The Seventh Century
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601 Augustine became first Archbishop of Canterbury.
601 During this century, the use of breathing and accent marks in Greek manuscripts began to be general.
Frankish names were rare for bishops in Gaul before the end of the sixth century. During the seventh century, they became increasingly common as Frankish leaders exerted control over the episcopate.
602 Phokas (602-610) Roman emperor.
602 Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) wrote to the populace of Rome to prohibit the observance of Saturday as a sabbath, “following the perfidy of the Jews.”
Columbanus charged by a
synod of Frankish
bishops with the “error” of keeping Easter according to Celtic
usage. Columbanus wrote to Pope Gregory I (590-604): “How
then, with all your learning ... do you favor a dark Easter? An
Easter proved to be no Easter?” Columbanus ridiculed the Pascha
tables of Victor of Aquitaine (see 457), which were used in Rome until
about 630. The Celtic algorithm Columbanus followed appears to
have used an 84-year cycle, as was common in much of the West from the
early third century to 457. Columbanus cited Jerome as opposing
Victor’s algorithm in advance.
604 Death of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604). There ensued a series of short-lived papacies: Between this year and 649, there were 10 papal elections. Sabinian (604-606) followed Gregory as pope. Gregory, the first monk to become pope, was given short shrift in an official papal chronicle known as the Liber Pontificalis. Sabinian received praise in that work for “filling the church with clergy” and not (it seems) with monks. It would be 70 years before another monk was elected pope.
this era, those elected to the papacy could not be consecrated
until their elections were confirmed by the Roman emperor in
Constantinople. Sabinian waited 6
months before he could take office.
bishops of Rome also acted as imperial bankers. They paid the
Roman (Byzantine) troops and advanced funds to the imperial
administration when it was short of cash.
604+ Due to Constantinople’s inability to defend Thessalonike, Slavs began settling nearby from about this year.
607 In an effort to improve relations with Rome, the emperor Phokas bestowed the title “Universal Bishop” upon Boniface III (607), bishop of Rome. Boniface III, incidentally, had to wait a full year for Constantinople to confirm his election.
Boniface IV (608-15),
bishop of Rome, requested
imperial permission to convert the Pantheon, a pagan temple in
into a church, St. Maria Rotunda or ad Martyrs, dedicated in
The Pantheon had been built by the emperor Hadrian between 118 and 128
Boniface had to wait 10 months for the emperor to confirm his appointment as pope.
Anastasios II of Antioch
was lynched by Jews from that city. The incident was due
Phokas’s (602-10) attempt to convert the Jews to Christianity and to
for the Persian invaders (see 611 below).
610Herakleios (610-41) (Heraclius) became Roman (Byzantine) emperor. Until Herakleios’ time, Latin was used in government administration and in the army in the Roman (Byzantine) empire. Herakleios ended this anachronistic use of Latin, replacing it with Greek.
Sergios I was named patriarch of Constantinople (610-638). He assisted the emperor Herakleios’ campaigns of 622-28 with donations from the Church treasury, and by acting as regent while Herakleios was in the field. (See also 619 below.)
Columbanus (see 590),
from his monastery
in Luxovium (Luxeuil) by conspiring enemies in the court of the
Frankish king Theodoric (Theuderic) II,
to Switzerland and preached to the pagan Alemanni. (Columbanus
had refused to bless Theuderic’s sons by his concubines.) Even
without Columbanus, the monastery at Luxeuil thrived, growing to 200
monks. In this era, monasteries grew so large they became local
criticized both Vigilius (537-55) and Boniface IV (608-15), the
contemporary bishop of
for supporting heretics by subscribing to the rulings of the Fifth
Council. “Watch [vigila] that it does not turn out for you
as it did for
Vigilius, who was not vigilant enough.” If
Boniface is not sufficiently vigilant, “the normal
situation of the
Church will be reversed. Your children
will become the head, but you … will become the tail of the Church;
your judges will be those who have always preserved the Catholic faith,
they may be, even the youngest.”
In this year, the treasury of the church in Alexandria contained 8000
pounds of gold. The patriarchate supported 7500 poor persons and
owned ships that sailed as far as Morocco and Cornwall.
611 On 20 April, Constantinople was struck by an earthquake.
611 (613?) The Persians captured Antioch.
612/14 Columbanus founded a monastery at Bobbio (northern Italy, southwest of Piacenza). Columbanus’s followers, along with Celtic monks, built monasteries and engaged in missionary activities in northern Europe during this era.
612 The emperor Herakleios’s wife, the empress Fabia-Eudokia, died of epilepsy. She left two children - her son became Constantine III, who ruled briefly in 641. Herakleios married his niece, Martina, over the protests of patriarch Sergios.
613 Aethelfrith of Northumbria won a battle at Chester, cutting Wales off from the Britons to the north. By this time, the invaders have conquered 2/3 to 3/4 of the island.
