The Eighth Century
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701+ The Roman liturgy was imposed on the Western church through this century. The process was nearly complete by the death of Charlemagne.
702 King Egica of Spain encouraged the free population to search for runaway slaves. See 694 above.
703 Wilfrid, bishop of York, again traveled to Rome seeking support for his cause (see 678 above). The bishop of Rome (John VI (701-05)) again ruled in his favor. Wilfrid and his comrades were unsettled by the fact that those closest to the bishop of Rome spoke among themselves in Greek.
705 The Roman emperor Justinian II (685-95, 705-11) rewarded the Bulgar Khagan Tervel with the title of Caesar for his assistance in regaining the imperial throne.
705 John VII (705-7) of Rome apparently approved the canons of the Quinisext council (see 692 above). The Liber pontificalis records that, “Being a timid and cowardly man, he sent them back [to the emperor Justinian II] without any change.”
705 Wilfrid, bishop of York, was received by King Aldfrith’s successor Osred. He was not - the bishop of Rome’s decision to the contrary notwithstanding - returned to his see. Wilfrid died in a monastery in Mercia in 709.
705 The Coptic Pope Alexander II (705-730) was arrested when he complained to the Omayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik about the financial persecution orchestrated by Egypt’s governor. The caliph set a ransom of 3000 dinars for Alexander’s release. In this period, the Muslim governor of Egypt routinely ransacked churches and monasteries, and enslaved monks. Those Copts who attempted to escape taxation were flogged and branded when captured, their arms or legs were cut off, and property seized.
707 The Saracens conquered North Africa.
709 King Cenred of Mercia became a monk in Rome.
710 At the emperor Justinian II’s (685-695, 705-711) invitation, Constantine I (707-15), bishop of Rome, traveled to Constantinople, where he approved a version of the decrees of the Quinisext council (see 692 above). This was the last papal visit to Constantinople until 1979.
711 Justinian II murdered. Constantine I, bishop of Rome, condemned the usurper Phillipicus Bardanes (711-13) as a Monothelete.711 Spain fell to the Saracens. According to some, the victory of the Saracens in Spain was also victory for the Roman underclass, being freed thereby from their Gothic overlords. Nevertheless, some 30,000 Christians were sent to Damascus as slaves as booty for the caliph.
712 The Bulgars under Tervel invaded Thrace, continuing to the walls of Constantinople.
716 Abbot Ceolfrith (Geoffrey) had a retinue of eighty when he left England for Rome in this year. Ceolfrith, an associate of Saint Benedict Biscop, had succeeded him as abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow in 690. The reputation for learning at these monasteries, where Bede was educated (see 731 below), continued to flourish during Ceolfrith’s tenure. Unfortunately, Ceolfrith was unable to complete his pilgrimage to Rome. He died near the city of Langres (Lingonas) in the diocese of Lyon. His relics were returned to Wearmouth.
717The Saracens besieged Constantinople. Leo III (717-741) became emperor. In an act which can only be termed ironic given subsequent events, Leo had the icon Hodogetria (She who shows the Way) carried in procession around the city walls. Subsequently, Leo defeated the Saracen fleet. In 718, Leo again defeated their fleet, even though it had been reinforced. A Bulgar army attacked the Saracens, killing 22,000, and the latter retreated to Cilicia.
719 In May, Winfrith, a monk of Nursling, obtained a commission from Gregory II, bishop of Rome from 715 to 731, to evangelize on the continent. He was given a new name as well - Boniface - after an early Roman martyr. Boniface labored among the Frisian and German tribes (see 722). Founded the abbey at Fulda in 743/4, and was archbishop of Mainz from 744/5-54. Murdered in 754/5(?). He was said to have cut down the sacred oak at Geismar in what is now Hesse, Germany. He used its wood to build a chapel.
At one point during his career in Germany, Boniface encountered an Irishman named Clement who taught that all, “believers and unbelievers, those who praise God and those who worship idols” had been freed from punishment by Christ’s harrowing of Hell.
719 John of Otzun, Catholicus of the Armenian church, held a synod at Dovin which condemned the Paulicians. The Paulicians were dualists, believing that the Heavenly Being and the Demiurge (the creator of the world) were both eternal. They did not believe that Christ took flesh of Mary; instead, he received his body in heaven and merely passed through Mary. They rejected the sacraments and did not revere the cross, though they had no scruples about dissimmulating and pretending to conform to normative Christianity. They rejected marriage, and it was reported that they engaged in licentious behavior. The Paulicians also rejected icons and relics.
720 The caliph Yazid II (720-24) established the value of a Muslim’s life at 12,000 dinars and that of a non-Muslim at 6,000.
