the beginning of creation, the one who remained in an “essential union” with the Logos. In his view, the passion took place in the flesh of Christ after his soul had freely chosen to take on human nature in order to restore it. He used the term ousia to refer to simple existence, “not the what, not the how.” Thus “one according to ousia” meant unity of existence, which is how Leontius understood the union of the divine and human in Christ. Leontius identified the hypostasis with the individual - an individual separate from others of the same nature, but perhaps uniting distinct natures (such as the body and soul in a human) in a common being. Leontius’ key contribution to Christology is the concept of enhypostaton, a thing existing within a hypostasis. Both Nestorians and Eutychians had assumed that no nature could exist except in a hypostasis that shared that nature - one hypostasis meant one nature; two natures meant at least two hypostases. For Leontius, the subject of the union among the Logos, the unfallen soul, and the fallen human nature, was the single hypostasis, the incarnate Christ.
531 In the summer of this year, the empress Theodora convinced Justinian (527-65) to end the persecution of the Monophysites. Groups of monks were recalled from exile.
532 The Nika Revolt. The original Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) was burned down by the rioters, along with the Chalke (the bronze-doored building through which one entered the Imperial Palace), the Senate House, the Church of Holy Peace, the Church of Saint Theodore Sphoracius, the Church of Saint Aquilina, the hospitals of Eubulus and Sampson, and the Baths of Alexander. The revolt was suppressed when Goth and German soldiers under Belisarius and Mundus slaughtered 3500 to 4000 rioters in the Hippodrome.
532 Construction began on Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The project took five years [532-537] to complete, and on December 27, 537, Patriarch Menas consecrated the magnificent church.
532 Leontius of Jerusalem, long misidentified with Leontius of Byzantium (see 531), wrote on Christology between this year and 536. He completed the thought of Chalcedon by stating that the same hypostasis, the Word, who unified the two natures in Christ also suffered - hypostatically, in his human nature. “The Logos is said to have suffered according to the hypostasis, for within his hypostasis he assumed a passible essence besides his own impassible essence, and what can be asserted of the essence can be asserted of the hypostasis.”
532 Collatio cum Severianis. Early in his reign (and again, later) Justinian violently persecuted the Monophysites. But in around 531, he adopted a policy of tolerance. The empress Theodora arranged a conference, over which Justinian presided, inviting six Chalcedonian and six Monophysite representatives. The Monophysites quoted many fathers and “Dionysius the Areopagite, all of whom assert that there is one nature of God the Logos after the union” in support of their position. This is the earliest known reference to the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius. Hypatius, bishop of Ephesus, pointed out that these works could not be genuine. Severus himself had been invited, but declined to attend. Between 531 and 536, many famous Monophysites visited Constantinople and were well-received by the royal family.
533 The emperor Justinian’s general Belisarius defeated the Vandals in North Africa at Tricameron. The Vandal kingdom was destroyed.
533 The emperor Justinian (527-65) issued an edict declaring that one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh. He sought confirmation of this view from John II, patriarch of Rome (533-35).
534 At Justinian’s request, John II, patriarch of Rome, condemned the Sleepless Monks (see 448-84) as Nestorians for their opposition to Justinian’s theopaschite formula of 533.
534 The exiled patriarch of Antioch, Severus (see 518), visited Constantinople at the invitation of the emperor and empress.
535 In June, the patriarch of Constantinople, Epiphanius, died. The empress Theodora, a staunch Monophysite, maneuvered to have Anthimus (Anthem of Trebizond) appointed patriarch. Anthimus, a closet Monophysite, was deposed at a council in 536.
535 On 14 November, at the insistence of the empress Theodora, an edict was issued that banished pimps and keepers of brothels from all major cities of the empire.
535 A large volcanic eruption caused temperatures to remain colder than normal through 550. 535-536 was one unceasing winter. The volcano responsible for this temporary change in climate may have been Krakatau.
A drought began in Mongolia. Defeated by the Turks, the Avars began their trek toward Europe in 552, arriving around 560. Their migration resulted in the movement of more people into what remained of the Empire. There is some speculation that the Avar humiliation at the hands of the Turks was due to the drought, brought on by the volcanic eruption 535: the Avar economy was based on horses, which have less efficient digestive systems and are more susceptible to changesin climate than cattle, raised by the Turks.
536 The Roman empire recaptured southern Italy and Sicily, including Rome. The exarchate of Ravenna was established in 568.
536 The church historian Evagrius born (536-600). In his Church History, he attested to the practice of communion among the very young: “when there remained a good quantity of the holy portions of the undefiled body of Christ our God, for uncorrupted boys from among those who attended the school of the undermaster to be sent for to consume them.”
536 On 19 February, the bishop of Rome, Agapetus I (535-36) visited Constantinople as an ambassador from Theodahad, the Gothic king of Italy, to avert an impending war between the Empire and the Goths over the murder of a lady named Amalasuntha. She had been the only daughter of Theodoric, and an ally of the emperor Justinian. (Theodahad also wanted Agapetus to convince Justinian to stop forcibly converting the Arians of North Africa to Orthodoxy, and to dissuade him from invading Italy.) Agapetus refused to recognize Anthimus as patriarch, given the latter’s support for Monophysitism. Justinian’s hands were tied, since he desired the support of the Roman populace in the upcoming war with the Goths. In March, Anthimus was deposed. On 21 April, Agapetus died as he prepared to return to Italy, and the Monophysites in the city celebrated openly.