614 The Persians under King Chosroes II invested Jerusalem on April 15. On May 5, the Persians forced their way within the walls, with the help of Jews. With their churches and houses in flames around them, the Christians were indiscriminately massacred, some by the Persian soldiers but many more by Jews. Sixty thousand perished and thirty thousand more were sold into slavery. The Persians carried off the True Cross.
Of the churches in Palestine, only the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was spared. The apparent reason was the mosaic over the door, depicting the Wise Men from the East in Persian costume.
616 (619?) The Persians captured Egypt.
616 Thomas of Harkel translated the Bible into Syriac. His is the only complete New Testament in Syriac. Harkel employed critical signs in his text to indicate variant Greek readings. This translation is about one century later than the Philoxeniana (see 507/8 above), two centuries later than the Peshitta (see 400), and three later than Vetus Syra (see 300).
617 The Persians captured Chalcedon. The Persian campaigns in the period 614-19 contributed to the decline of self-governing cities and the emergence of a more rural economy in Asia Minor.
617 Donnan of Eigg murdered, along with his monks.
619 King Sisebut of Visigothic Spain wrote to Adaloald, king of the Lombards, encouraging the latter to abandon Arianism. Sisebut extolled the benefits that had accrued to the Visigothic kingdom since it had accepted Orthodoxy.
619 The provincial council of Seville was scandalized by the teaching of a certain bishop Gregory, a Syrian, and an advocate of the akephaloi - clerics with no acknowledged head.
619 During an Avar raid on the outskirts of Constantinople, Sergios had church plate melted. The resulting coin was used to buy peace from Chagan, the Avar chieftan. Possibly during this raid, Sergios had the relic of the Virgin’s robe temporarily transferred from Blachernai, outside the city walls, to Hagia Sophia. Later, it was returned with vigils and procession. After the fall of Egypt, the shortage of bread forced the Roman government to halt free bread distributions, and prices were fixed at three folleis per loaf. John “the Earthquake,” an official in charge of distribution, attempted to charge eight folleis per loaf. Sergios himself had the city prefect arrest John and resume distribution at the legal price.
620+ The Visigoths succeeded in conquering the Roman province in Spain.
622-681 The Monothelete controversy
622 The emperor Herakleios (610-41), while on a visit to Armenia, and in order to shore up support among the Monophysites in Syria and Egypt, suggested that the divine and human natures in Christ, while quite distinct in his person, had but one will (thelema) and one operation (energeia). Sergios, patriarch of Constantinople, was a strong supporter of this doctrine of one theandric energy of Christ.
623 A Frankish merchant named Samo assisted the Slavs of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia in their revolt against their Avar overlords. He led them to form a kingdom which stretched from the upper Elbe to the central Danube. This rebellion, likely instigated by Herakleios (610-41), weakened the Avars, who were about to move upon Constantinople.
625Honorius I (625-38) became patriarch of Rome. He later accepted the doctrine of one theandric energy in Christ. As a result, Honorius was anathematized at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (681).
626 Persians and Avars besieging Constantinople were completely repulsed by the Roman (Byzantine) emperor Herakleios (610-41). About this time, Maximos (Maximus) Confessor, (580-662) former protosecretary to Herakleios and later monk and abbot at Chrysopolis, departed Constantinople.
Maximos was the principle theologian opposed to the Monothelete heresy. He was the most sophisticated analyst of Chalcedon in antiquity. Maximos taught that the monophysite doctrine implied a pessimistic view of human nature. Chalcedon, on the other hand, safeguarded the autonomy of mankind and granted an independent status and positive value to the creation. The Christ who is known in two natures is able to be a model for our freedom and individuality, and for a mystical union with God in which man’s separateness as a creature is respected.
In his time, Maximos stated, the Son, for the West, was not the cause of the existence of the Holy Spirit, so that in this sense the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. Centuries later at the Council of Florence, the West would make the claim that the Father and Son are both causes.
By about this year, the Balkans, apart from Constantinople, Thessalonica, and several cities on the Adriatic Coast, had been lost to Slavic invaders. In the opinion of some historians, by annihilating the Latin-speaking inhabitants of Illyricum and imposing a barbarian barrier between Constantinople and the West, the Slavic invaders of the late sixth and seventh centuries contributed greatly to the cultural estrangement between East and West.
At roughly this time, Herakleios (610-41) invited the Croats, a Slavic tribe then living in Galicia, Silesia, and Bohemia, to settle in Illyricum. They were given the land between the Drava and the Adriatic for ridding it of Avars. Similarly, the Serbs were allowed to move from their homeland north of the Carpathians to a territory east of the Croats. The emperor asked the bishop of Rome to send missionaries to both groups, but it seems this effort had little lasting success.
627 The emperor Herakleios (610-41) won a decisive victory over the Persians at Nineveh, shattering the last of their armies. The eastern provinces, now largely Monophysite, were reoccupied.
627 Paulinus converted Edwin, King of Northumbria, who was baptized on Christmas day. Paulinus became the first bishop of York.
628 After pausing in Crete, Maximos Confessor arrived in North Africa.
The emperor Herakleios (610-41) ceased using the
employing Basileus instead. This reflects the shift from Latin to
Greek (see 610 above).
Fursa, an abbot in County Lough, Ireland, had a near death
experience. In his vision, he was protected by angels from a pack
of demons who accused him of various sins and intimidated him with the
Irish warriors’ battle yell. Fursa later settled in France
where his tale was spread among the faithful. See Diadochos, 486.
In around this year, the church in Rome adopted Dionysios Exiguus’s
(see 525) Paschal (Easter) tables. Much of the West continued to
follow Victor of Aquitaine (see 457) into the late eighth or early
ninth century. From roughly 630 until the calendar change of
1582, Rome and the East were in agreement with respect to the
calculation of Easter.
631 The emperor Herakleios (610-41) appointed Kyros, bishop of Phasis in Colchis, patriarch of Alexandria, with power to act as viceroy (dioiketes) of Egypt. Kyros began a ten-year persecution of the non-Chalcedonian Coptic Christians. The Coptic patriarch Benjamin I (622-661) escaped into hiding in the desert, and, in an attempt to discover Benjamin’s hiding place, Kyros had Benjamin’s brother Mina tortured, then drowned in the Nile, tied in a sack full of stones. The division among Christians no doubt aided the Islamic conquest of Egypt (639-641).
In about this year, Sergios (Sergius), patriarch of Constantinople
610-38, won Emperor Herakleios's (610-41) approval for the doctrine
that Christ has only one operation or
633 On the basis of the doctrine of one theandric energy in Christ, supported by patriarch Kyros of Alexandria, a statement of union was signed between Constantinople and a moderate group of Monophysites, the Theodosians, in Alexandria, in June of this year. Sophronios, a monk of the monastery of St. Theodosius in Jerusalem, who had accompanied the Byzantine chronicler John Moschus in his travels, visited Alexandria and Constantinople to convince the patriarchs to renounce Monothelitism. Afterwards, patriarch Sergios became less enthusiastic in his monoenergism.
633 The Fourth Council of Toledo, meeting in the church of St. Leocadia, comprised of 62 bishops meeting at the request of King Sisenand (ruled the Visigoths from 631-36) asserted the statement of the Athanasian Creed that “Whoever wants to be saved, it is necessary above all that he hold the Catholic faith.” This is significant in the context of the Visigoths’ recent Arianism. Isidore (560-636), archbishop of Seville from roughly 600, presided over this council, which also insisted upon toleration for the Jews and took measures to increase uniformity in the mass in Spain. In addition, the council ordered, “Let the priest and the deacon communicate at the altar, the remaining clergy in the choir, and the laity outside the choir.” Evidence suggests that the altar was screened from public view in Spain during this period.
Isidore is best known for his Etymologies, an early encyclopedia very influential during the Dark and Middle Ages, which stressed elements of classical education such as the seven liberal arts. In Book 7 of that work, Isidore wrote, “The Father alone is not from anything else, thus He alone is called uncreated; the Son alone is by His nature from the Father, thus He alone is called created [sic]; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, thus the Spirit alone is constituted by them both.” Isidore, though respectful of the papacy, also emphasized the independence of the Spanish church, and he viewed the Spanish monarchy as an ascendant power in contrast to the declining Roman Empire, beset as it was by Persians, Huns and Slavs. His disregard for Constantinople also comes though in his refusal to term the bishop of Constantinople a patriarch, in his minimizing of Justinian’s authority in De viris illustribus, and in his position that Constantine I was an Arian. Isidore is even critical of the Eastern practice of using a silk cloth (rather than linen) to cover the bread in the eucharist. Isidore’s influence in later Western Christianity clearly facilitated the schism of 1054.
Isidore related that King Sisebut of Visigothic Spain had ordered all Jews in his kingdom to accept baptism.
633/4 Sophronios (634-38) elected patriarch of Jerusalem. He sent a synodical letter to Honorius and the Eastern patriarchs explaining the orthodox belief in the two natures of Christ, as opposed to Monothelitism, which he viewed as a subtle form of Monophysitism. He also composed a Florilegium (anthology) of 600 texts from the Bible and the Greek church fathers in favor of the orthodox tenet of Dyotheletism (two wills) in Christ.
634 The Saracens swept up the coast of Palestine as far as Caesarea. Four thousand Christian, Jewish and Samaritan peasants were slaughtered.
634 Patriarch Sergios (610-38) of Constantinople published a short document, the Psephos (Decision), which forbade the mention of either one or two volitional principles of activity (energy) in Christ. Both Maximos the Confessor and patriarch Sophoronios accepted this.
635 King Oswald of Northumbria requested the Scots send him a bishop to convert his people. Aidan was sent, a monk of Hii or Iona, and established his episcopal see on the island of Lindisfarne (Holy Isle).
635 Damascus fell to the Saracens. The Monophysites in Syria, persecuted for years by the Roman authorities, supported the invaders.