Synod endemousa under Patriarch Menas. The new patriarch of Constantinople, Menas, held a council, which convened on May 2, to confirm the deposition of Anthimus and to try the leading Monophysites in the city - Zooras, Peter of Apamena, and Severus. Anthimus himself couldn’t be located. Theodora had hidden him in the gynaeceum of the Imperial Palace, where none but women and eunuchs were allowed. He was discovered there after Theodora’s death in 548, and Justinian treated him graciously. Peter of Apamena and Zooras were anathematized, as was Severus, on 6 August. He fled to Egypt again in exile. (Synods had been meeting in Constantinople since before the council of Chalcedon in 451. They began not as regular but occasional gatherings, as the emperor would summon the bishops sojourning (endemousa) in the city. Hence the name Synod endemousa.)
The persecution of Monophysites in Syria resumed, and it began in Egypt, where Theodora’s appointee, Theodosius, patriarch of Alexandria, was deposed in favor of a monk named Paul, who brutalized the Monophysites there. Paul set out to remove heretical bishops from his patriarchate. He was opposed by the deacon Psoes, whom Rhodon, the Augustal Prefect, had arrested and tortured. When Psoes died from this treatment, the empress Theodora initiated an investigation (see 542).
After the death of Pope Agapetus, the empress Theodora determined to make Vigilius, the papal nuncio in Constantinople, the next bishop of Rome. She provided him with 200 pounds of gold and letters to Belisarius and his wife Antonina. Theodora intended for Vigilius to restore Anthimus and perhaps to denounce Chalcedon. Unfortunately for her plans, King Theodahad of the Goths had already forced the election of Silverius (536-37) to the papacy..
Two Palestinian Origenists, Theodore Ascidas and Domitian, attended the synod of 536. Domitian was later appointed bishop of Ancyra. Theodore Ascidas became bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia and came to exert so much influence over Justinian that Patriarch Menas and the papal representative, Pelagius, sought to break it.
537 Belisarius deposed Silverius, bishop of Rome. A document had been forged to prove that Silverius had conspired with the Goths. Silverius was given the opportunity to restore Anthimus as patriarch of Constantinople. When he refused, he was exiled to Patara in Lycia, and Vigilius became bishop of Rome (March 29, 537).
539 The Goths razed Milan, reportedly killing 300,000 adult males and giving the women to their Burgundian allies as slaves.
540 Belisarius conquered Ravenna.
540 Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus (490-585) founded a monastery at Vivarium (in Calabria (southeastern Italy)). He had his monks copy manuscripts of both Christian and pagan authors. In 519, Cassiodorus had published his Chronicon, a history of the world from Adam to 519. His De Anima provides an overview of scripture and the Church fathers, then describes the seven liberal arts. This was widely read during the Middle Ages.
War between the Persian and Roman empires. Much of the emperor
Justinian’s religious policy directed to reconciling the Monophysites
of Syria, whose support was desired in the conflict with Persia.
He generally ignored the Monophysites of Egypt.
540 The Kutrigurs (a Bulgar tribe) captured thirty-two Roman fortresses in Illyricum and raided as far as Constantinople.
542 A Monophysite Syrian monk named John (John of Ephesus), after gaining the favor of the empress Theodora, became bishop of Ephesus. John wrote an ecclesiastical history in three volumes (~585), a work on the lives of the Eastern saints, and was responsible for the baptism of over 70,000 pagans in Asia Minor. He and his followers built 98 churches and twelve monasteries in Asia, Caria, Lydia and Phrygia.
542 The patriarch of Antioch, Ephraim, held a synod that condemned Origen’s doctrines. The Origenists, in reply, convinced the patriarch of Jerusalem to strike Ephraim’s name from the diptychs. Menas, patriarch of Constantinople, and Pelagius, the papal representative, convinced Justinian to act, resulting in Justinian’s condemnation.
542 The emperor Justinian (527-65) published a condemnation of Origenism and the mystical speculations of Evagrius (see above, year 375). This to quell the controversy in Palestine surrounding the teachings of the Orgenist New Laura community (see 531 above, St. Sabbas), which had become a dispute between the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem.
Justinian’s anathemas against Origen: “(1) Whoever says or thinks that human souls pre-existed, i.e., that they had previously been spirits and holy powers, but that, satiated with the vision of God, they had turned to evil, and in this way the divine love in them had died out and they had therefore become souls and had been condemned to punishment in bodies, shall be anathema; (2) If anyone says or thinks that the soul of the Lord pre-existed and was united with God the Word before the Incarnation and Conception of the Virgin, let him be anathema; (3) If anyone says or thinks that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was first formed in the womb of the holy Virgin and that afterwards there was united with it God the Word and the pre-existing soul, let him be anathema; (4) If anyone says or thinks that the Word of God has become like to all heavenly orders, so that for the cherubim he was a cherub, for the seraphim a seraph: in short, like all the superior powers, let him be anathema; (5) If anyone says or thinks that, at the resurrection, human bodies will rise spherical in form and unlike our present form, let him be anathema; (6) If anyone says that the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the waters that are above heavens, have souls, and are reasonable beings, let him be anathema; (6) If anyone says or thinks that Christ the Lord in a future time will be crucified for demons as he was for men, let him be anathema; (8) If anyone says or thinks that the power of God is limited, and that he created as much as he was able to compass, let him be anathema; (9) If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.
“Anathema to Origen and to that Adamantius, who set forth these opinions together with his nefarious and execrable and wicked doctrine and to whomsoever there is who thinks thus, or defends these opinions, or in any way hereafter at any time shall presume to protect them.”
patriarch of Jerusalem, who had previously struck Ephraim’s name from
the diptychs, signed Justinian’s condemnation of Origenism.
In the summer, the plague appeared in Pelusium, a port on the
received Indian Ocean and African trade coming up the Red Sea.