636 Reign of Rothari (636-52), king of the Lombards. He was the last Lombard king known to be an Arian.
636 Fall of Antioch to the Saracen invaders. The emperor Herakleios (610-41) withdrew his forces from Syria.
637 Jerusalem fell to the Arab invaders. Sophronios negotiated civil and religious liberty for Christians in exchange for tribute.
638 The emperor Herakleios (610-41) issued his Ekthesis espousing the Monothelete doctrine (that there is only one will in Christ) and setting it forth as the official doctrine of the Church. The four eastern patriarchs gave their assent. But the Ekthesis was vigorously opposed, notably by Maximos the Confessor.
became patriarch of
53/4-?) upon Sergios’s death. Pyrrhos had been an advocate of
and a close friend of the emperor Herakleios (610-41).
638 Severinus (640) was elected bishop of Rome in this year. But, because Severinus would not accept the Ekthesis, Herakleios (610-41) delayed confirmation of the election (see 604) for two years. Severinus was consecrated pope in 640.
639 Thousands died in Palestine of famine and disease caused by the Saracen invasion, in which villages were destroyed and fields laid waste.
639 In December, the Saracen general Amr ibn al-Asi invaded Egypt with between 3500 to 4000 soldiers.
639 John Climacus (579-649) chosen abbot of the monastery of Saint Catherine on Mt. Sinai. He wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent, a work in 30 chapters which describes the spiritual ascent toward moral perfection.
640 The Saracens conquered the port of Caesarea in Palestine. The caliph Umar ordered a census of Palestine. All property (lands, livestock, trees, etc.) were counted in order to impose a poll tax. In Iraq, Umar was to increase the tax by a factor of 3 to 4 over what had been due the Persians.
641 The Arabs conquered Egypt, including Alexandria. In September, the Saracen forces of Amr ibn Al-Asi entered Alexandria, completing their conquest of Egypt. They burned the books of the library to heat the public baths. It was said that the supply of books ran out after one year. Nevertheless, the initial years of Muslim rule were favorable for the Coptic Christians, who were allowed to practice their religion freely, and could build and repair churches without interference. The early jizyah (poll tax) was no more onerous than the Imperial taxes had been..
The emperor Herakleios (610-41) died on 11 February, blaming the Ekthesis on patriarch Sergios. His eldest son, Constantine III, died on 25 May of the same year. There is speculation that he was killed by his stepmother, Martina. Constantine III’s son Herakleios became the emperor Constans II (641-68). (Constans II was termed Pogonatus, “the bearded,” due to his luxuriant beard - though all Roman emperors in this period wore beards.)
IV (640-42), patriarch
of Rome, condemned
Herakleios’ Ekthesis, and the doctrine
of one will in Christ.
642 Theodore became patriarch of Rome (642-49). During his tenure, he excommunicated two patriarchs of Constantinople for accepting the Ekthesis. In return, the altar in the pope’s quarters in Constantinople was desecrated; the pope’s apocrisiary there was arrested, then exiled; and the emperor’s troops robbed the papal treasury in the Lateran palace. (Theodore was from the East, born in Jerusalem.)
642 Patriarch Pyrrhos of Constantinople - an ally of Martina - replaced by Paul, who opposed her, supporting Constans II (641-68) in the succession battle of 641.
642 King Chindaswinth of Spain (642-53) ordered the death penalty for Christians who worshipped as Jews.
643 The Saracens ransacked Tripoli.
643 Archbishop Sergios of Cyprus wrote to Theodore I (642-49), patriarch of Rome, asking for his support in opposing the Monotheletes of Constantinople. Sergios referred to the pope as the successor of St. Peter and the rock upon which the Church is founded. In a letter written about this time, Maximos Confessor wrote of “the very holy church of Rome, the apostolic see, which God the Word Himself and likewise all the holy synods, according to the holy canons and the sacred definitions, have received, and which owns the power in all things and for all, over all the saints who are there for the whole inhabited earth, and likewise the power to unite and to dissolve ...”
645 At a debate in Carthage, arranged by the exarch Gregory, Maximos Confessor convinced Pyrrhos, former patriarch of Constantinople, to renounce the Monothelite heresy. Pyrrhos later changed his mind and was reinstalled as patriarch of Constantinople in 653 or 654.
646 A synod in Spain limited the retinue of a bishop to fifty. This eased the burden on those who were required to host the bishop and his party.
Gregory, exarch of
Carthage, proclaimed independence
from Constantinople. He was supported by the Chalcedonian
This rebellion ended when the Arabs raided Carthage from Libya and
Gregory (649). Carthage finally fell to the Arabs in 705.
The Roman (Byzantine)
emperor Constans II (641-68), to quiet the intense controversy
caused by the Monothelete
issued an edict forbidding the subject to be discussed. This
distributed by the patriarch Paul in Constans’ name, is known as the
Typos. A papal legate in Constantinople,
exiled to Trebizond for refusing to assent to the edict.