(541?) The bubonic plague hit Constantinople. Several
tens of thousands died. Apparently, cooler temperatures due to
the volcanic eruption in
535 allowed the plague to become active in fleas in Africa. These
carried north with the ivory trade. It has been estimated that
population of Europe dropped by 50 to 60 percent from 542 to 700 due to
waves of bubonic plague. Cities on the Mediterranean coast were
more severely than the hinterland. This fact favored the
in Syria, whose strength there lay in the villages.
trial was held in Gaza over the Psoes affair (see 536). The papal
representative, Pelagius, presided. Paul, patriarch of
Alexandria, was deposed, and the prefect Rhodon was beheaded, though he
produced 13 letters from the emperor authorizing his actions.
The emperor Justinian (527-65) decreed that the festival of Hypapante
known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Presentation
the Lord, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and Candlemas) be
from 14 February (40 days after Epiphany, on which feast Christ’s
had formerly been celebrated) to 2 February (40 days after 25
See 385, 687.
542/43 Jacob Baradaeus (~490-578) ordained bishop of Syria, with the support of the empress Theodora. After persecution of the Monophysites resumed in 536, she received from Sheik Harith ibn Jabala, king of a small buffer state , who informed her that the Christians in his realm, mostly Monophysites, were being destroyed by the imperial commissioners. They were in need of a bishop to ordain men who had died at the hands of their oppressors. Theodora chose Jacob because of his ability to disguise himself as a beggar - the name Baradaeus means “rags” or “tatters.”
Baradaeus was instrumental in organizing those who repudiated the council of Chalcedon. Hence, they came to be termed “Jacobites.” These Monophysites had set up their own rival patriarch of Antioch. They called the Chalcedonian Orthodox “Melchites,” meaning “Emperor’s Men.” He is said to have wandered Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia on foot, ordaining 80,000 priests, 89 bishops, 27 metropolitans, and two patriarchs.
Prompted by a suggestion by Theodore Ascidas, the emperor Justinian
(527-65) promulgated the Edict of Three Chapters. (The
‘Three Chapters’ later came to refer to the works condemned, not to
this edict.) This edict condemned the Letter of lbas of Edessa to
Maris, praising Theodore of Mopsuestia; the works of Theodore himself;
and the writings of Theodoret of Cyrrhus against Cyril. To make
it plain that Chalcedon was inconsistent with Nestorianism, it also
asserted that the Chalcedonian definition should be interpreted in this
light. Theodoret and Ibas had been restored to their sees by the
council of Chalcedon, so, unlike Theodore, they were not personally
condemned. The theological effect was to emphasize the unity of
The emperor Justinian (527-65) sent Belisarius to Italy to fight the
Ostrogoths under Totila. Totila had
managed to conquer much of the land taken by Belisarius prior to 540. But Rome still resisted the Ostrogoths.
545 Slavic tribes raided Thrace, but were turned back by Narses.
545 The emperor Justinian (527-65) suppressed the Manichaeans. He attempted to convert those who had been arrested, but they remained firm in their beliefs. They were then tortured and killed; their bodies were buried at sea, and their property confiscated.
545 John Scholasticus (~503-77) compiled a collection of canon law (the “Collection of Canons”) for the Church in the east. His compilation is the earliest that has been preserved. John served as patriarchal legate from Antioch in Constantinople until 565, when he was named patriarch of Constantinople by Justin II.
545 In November, Pope Vigilius (537-55) was arrested during the St. Cecelia’s Day ceremonies. He was taken to Constantinople, where the emperor Justinian (527-65) pressured him to condemn the Three Chapters.
546 Totila sacked Rome after a siege of three months. Belisarius retook Rome after Totila left to do battle in Lucania.
547 After the death of Abbot Nonnus in this year, the Origenists were split into two camps: the Isochristoi of New Laura, who held that in the restoration man will be united with God as Christ is; and the Protoktistai or Tetradites of the Laura of Firminus, about whom little is known.
547 Cosmas Indicopleustes had finished his Christian Topography by this year. A merchant and wide traveler, Cosmas was likely a Nestorian. Taking the Old Testament temple as a model for the universe, Cosmas’ Topography presented a planar earth much larger than the sun, which circled a conical mountain to the north. This cosmology is said to be in agreement with and subordinate to Nestorian philosophy. A debate raged in Alexandria over Cosmas’ work, and he was refuted by John the Grammarian (see 514-18) and his views had very little influence.
548 Slavs again raided the Balkans, penetrating to Dyrrachium (on the Adriatic coast of Albania).
548 In April, Vigilius,
patriarch of Rome (537-55), who had been brought to Constantinople the
previous year, signed a condemnation (known
as a Judicatum) of Theodore personally as a heretic
and the Three Chapters - thus
agreeing with Justinian’s edict of 546. In 551 Vigilius withdrew
this condemnation. For his condemnation of Theodore and the Three
Chapters, Vigilius himself was condemned by the bishops of Milan,
Ravenna, and Aquileja.
of the Istrian Schism (548-698). The metropolitan of
Aquileja in Istria took advantage of the schism with Rome to stretch
over Grado. Istria remained out of communion with Rome until the
council of Pavia in 698. The schism with Milan lasted 50
548 Death of the empress Theodora.
549 Samaritans and Jews staged a bloody revolt at Caesarea. They murdered Stephanus, proconsul of Palestine. Their leaders were subsequently executed. The Samaritans, who had recently been reported to have adopted Christianity, openly resumed their traditional worship.
549 John of Ephesus (see 542) denounced a group of senators, grammarians, sophists, lawyers and physicians. They were accused of paganism, tortured, whipped, and imprisoned.