648 Pope Theodore I declared Pyrrhos, former patriarch of Constantinople, excommunicate.
649 Pope Theodore I declared patriarch Paul of Constantinople deposed.
649 Martin I (649-55), patriarch of Rome, was consecrated without awaiting imperial confirmation (see 604). In defiance of imperial policy, the Lateran council he called condemned the Monothelete doctrine at the Lateran council in Rome. The patriarchs Sergios, Pyrrhos, and Paul of Constantinople were anathematized, along with Kyros of Alexandria. A florlegium of 161 extracts from orthodox authors (only 28 of whom wrote in Latin) opposing Monothelitism was compiled. One hundred and five western prelates were present at the synod, representing Sicily, Africa, Sardinia, and Italy, though none were from north of the Alps or Spain. A large body of eastern monks attended as well (many of whom were refugees from Monothelite persecution in the East), in addition to representatives from eastern patriarchs. Martin had the council’s findings translated into Greek and sent to the emperor Constans II (641-68), requiring him to repudiate the monothelite heresy.
Maximos Confessor attended this synod. From Rome, Maximos wrote of the church there that “she has the keys of the faith and of the orthodox confession; whoever approaches her humbly, to him is opened the real and unique piety, but she closes her mouth to any heretic who speaks against the justice.”
649 King Recceswinth of Spain (649-54) forbade observance of the Passover, the Old Testament dietary restrictions, and Jewism marriages. Jews were forbidden to go to court against Christians or to give evidence against them in court.
649 The Saracens attacked Cyprus, killing or enslaving much of the populace.
653Bishop Martin I of Rome and Maximos Confessor were arrested by order of the emperor Constans II (641-68). Martin was arrested by Theodore Calliopas, exarch of Ravenna. Both were banished for treason in 655, apparently because of their opposition to the Monothelites. Martin I was exiled to Crimea, where he died on 16 September 655.
A certain Wilfrid visited
a pilgrim. After his return to England, he became abbot of the
in Rippon. Later, he became bishop of York (664). Wilfrid’s
history demonstrates secular limitation of the bishop of Rome’s
in the Church.
654-57 Eugenius, bishop of Rome. Eugenius refused the emperor’s request that he recognize Peter, patriarch of Constantinople, who was a monothelete. But it is said that Eugenius did so only after he was threatened by his congregation in Rome.
655 Naval battle between the Romans (Byzantines) and the Arabs off Phoenikos (modern Finike) in Lycia. The Roman fleet was shattered, and the emperor Constans II (641-68) barely escaped.
The Caliph Othman was
assassinated in Medina
while reading the Koran. The Arab world was in turmoil for the
five years, giving the Romans a brief respite.
657 When Vitalian (657-72) was elected bishop of Rome in this year, he avoided condemning the Typos of the emperor Constans II (641-68) (see 648). The emperor confirmed his appointment.
her deathbed, Gertrude
of Nivelles, daughter
of Pepin I of France (the mayor of the palace who died ~ 640),
burial in wearing a plain linen shroud. This ran contrary to the
traditional (pagan) practice of a “furnished” grave. Her example
was copied. By the 750s, the practice of furnishing graves
the needs of the dead in the afterlife had ceased in Francia.
The Frankish king Chlothar III and his queen Balthild founded a
monastery at Corbie, giving it immunity from taxation and visits from
local bishops in exchange for prayer, which the royal patrons trusted
would protect and enrich their kingdom.
661 By this year, the Franks had replaced all Roman bishops in Gaul with Frankish bishops (see 601 above). St. Boniface described the Franks as: “voracious laymen, adulterous clergy and drunkards, who fight in the army fully armed and who with their own hands kill both Christians and pagans.”
661/2 Maximos Confessor was recalled from exile in Thrace, tried, and sentenced to mutilation. His tongue and his right hand were cut off to prevent his further opposition to the Monothelites.
Maximos’ most significant theological contribution is perhaps his interpretation of the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius along Orthodox lines, emphasizing both Trinitarian theology and diophysite Christology. Maximos was a proponent of apophatic approach to the knowledge of God. His works take up more space in the Philokalia (see 1782 below) than do those of any other writer and are concerned with the process of deification.
At the Council of Florence (1439), the Orthodox quoted Maximos to indicate in what sense the filioque was understood in the West in the seventh century. Maximos wrote, “the Romans do not affirm that the Son is the cause of the Spirit, for they know that the cause of the Son and the Spirit is the Father, of one by birth, and of the other by procession; but only show that the Spirit is sent through the Son.” The Orthodox indicated that, if this were still the Roman position, “then no further discussions are necessary, and the former union of Churches can take place.” Unfortunately, the Western dogma had changed dramatically by that time.
662 On August 13, Maximos Confessor died in exile in Lazica on the southeastern shore of the Black Sea.
662 The emperor Constans II (641-68) left Constantinople, initially intending to establish his court in Rome.
662 Around this year, during the reign of their king Grimoald (ruled 662-71), the Lombards in the Benevento region were worshipping the image of a snake; the cult had endured from antiquity. St. Baratus had the snake idol melted down into a paten and chalice.