Seventy-one bishops met at Orleans. They reaffirmed the bishop of
Rome’s earlier condemnation of Eutyches and Nestorios.
549 Totila, king of the Ostrogoths, again captured Rome. By the end of 550, Totila’s forces had captured all of Sicily and Italy, except Ravenna and a few towns along the coast.
550 An African council excommunicated Vigilius, bishop of Rome, for his pronouncement in 548 agreeing with Justinian’s Edict of Three Chapters (546).
Bodies were buried in the north of France with an east-west alignment
from about this date.
Around this time, the tonsure came to be associated with monasticism.
551 Under pressure from the churches of the West, Vigilius, bishop of Rome (537-55). withdrew his condemnation of the Three Chapters. The emperor Justinian responded with a lengthy condemnation of those documents. Vigilius called a synod of the bishops present in Constantinople and excommunicated Patriarch Menas of Constantinople. Imperial troops sought to arrest Vigilius as he clung to the altar columns in the palace church of Sts. Peter and Paul, but a crowd prevented them from doing so. Vigilius fled by night across the Bosphorous to Chalcedon.
The Kutrigurs rampaged through the Balkans.
552 Silk worms introduced from China.
The emperor Justinian (527-65) gave command of the Italian
campaign to his chamberlain, the eunuch Narses.
Narses’ army marched around the Adriatic into Italy. In the summer, he destroyed the
Ostrogoth kingdom in the
battle of Taginae (near Fabriano, in the Apennines). The Goths charged the Byzantine’s pikemen,
while Byzantine archers attacked from the flanks. Totila, king of the
Ostrogoths, was mortally
wounded. The long battle
for Italy left the countryside barren and depopulated.
The population of
Rome, estimated to have been 800,000 in 400, fell to 100,000 in
500, and only 30,000 when
Totila sacked it in 549. (See 450, 500.)
With Narses’ victory over the Goths, Justinian had less concern over Western sensibilities and so was free to act more decisively to reconcile the Monophysites.
553 Fifth Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople. Eutychius, patriarch of Constantinople, presided. 164 bishops attended, including 14 from Africa. The emperor Justinian (527-65), with Vigilius, bishop of Rome, still captive, succeeded in having the council condemn Origen and the Three Chapters. In his Constitution of 24 May, Vigilius withheld assent to the council’s decision regarding the Three Chapters; but on 23 February, he revoked his Constitution and gave his assent. His nuncio, Pelagius I (later Pope) deserted him. Vigilius died from gallstones on his way back to Rome.
From Session VII of the Acts of the Council, addressed to Vigilius: “If your blessedness is willing to meet together with us and the most holy Patriarchs, and the most religious bishops, and to treat of the Three Chapters and to give, in unison with us all, a suitable form of the Orthodox faith, as the Holy Apostles and the holy Fathers and the four Councils have done, we will hold thee as our head and primate... if you have condemned them [the Three Chapters], in accordance with those things which you did before, we have already many such statements and need no more; but if you have written now something contrary to these things which were done by you before, you have condemned yourself by your own writing, since you have departed from Orthodox doctrine and have defended impiety. And how can you expect us to receive such a document from you?”
According to Norwich, Justinian sent a decree to the council that Vigilius’s name should be struck from the diptychs, though he was careful to stress that he was not severing communion with Rome itself.
To reinterpret Chalcedon in a way pleasing to the Alexandrians, the council gave approval to the hypostatic union (Cyril’s natural union?). It also endorsed (in the Tenth Anathema) the controversial liturgical formula, “that our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified in the flesh is True God.”
The Third Anathema (clarifying that the hypostasis of the Logos is He Who Suffered - affirming theopaschism):
If anyone shall say that the wonder-working Word of God is one [Person] and the Christ that suffered another; or shall say that God the Word was with the woman-born Christ, or was in him as one person in another, but that he was not one and the same our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, incarnate and made man, and that his miracles and the sufferings which of his own will he endured in the flesh were not of the same [Person]: let him be anathema.
From the Fourth Anathema:
As the word “union” has many meanings, the followers of the impiety of Apollinarius and Eutyches, assuming the disappearance of the natures, affirm a union by confusion. On the other hand the followers of Theodore and of Nestorius, rejoicing in the division of the natures, introduce only a union of relation. But the holy Church of God, rejecting equally the impiety of both heresies, recognizes the union of God the Word with the flesh according to synthesis, that is, according to hypostasis. For in the mystery of Christ the union according to synthesis preserves the two natures which have combined without confusion and without separation.
The Fifth Anathema (clarifying Chalcedon’s use of the expression “one hypothesis,” and repudiating the Nestorian sense):
If anyone understands the expression “only one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ” in this sense, that it is the union of many hypostases, and if he thus attempts to introduce into the mystery of Christ two hypostases, or two Persons, and, after having introduced two persons, speaks of one Person only out of dignity, honor, or worship, as both Theodosius and Nestorius insanely have written; if anyone shall calumniate the holy Council of Chalcedon, pretending that it made use of this expression [one hypostasis] in this impious sense, and if he will not recognize rather that the Word of God is united to the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is only one hypostasis or only one Person, and that the holy Council of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ: let him be anathema. For since one of the Holy Trinity has been made man, viz.: God the Word, the Holy Trinity has not been increased by the addition of another person or hypostasis.
From the Sixth Anathema:
... if anyone shall call her [the virgin Mary] manbearer or Christbearer, as if Christ were not God, and shall not confess she is truly Godbearer [Theotokos]... let him be anathema.