663 Constans II (641-68) visited Rome, where he stayed for 12 days. He stripped the city’s churches of valuables - taking even roof tiles from St. Maria ad Martyres.
664 The synod held at Whitby. Churches in the north of England (who had been under the influence of Celtic evangelists) agreed to keep Easter on the date established by Rome, in agreement with churches in the south evangelized from Rome. The Celts claimed their practice came from St. John, while the southerners invoked Peter. King Oswy (of the Mercians) was convinced by the argument that Peter held the keys to the kingdom of heaven: “lest, when I come to the gates of the kingdom of heaven, there should be none to open them, he being my adversary who is proved to have the keys.”
Curiously, it appeared the Celts celebrated Easter according to the agreement made at Nicaea in 325 (on the Sunday after the fourteenth day of the month nearest the vernal equinox). They were unaware, however, that since Nicaea Alexandrian astronomers had found an error in the way the Jews calculated Passover. The method for computing Easter had been modified in 525 in the West so the date always fell between March 22 and April 24, as it does to this day -- on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs upon or next after the vernal equinox (March 21). The appeals to apostolic authority on both sides were thus erroneous.
664 A plague fell upon Essex. The king, Sigehere, and the people apostatized. Bishop Jaruman of Mercia restored them to the faith.
The emperor Constans II (641-68) granted the
request of Archbishop
Maurus of Ravenna, allowing
that city to consecrate its bishop
approval from Rome.
Pope Vitalian (657-72) consecrated Theodore
of Tarsus as the seventh archbishop of Canterbury.
Hadrian, abbot of the Niridian monastery near Naples, accompanied
Theodore of Tarsus across France. According to Bede, Ebrin, the
mayor of the palace, “detained Hadrian, suspecting that he went on some
message from the emperor to the kings of Britain, to the prejudice of
his kingdom.” In this era, the popes were citizens of the Roman
(Byzantine) emperor, and were thought capable of attempting to
negotiate an alliance between the empire and the Saxon kings of Britain
against the Franks.
669 Wilfrid appointed bishop of York. He had advocated the Roman position at Whitby in 664.
670 The authority of the Athanasian creed affirmed by a council in Toledo.
672 The Saracens attacked the islands of Cos and Rhodes, killing or enslaving much of the populace.
673-5 A synod at Saint-Jean-de-Losne condemned clerical hunting (see 517, 747).
674 Benedict Biscop (~628-689/90), considered the father of Benedictine monasticism in England, built the monastery of St. Peter in Wearmouth. Benedict traveled frequently to Rome, obtaining instructions in monastic practice and manuscripts, paintings, and relics for the monastery at Wearmouth and a sister monastery at Jarrow. Together, these establishments comprised a leading center for scholarship and art in Western Europe during this era. Biscop was succeeded as abbot of Wearmouth by Ceolfrith in 690.
674 The Saracens attacked Crete, killing or enslaving much of the populace.
678 Constantine IV (668-85) began to search about for a final resolution on the Monothelite question. He wrote suggesting a general council.
Around this year, Agatho, bishop of Rome (678-81), sent a certain John, first singer of the Schola Cantorum in Rome, to train students in church music at Wearmouth, England.
Because of a squabble
between the Archbishop
of Canterbury, Theodore, and King Ecgfrith of Northumbria, Wilfrid was
expelled from his see at York. He traveled to Rome to appeal to
city’s bishop. On the road, Wilfrid was instrumental in the
of many Frisians (living in modern Holland) - aided by the coincidence
of unusually good fishing.
Barontus, formerly a royal official, now a monk at the monastery of
Logoretum (near Bourges, central France), became very sick. He
had a vision in which he saw angels guiding him toward heaven, but
demons, simultaneously, clawed at him. When Barontus came to the
gates of heaven, the demons listed his sins at St. Peter’s
request. See Diadochos, 486.
680 The Bulgars, who had crossed the Danube into Dobrudja (between the Danube and the Black Sea) during the previous decade, defeated the Roman forces sent out to expel them. From this point on, the Bulgars were permanent residents south of the Danube.
680 King Ervig of Spain (680-87) forbade Jews from observing the Sabbath.
680 By about this time, the Lombards have been converted to Orthodoxy.
680 In a letter prepared for the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Pope Agatho (678-81) interpreted Luke 22.31 as a reference to the doctrinal purity of the papacy and the unique pastoral duties of popes. The passage reads: “Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” For Agatho, it was clear that the church in Rome “has never erred from the path of the apostolic tradition, nor has she been depraved by yielding to heretical innovations, but ... remains undefiled unto the end, according to the divine promise” of Luke 22.31. This is the first known interpretation of that verse in support of papal claims. Earlier fathers, such as Chrysostom and Ambrose, had treated it as a prophecy of Peter’s denial and repentance. For them, it had no connection to a supposed permanent role for him (or his successors).
680 Wilfrid returned to York with a ruling from the bishop of Rome in his favor. However, King Ecfrith imprisoned Wilfrid instead of reinstating him as bishop. Wilfrid was released in 681 but exiled from Northumbria.