From the Seventh Anathema:
If anyone using the expression “in two natures” ... shall take the expression ... so as to divide the parties, or recognizing the two natures in the only Lord Jesus, God the Word made man, does not content himself with taking in a theoretical manner the difference of the natures which compose him (which differences are not destroyed by the union between them, for one is composed of the two and the two are in one), but shall make use of the number [two] to divide the natures or to make of them two Persons properly so called: let him be anathema.
From the Eighth Anathema:
If anyone confesses that the union took place out of two natures and speaks of the one incarnate nature of God the Word and does not understand ... that out of the divine and human natures, when union by hypostasis took place, one Christ was formed; but from these expressions tries to introduce one nature or essence of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema.
The Twelfth Anathema explicitly condemns two interpretations of scripture. The first condemned interpretation is that Christ, when he said “Receive the Holy Spirit,” merely made a sign and did not actually give the Holy Spirit. The second is that Thomas was affirming Christ’s deity when he said, “My Lord and my God,” but that he was simply making an exclamation, expressing his wonder at the resurrection.
Unfortunately for Justinian, and the subsequent history of the Roman Empire, the Monophysites were not appeased.
Origen was condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and many of his doctrines were explicitly listed as cause for anathema: (1) the pre-existence of souls; (2) that created beings were originally only rational souls, who later took bodies to themselves because they tired of the sight of God; (3) that celestial bodies are rational beings become material through love of evil; (4) that men are such rational souls in whom the love of God had grown cold, and so taken bodies, and that demons are like men in this, but more evil; (5) that humans may become angels or demons; (6) that demons are either fallen angels or fallen human souls, and that the world was created not by the Trinity but by a spirit who became Christ through unfailing devotion to God; (7) that this Christ clothed himself with the form of all classes of fallen rational beings, including man, to restore them; (8) that Christ is an intelligence (nous) united to God the Word, and only called God because he is united with the Logos, and the Logos is only called Christ because he is united with the intelligence; (9) that the intelligence was incarnate, descended into hell and ascended into heaven, and not the Logos; (10) that Christ’s resurrection body was ethereal and shaped like a sphere, and the bodies of all those resurrected will be as well; (11) that at the future judgment all matter will be destroyed, leaving only spirit; (12) that all rational beings are united with God in the same was as the intelligence is, and that the kingdom of Christ shall have an end; (13) that the Christ is not different from other rational beings and that all will be placed at God’s right hand as they were in their pre-existence; (14) that hypostases and numbers and bodies will disappear and all things will be united into one; and (15) that, all things will be spirit, and the life of the spirits in the end will be as in the beginning. [This is a point of some uncertainty: the fifteen condemnations of Origen may actually be the product of a local synod held in Constantinople in 544.]
553 The Franks sent an embassy to Constantinople. This embassy included Angles in order to impress the emperor with the Frankish king’s influence over Britain. This from the Greek historian Procopios.
Eighteen bishops of the Nestorian church in Persia under Patriarch
Joseph reaffirmed Duophysitism against the Fifth Ecumenical Council’s
denunciation of the Three Chapters. Thirty years later, the
Nestorians condemned Justinian as a heretic.
(Byzantine) army landed in Spain and, after fighting a war against the
occupied the southeast corner of the peninsula.
555? Death of St. Romanos. He had been a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection in Berytus (Beirut). During the reign of the emperor Anastasius I (491-518), he moved to Constantinople. Romanos had a harsh and rasping voice. During a religious retreat on Christmas Eve, he was given a vision of the Virgin Mary, who held a scroll, which she told him to eat. Romanos did so, and was immediately blessed with a wonderful singing voice. He later composed hymns which were essentially sermons put to music. Romanos has been termed “the greatest ecclesiastical poet of all ages.”
556 Pelagius I became patriarch of Rome. He served through 561. Pelagius was strongly opposed to the condemnation of the Three Chapters, but Justinian appointed him patriarch anyway, judging, rightly, that he would change his mind. Pelagius supported the decisions of the Constantinople (553).
From the time of Pelagius until 741, the name of the person elected bishop of Rome was sent to the emperor in Constantinople or to his exarch in Ravenna for confirmation. The church in Rome accompanied this name with a large payment, effectively tribute.
557 The Alans relayed to Roman officials in Lazica (the east end of the Black Sea) an offer of alliance from the Avars, a Turkic/Mongolian tribe that had moved west into the region north of the Caucasus, fleeing Turkish enemies in Central Asia.
558-61 A second outbreak of plague in the Roman Empire.
559 Pagans in Constantinople were ridiculed - marched in a mock procession. Their books were burned.
559 The Kutrigurs crossed the frozen Danube and attacked Macedonia, Thessaly, Gallipoli and Constantinople. They were defeated by Belisarius’ forces and returned to their homeland, near the Don. The emperor Justinian (527-65) induced the Utigurs, a rival Bulgar tribe living east of the Don, to attack the Kutrigurs as they retreated. Both tribes were greatly weakened by the war that resulted.
560+ The Suevis renounced Arianism and became Orthodox. The Suevis lived in the northwestern Iberian peninsula.
561 Julius, bishop of Rome (337-352), had founded a certain church in Rome. In this year, that church was dedicated to St. Philip and St. James. The dedication ceremony is the origin for the feast day for those saints - May 1.
The Avars (having absorbed the Kutrigurs and Utigurs) moved to a
position north of the lower Danube.
Radegund (520-87), the estranged wife of King Chlothar of Neustria
(northwestern Gaul), moved to Poitiers and founded a convent
there. It was known as the convent
of the Holy Cross because the Roman (Byzantine) emperor Justinian
sent her a relic of the True Cross. Radegund kept the relic in an
deep within the convent.
563 The Irish monk Columba (520-97) founded a monastery on Iona. Columba had been educated and ordained to the diaconate by St. Finnian of Clonard. Before traveling to Iona, Columba had founded monasteries at Derry, Durrow and, possibly, Kells.
563 A council meeting in Braga decreed against the Priscillianists (see 380) that Satan was not an uncreated being. It also attacked the notion that he is “the principle and substance” of evil. Instead, the council asserted, he “was originally a good angel created by God.”
565 Death of the emperor Justinian (527-65).
565 John Scholasticus named patriarch of Constantinople by the emperor Justin II (565-78). John first negotiated with the Monophysites, then acted in accordance with the emperor Justin II’s desire to repress them.
565 The emperor Justin II (565-78) refused to pay tribute to the Avars.
565 The emperor Justin II (565-78), at some point during his reign, decreed that the birth of the Savior should be celebrated on 25 December throughout the empire. It is thought that, at this time, the church in Jerusalem finally adopted 25 December as Christmas Day.
567 Allied with the Lombards (who were then living in Pannonia, west of the Tisza) the Avars defeated the Gepids and conquered their territory in eastern Pannonia and Dacia.
The Lombards took control of northern Italy.
The Lombard movement into Italy was a result of the Avar migration of
the 550s. Gregory I, bishop of Rome (590-604) would write of the
Lombards that their “flag of truce is the sword” and their “good will
gestures take the form of atrocities.”
The Avars invaded Dalmatia. The emperor Justin II (565-78) bought peace for 80,000 pieces of silver.
The exarchate of Ravenna established. It continued until the
Lombard conquest of 751.
In September, the Lombards conquered Milan.
572 The Lombards conquered south-central Italy, creating the duchies of Spolento and Benevento. The Byzantines retained control of a corridor between Ravenna and Rome, splitting the northern Lombard kingdom from its southern duchies.
572 The Monophysite bishop John of Ephesus (507-586) was imprisoned by the emperor Justin II (565-78). See 542 above.
573 The Persians invaded the Roman Empire, seizing the city of Dara on the Tigris. Among the 292,000 captives taken were included 2000 beautiful Christian virgins the Persian emperor, Chosroes, intended to present to the Turkish Khan. (This is the first mention of the Turks in the history of the West.) At a river, the Christian virgins separated from their captors to bathe, then drowned themselves rather than enter the Khan's harem.
Death of Emilian. He had been a hermit in the Spanish Rioja, then
Berceo. Emilian is said to have rid the home of the nobleman
Honorius of an evil spirit who would soil dishes with the bones and
dung of animals. Emilian also cured the nobleman Sicorius' slave
girl of blindness and he exorcised
several others of evil spirits. Emilian's hermitage later grew
a famous monastery - Saint Emilian of the cowl.
Gregory of Tours
(Georgius Florentius) became bishop of Tours (573-94). Gregory
authored a History of the Franks.
577 The West Saxon Ceawlin won a battle at Deorham, cutting the Britons in Wales off from the Britons to the South. There is speculation that the Britons were driven back in this century due to a significant population loss. The Celts of Britain remained in commercial contact with the Roman empire after the withdrawal of the legions in 409. Apparently, though these contacts, the plague spread (see 542 above) to Britain.
578 Death of Jacob Baradaeus, Monophysite bishop of Syria (see 542/3).
revolt by the city of Baalbek (between Damascus and Tripoli)
Some who were tortured revealed that several high-ranking officials
involved in pagan cults. The governor of Edessa, Anatolios, was
implicated. He was accused of having commissioned a portrait
ostensibly of Christ, but actually of Apollo, so that he could
surreptitiously worship the pagan god. The governor in turn
accused the patriarch of Antioch, Gregory, and the patriarch of
Alexandria’s representative, Eulogios, of human sacrifice. A
recent earthquake at Daphne, near Antioch, was thought to have been
caused by this crime. The patriarch Gregory traveled to
Constantinople and lavished gifts on the emperor (Maurice (582-602))
and the court. He was permitted to return to his see.
Anatolios, on the other hand, was condemned to death.
579 When the Lombards besieged Rome in this year, Pope Pelagius II (579-90) sent the deacon Gregory, who had been responsible for administering relief work in Rome’s seventh district, to Constantinople to request assistance. Gregory remained in Constantinople as papal nuncio (apocrisiary) until 584, when he was recalled to assist in ending the Istrian schism (see 548, 698). He became pope in 590.
580-82 The third outbreak of plague in the Roman Empire.
580 Maximos the Confessor (580-662) born.
The Lombards under Duke Zotto destroyed the Benedictine
monastery of Monte Cassino (built in 529). The monks fled to
580 At the Council of Berny, Gregory of Tours successfully defended himself against the charge that he had spread malicious gossip: that the queen of the Franks had committed adultery with the bishop of Bordeaux.
580+ The exarch of Ravenna, Smaragdus, launched a raid on the schismatic Istrians (see 548 above). He captured many of the clergy and forced them to accept the decrees of the Fifth Ecumenical council.
581 The emperor Tiberius II Constantine (578-582) established an elite corp of 15,000 barbarians, which eventually developed into the Varangian Guards.
581 The Slavs invaded the Balkans.
582 The Avars captured Sirmium by trickery. An inscription from the ruins of Sirmium reads, “Lord Jesus, help the city and smite the Avars and watch over Romania and the writer. Amen.”
582 John “the Faster” (died 595) became patriarch of Constantinople. For his works of charity and his ascetic practice, he is regarded as a saint.