681Sixth Ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople (the Third Council of Constantinople). The council anathematized Honorius, once patriarch of Rome (see 625), and deposed the patriarch of Antioch, Makarios, for embracing the Monothelite heresy.
From the statement of faith adopted by the council:
“ ... believing our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, to be one of the Holy Trinity even after the taking of flesh, we declare that his two natures shine forth in his one hypostatis, in which he displayed both the wonders and the sufferings through the whole course of his dispensation, not in phantasm but truly, the difference of nature being recognized in the same one hypostasis by the fact that each nature wills and works what is proper to it, in communion with the other. On this principle we glorify two natural wills and operations combining with each other for the salvation of the human race.
“... likewise [we]
proclaim according to
the teaching of the holy fathers that Christ
has two volitions or
wills, and two natural
without division or change, without
or co-mingling. And the two natural wills are by no means opposed
(as the godless heretics have said); but the human will is compliant,
not opposing or contrary; as a matter of fact it is even obedient to
divine and omnipotent will.”
From the condemnation of Pope Honorius of Rome (session 13): “After we had reconsidered, according to our promise which we had made to your highness, the doctrinal letters of Sergius, at one time patriarch of this royal god-protected city to Cyrus, who was then bishop of Phasis and to Honorius some time Pope of Old Rome, as well as the letter of the latter to the same Sergius, we find that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics; therefore we entirely reject them, and execrate them as hurtful to the soul. But the names of those men whose doctrines we execrate must also be thrust forth from the holy Church of God, namely, that of Sergius some time bishop of this God-preserved royal city who was the first to write on this impious doctrine; also that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, who died bishops of this God-preserved city, and were like-minded with them; and that of Theodore sometime bishop of Pharan, all of whom the most holy and thrice blessed Agatho, Pope of Old Rome, in his suggestion to our most pious and God-preserved lord and mighty Emperor, rejected, because they were minded contrary to our orthodox faith, all of whom we define are to be subjected to anathema. And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.” According to the council, then, Pope Honorius’s crime was not negligence, or apathy, but the heresy of Sergius (the doctrine of the single theandric energy or operation of Christ -- see 633).
This council was noteworthy for the extreme care taken to verify the authenticity of documents cited. This care was in reaction to the fact that documents pertaining to the Fifth Ecumenical Council read at the Sixth were found to be forgeries.
Patriarch Makarios of Antioch and six other Monothelites were given permission to appeal to Rome. Two of them were subsequently reunited with the Church. Makarios and the other four were imprisoned in monasteries in Rome.
patriarch of Jerusalem,
Theodore, unable to
attend this council, sent St. Andrew of Crete (then Deacon Andrew) to
him. As a boy, Andrew had been unable to speak. In church
day, he prayed that God would heal him. The moment he received
he began to speak, glorifying God. At the council, Andrew
wisdom and knowledge, and afterwards he became bishop of Crete. A
poet, Andrew composed the “Great Canon” read during Lent in Orthodox
A group of Greek clergymen, refugees from the monothelete emperor, represented Pope Agatho (678-81) at the council. Soon after the council, communion between Rome and Istria was restored (698) and the bishops of Rome were no longer required to obtain confirmation from the emperor in Constantinople before assuming office (see 604).
684 The Maronites became an independent people when the armies of Justinian II were defeated by John Maron (later patriarch of Antioch from 685-707).
685 The caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705) established Arabic as the official language of the Umayyad empire. No other languages were permitted in government administration.
686 Wilfrid returned to his see at York under King Ecfrith’s successor Aldfrith.
686-89 Sometime during this period, the Arab governor of Egypt, Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Marwan, imprisoned the Coptic pope, Isaac (686-689), for intervening in a dispute between the emperor of Ethiopia and the king of Nubia (both Christians). The governor stripped the churches of crosses, especially those made from gold or silver. He also fixed placards to the church gates, stating that Mohammed was the apostle of Allah, and denying that Jesus was the Son of God.
Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Marwan was succeeded by his son, al-Asbagh, who, guided by a Copt named Benjamin, discovered and seized Coptic treasures. Al-Asbagh extended the jizyah (poll tax) to monks, and added a 2000 dinars to the land tax paid by bishops. A wave of conversion to Islam occurred during this time of financial persecution. (Al-Asbagh is also reported to have spat on an icon of Mary carried in procession at Helwan.)
686 The archbishop of Toledo, Julian, head of the church in Spain, composed a work to defend against Jewish efforts to prove that Jesus had not been the Messiah. It seems there was a flow of conversions to Judaism in Spain in spite of the penalties of law (see 642, 649, 680).
687 During his tenure as pope, Sergius I (687-701) introduced a new form of litany to Rome. The new litany style had been developed in Syria and involved invocation of the saints and devotions to the Lamb of God and the Cross. Sergius was himself from Syria. The Agnus Dei was one of the liturgies Sergius brought to Rome. Sergius ordered that the Agnus Dei be sung by the clergy and people during the mass, at the time of the breaking of the consecrated host. “Grant us thy peace” replaced the final “Have mercy on us” about four hundred years later. Sergius is also credited with introducing a procession on Candlemas.