582 Athens was sacked by Slavic invaders.
Death of Felix, bishop of Nantes. He was responsible for the
conversion to Christianity of the Saxons in the area north of the
Loire. These Saxons traded with their counterparts in
584 The exarchate of Ravenna mentioned for the first time. Soon after that year, the exarch of Ravenna, Smaragdus, launched a raid on the schismatic Istrians (see 548 above). He captured many of the clergy and forced them to accept the decrees of the Fifth Ecumenical council.
584 Singidunum (modern Belgrade) captured by the Avars.
585 The Armenian bishop Kardutsat, with seven priests, went on a missionary trip to the steppes north of the Caucasians. He succeeded in baptizing many Huns and in translating books into their language. Though Kardutsat was very likely a Monophysite, the Roman emperor sent him supplies. Kardutsat’s successor, the bishop Maku, taught the Huns the rudiments of agriculture.
586 The Slavs laid siege to Thessalonica.
587 The Slavs moved into Epirus, Thessaly, Attica, Euboea and the Peloponnese.
587 The British archbishops of London and York fled to Wales.
587 (588?) A synod meeting in Constantinople ascribed the title “Ecumenical Patriarch” to John IV (John “the Faster”, 582-95) of Constantinople because it was the capital of the “ecumenical” empire.
The Visigoths renounced the
heresy and became Orthodox, as the Burgundians (see 516) and
(see 560+) had already done, and as the Lombards were to do (see 619
636 below). The Visigoth king Leovigild had repented of Arianism
his deathbed in 586; his successor, King Recared, then received
in the Orthodox Christian faith. Their conversions were at least
due to the efforts of Leander, bishop of Seville.
see a political motive in the decision of the Visigoth kings to
convert. Under the emperor Justinian (527-65), the Roman
(Byzantine) empire had conquered land along the coast of southern Spain
(554). The presence of renewed Roman power in the vicinity may
have stirred a longing for political unity within the (Orthodox)
Christian empire among the subjected classes. Thus, the
conversions may have been designed to associate Catholicism with the
Visigothic kingdom, rather than the Roman Empire centered in
Constantinople, in the minds of Catholic clergy and laymen. The
bishop of Rome, regarded as a subject of the Roman empire, played no
role in the conversions.
588-91 The fourth outbreak of plague in the Roman empire. The direction of movement this time was from Spain to France and Italy, the reverse of its normal course.
589 The third Council of Toledo added the filioque clause to the Creed of Constantinople (381). This addition gradually spread in the West, and was finally incorporated into the liturgy at Rome, probably in 1014 at the coronation of Henry II, with unhappy consequences. This is the first mention in the West of the creed as an element of the liturgy. See note on Peter the Fuller, 476.
This council also introduced the creed into the liturgy in the West, placing it before the Lord’s prayer, where it remains in the Mozarabic rite. The creed was not used in the mass at Rome until the eleventh century.
John of Biclar, a Visigoth, founded a monastery at Biclar
John was one of the last Westerners to have an understanding of
culture, having spent seven years in Constantinople in the 560s and
following the classical syllabus. John later became bishop of
The Tiber flooded this winter. Flooding
followed by widespread sickness in Rome. Pope
Pelagius was among the victims.
~590 Columbanus (545-615) left the monastery in Bangor, Ireland, and established monasteries in Gaul: Annegray, Luxeil, and Les Fontaines, all near the Vosges mountains (in the northeast of France). He later relocated across the Alps in Italy, founding a monastery in Bobbio. Monasticism and missionary activity were connected in this era. Columbanus wrote of his “vow to make” his “way to the heathen to preach the gospel to them.”
590 Gregory the Great bishop of Rome (590-604). The population of Rome may have been 90,000 by this time, up from the estimated 30,000 at the height of the war between Justinian and Totila.
Gregory chafed when John, patriarch of Constantinople, termed himself the Ecumenical Patriarch: “It is very difficult to hear patiently that one who is our brother and fellow bishop should alone be called bishop, while all others are despised. But in this pride of his, what else is intimated but that the days of Antichrist are already near? For he is imitating him who, despising the company of angels, attempted to ascend to the pinnacle of greatness.” Gregory called himself the “servant of the servants of God.”
In a letter to John of Constantinople, Gregory wrote, “Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John,-what were they but heads of particular communities? And yet all were members under one Head. And (to bind all together in a short girth of speech) the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints under grace, all these making up the Lord's Body, were constituted as members of the Church, and not one of them has wished himself to be called universal. Now let your Holiness acknowledge to what extent you swell within yourself in desiring to be called by that name by which no one presumed to be called who was truly holy.” (Book IV, Epistle XXVI)
In Gregory’s day, baptism in Rome was by triple immersion: “Now we, in immersing thrice, signify the sacraments of the three days' sepulture; so that, when the infant is a third time lifted out of the water, the resurrection after a space of three days may be expressed. Or, if any one should perhaps think that this is done out of veneration for the supreme Trinity, neither so is there any objection to immersing the person to be baptized in the water once, since, there being one substance in three subsistences, it cannot be in any way reprehensible to immerse the infant in baptism either thrice or once, seeing that by three immersions the Trinity of persons, and in one the singleness of the Divinity may be denoted.” (Book I, Epistle XLIII)
In a letter to Eulogius, the patriarch of Alexandria, Gregory asserted the existence of three sees of St. Peter: “Your most sweet Holiness has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, Prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors. And indeed I acknowledge myself to be unworthy, not only in the dignity of such as preside, but even in the number of such as stand. But I gladly accepted all that has been said, in that he has spoken to me about Peter's chair who occupies Peter's chair. And, though special honour to myself in no wise delights me, yet I greatly rejoiced because you, most holy ones, have given to yourselves what you have bestowed upon me. For who can be ignorant that holy Church has been made firm in the solidity of the Prince of the apostles, who derived his name from the firmness of his mind, so as to be called Petrus from petra. And to him it is said by the voice of the Truth, To thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matth. xvi. 19). And again it is said to him, And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (xxii. 32). And once more, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Feed my sheep (Joh. xxi. 17). Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one. For he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the present life. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his disciple as evangelist. He himself stablished the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years. Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by Divine authority three bishops now preside, whatever good I hear of you, this I impute to myself.” (Book VII, Epistle XL) He also refers to Antioch as an “Apostolic See” (Book V, Epistle XXIX).