Sergius was elected after a struggle between archdeacon Paschal and archpriest Theodore. The imperial exarch, John Platyn, chose Sergius instead. Sergius was supported by the higher clergy. Platyn, however, forced Sergius to pay an amount that Paschal had already promised in a bribe.
Era of Greek popes (687-752). Sergius is the first Greek-speaking pope during a period dominated by popes from the East. Thirteen popes were elected between 687 and 752, eleven of whom were from Greece, Syria, or Byzantine Sicily. Only two (Benedict II (684-5) and Gregory II (715-31)) were native Italians. Most of the old Roman aristocratic families, from whom the popes had been chosen, emigrated to the East, and many Eastern monks fled to the West, first to escape the persecutions of the Monotheletes -- afterwards, to escape from the Iconoclasts.
689 Late evidence of delayed baptism: Pope Sergius I baptized King Cadwalla of Wessex just before the latter’s death at age 30 while traveling to Rome.
690 Willibrord, who had been a monk at Wilfrid’s monastery in Ripon, asked permission of Sergios I (687-701), bishop of Rome, to conduct a mission to the continent. The pope furnished him with relics as well. Accompanied by eleven companions, and protected by Pippin II and Charles Martel, Willibrord established a monastery at Echternach (about midway between Rheims and Mainz).
~ 690 A certain Rupert established the cathedral church in Salzburg. Salzburg and Passau had been Roman forts, and it is possible that Christianity had survived in those towns.
691/2 Abd al Malik imposed a poll tax on the Syrians. According to the chronicle of the Monophysite monk known as Pseudo-Dionysius, al Malik “issued a strict edict for every individual to go to his country of origin, his village, where he was to register his name, that of his father, his vines, his olive trees, his property, his children and everything he owned. This was the origin of the poll tax; this was the origin of all the evils spread out over the Christians.”
692 A council of 327 (211?) bishops was held in the trullo or domed room of the Emperor’s palace in Constantinople. Called by the emperor Justinian II (685-95, 705-11), it is referred to as the Quinisext council or the Council in Trullo, and viewed (in the East) as an extension of the 5th and 6th ecumenical councils. No canons had been formulated for the entire Church since Chalcedon (451), so the Quinisext council set about to contemporary practices. The 102 canons acted to (a) fix bishops, priests, and monks to their respective locations of service; (b) support eastern Roman, rather than Armenian, Jewish, or Latin customs; and (c) to suppress paganism and superstition.
Canon 1 anathematized to “Origen, and Didymus, and Evagrios, all of whom reintroduced feigned Greek myths.”
One canon (13) condemned mandatory clerical celibacy.
Canon 73 commended due
to the figure of the cross, and that it not be formed on the floor
it would be trampled.
Canon 79 noted that the Virgin gave birth without any childbed (pain or flux of blood).
Canon 82 ordered that the image of Christ in icons be a human figure, not a lamb as in earlier times, “that we may recall to our memory his conversation in the flesh, his passion and salutary death, and his redemption which was wrought for the world.” Sergius I, bishop of Rome, may have introduced the Agnus Dei into the Roman liturgy in reaction to this canon. He ordered the restoration of a mosaic, located in the apse of the church of St. Cosmas and Damian, which depicted Christ as a lamb.
Canon 90 forbade kneeling from Vespers on Saturday until Sunday evening.
Canon 91 equated abortion to murder.
Canon 95 made a distinction between former heretics who can be received into the Church by chrismation and those who must be baptized.
The bishops of Rome were hesitant to approve of the canons promulgated by the Quinisext council. Bishop Sergius I of Rome (687-701) refused to sign them when they were delived by the legates who had attended the council. In contrast to the events surrounding Martin I (653 above), when Justinian II ordered the imperial official Zacharias to arrest Sergius, the armies of Ravenna and Pentapolis marched to Rome to protect its bishop. Later, Justinian requested that John VII (705-7) approve the canons, and it appears that he may have. Hadrian I (772-95) approved the canons in a letter to Tenasius of Constantinople.
692 Wilfrid, bishop of York, fell out with King Aldfrith, and was exiled again.
694 King Egica of Spain ordered the enslavement of all Jews and the confiscation of their property.
695 Willibrord appointed archbishop of Utrecht (north of the Rhine near the North Sea). He oversaw the construction of churches and monasteries among the Frisians. From the monastery at Echternach, Willibrord sent missionaries eastward, to Hesse, Thuringia, and Franconia.
698 Carthage fell to the Saracens.
698 End of the Istrian Schism (548-698). The synod of Pavia restored communion between Istria and Rome, broken during the Fifth Ecumencial Council (see 548 above).
Rome from around this year, a large fragment
of the True Cross was venerated in the Church of the Holy Cross in