In the another letter to Eulogius (Book VIII, Epistle XXX), in reference to the patriarch of Constantinople’s title, he added, “in the preface of the epistle which you have addressed to myself who forbade it, you have thought fit to make use of a proud appellation, calling me Universal Pope. But I beg your most sweet Holiness to do this no more, since what is given to another beyond what reason demands is subtracted from yourself. For as for me, I do not seek to be prospered by words but by my conduct. Nor do I regard that as an honour whereby I know that my brethren lose their honour. For my honour is the honour of the universal Church: my honour is the solid vigour of my brethren. Then am I truly honoured when the honour due to all and each is not denied them. For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what you call me universally. But far be this from us. Away with words that inflate vanity and wound charity.
Gregory was confused when he heard of Eudoxius the Heretic, of whom no records were found in Rome. He also had never heard of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.
He seemed to view his role as ultimate corrector of errors: “as to his saying that he is subject to the Apostolic See, if any fault is found in bishops, I know not what bishop is not subject to it. But when no fault requires it to be otherwise, all according to the principle of humility are equal.” (Book IX, Epistle LIX)
But elsewhere, he seemed less liberal and moderate: “Inasmuch as it is manifest that the Apostolic See is, by the ordering of God, set over all Churches” (Book III, Epistle XXX); and “For as to what they say about the Church of Constantinople, who can doubt that it is subject to the Apostolic See, as both the most pious lord the emperor and our brother the bishop of that city continually acknowledge? Yet, if this or any other Church has anything that is good, I am prepared in what is good to imitate even my inferiors, while prohibiting them from things unlawful.” (Book IX, Epistle XII)
Gregory also fixed the beginning of Lent in the West on Ash-Wednesday, 46 days before Easter. This gave 40 days of fasting, by leaving out the Sundays. A period of fasting prior to Easter is an ancient custom. Irenaeus (~ 202) mentioned various lengths of fast, 1 day, 40 hours, 2 days or more. Tertullian, the historians Sozomen (3 week fast) and Socrates (6 week fast) also mention it. Also, Nicaea, canon 5.
591 Pope Gregory I (590-604) criticized the bishops of Arles and Marseilles for allowing the forced baptism of Jews in Provence.
End of a war between the Roman Empire and Persia.
593 By edict, the emperor Maurice (582-602) forbade soldiers from entering the monastic life. In Rome, Gregory I (590-604) circulated the edict, but he wrote Maurice a critical letter in complaint. Gregory expressed concern for those “many persons who, unless they abandon all, cannot gain salvation in the sight of God.”
595 A Roman Benedictine monk named Augustine was chosen by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) to be the apostle to the English (first archbishop of Canterbury). Augustine arrived in England in 597. The mission to Britain is significant, given the role British missionaries were to play in the conversion of Northern Europe to Christianity.
On diversity in the mass, Gregory wrote to Augustine: “But it pleases me, that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican, or any other church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the church of the English, which as yet is new in the faith, whatsoever you can gather from the several churches.”
this year, Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome (590-604), forbade deacons
to act as chief singer at the mass. Gregory founded two new
institutions (orphanotrophia) to train the required singers.
595 In a letter to the emperor Maurice (582-602), Pope Gregory I (590-604) wrote, “the care of the whole Church has been committed to the blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Behold, he received the keys of the kingdom of heaven; to him was given the power of binding and loosing, to him the care and principiate of the whole Church was committed.”
596 The emperor Maurice (582-602) recaptured Singidunum from the Avars.
597 St. Columba of Iona died on June 9 of this year.
About 10,000 Englishmen were baptized at Christmas. This from a
letter from Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome, to the pope of
598 Pope Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome (590-604), wrote to the bishop of Terracina expressing dismay over the report he had heard that people in that region were worshipping sacred trees.
599-600 The fifth outbreak of plague in the Roman empire.
599 After a synagogue in Caraglio, northern Italy, had been desecrated, Pope Gregory I (590-604) wrote to insist that the Jews be compensated for their loss.
Cyrius, Catholicos of Georgia, rejected Armenian Christology and
accepted Chalcedon (451).
By this year, there were more than 220 monasteries and convents in
Gaul. There were at least 100 such institutions in Italy.
600 Sometime during the 6th century the scratch plough was replaced in northern Europe by a plough with a moldboard, allowing it to cut into thick soil. The new plough first appeared in western Europe in the Rhineland and the Siene basin. This eventually led to a population rise in northern Europe. In the early centuries of Christian history, the population was most dense along the eastern Mediterranean.
Because of Justinian's conquests earlier in this century, the Roman Empire in the West still included Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, north Africa to Gibraltar, the coastal area near Genoa, a strip of land from north of Ravenna to south of Rome, small areas around Venice and Naples, the extreme south of Italy, and part of southeastern Spain. Thus Constantinople continued to exert considerable influence in the West.
From around this year until approximately 1200,
there were few literate laymen in the West. In the East, by
contrast, literate laymen continued to serve as administrators of the