721 Saracens invaded Aquitane but were routed by Duke Eudo at Toulouse.
722 Final persecution of the Montanists.
Gregory II commissioned
the gospel east of the Rhine. Under the protection of Charles
(mayor of the palace from 714-41), he concentrated his activities in
723 Boniface cut down the sacred oak at Geismar in what is now Hesse, Germany. He used its wood to build a chapel. He wrote to England for copies of the Scriptures written gold. Boniface wished to use them to awe the pagans.
723 The caliph Yazid II, who had been very ill, was cured by a Jewish necromancer. At the necromancer's suggestion, Yazid ordered all Christian pictures in churches, markets and private homes destroyed.
724 Permin, a native of Septimania, fleeing the Saracens, established the Richenau monastery on an island in Lake Constance. He later founded monasteries at Murbach, Pfaffers, Niederaltaich and Hornbach. Pirmin donated fifty books to the library at Richenau - which grew into one of the largest libraries in Western Europe during this era.
724-43 Under the reign of the caliph Hisham, Christians in the Arab empire were oppressed with exorbitant taxation and tributes.
724 Territorial dispute between Boniface and the bishop of Mainz, who wanted to add the territories Boniface was evangelizing to his diocese.
725 The Saracens overran Septimania.
725 Excessive taxation of Christians led to an uprising of the Copts in lower Egypt. Many Copts were massacred. Others fled by sea.
726 Incipient Iconoclasm. The Roman (Byzantine) emperor Leo III (Leo the Isaurian (717-741)) ordered the icon of Christ in the Chalke - the a building which served as the gateway to the Imperial palace - destroyed. The icon was painted above the bronze doors at the entrance to the Chalke. When the demolition team arrived, their leader was attacked and murdered by a crowd of outraged women. Also as a result of the destruction of this icon, the exarchate of Ravenna rose in revolt (727), backed by Gregory II, bishop of Rome (715-31).
727 The Lombard king Liutprand took the exarchate of Ravenna. The exarchate had separated the northern and southern Lombard duchies. The exarch, a eunuch named Eutychius, fled to Venice.
727 The Saracens were defeated at Nicaea and driven beyond the Tarsus mountains.
The Emperor Leo III
of Alexandria. The Orthodox there had been without a patriarch
past ~70 years. By this time, the Copts were a majority among
Christians. Working with Coptic Church leaders, Kosmas led a
against the Arabs, which failed. Afterwards, the Orthodox were
with only one church building in Alexandria. Christians were
Many emigrated or converted to Islam.
729 The Lombard king Liutprand attacked Rome. After Pope Gregory II confronted him, Liutprand left his armor and weapons at Peter’s tomb as an offering and lifted his siege.
729 The eunuch Eutychius retook Ravenna, then marched against Rome to bring Gregory II to heel. At this moment, Gregory and Liutprand, king of the Lombards, were allies against the exarch. Liutprand exercised little control over the Lombard dukes, but Gregory II brought the southern duchies in Italy into line, leaving the exarch isolated in Ravenna. Gregory II (715-31) was now politically independent of Constantinople. Note, however, that the tribute payments begun in the time of Pelagius II (579-90) continued through the papacy of Gregory III (731-41), until Zacharias (741-52) became bishop of Rome.
730 Evantius, archdeacon of Toledo, wrote against the practice of some Christians in Saragossa who avoided certain types of food out of fear they would be unclean if they consumed them.
730 - 842: Iconoclasm
730 The Roman (Byzantine) emperor Leo III (Leo the Isaurian (717-741)), with the consent of a council of bishops and senators, promulgated an edict requiring the removal of all icons from churches. The patriarch of Constantinople (Germanus) joined the revolt in favor of icons, and the emperor deposed him in 730, appointing Anastatius patriarch. One motive for Leo’s actions may have been to limit the power of the monasteries, which made much of their income from the production of icons. Another may have been his perception that military setbacks were due to God’s disfavor of idolatry.
After the edict, Leo ordered the destruction of icons within the monasteries. Many monks fled to Greece and Italy - taking smaller icons with them, hidden in their clothing - others fled to the caves of the Cappadocian desert.
Leo’s edict had little effect outside of Constantinople. The patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem openly declared themselves in favor of icons.
The prohibition of art applied to religious works only. For instance, scenes of the Councils painted in the Milion (a public building in Constantinople) were replaced by paintings of a horse race in the Hippodrome.
730 Gregory II (715-31), bishop of Rome, wrote a letter to Constantinople denying that the emperor had the right to interfere in doctrinal matters (in particular, the controversy over icons) and asserting that, if the emperor tried to use force against the bishop of Rome, the entire western world would come to his defense. Gregory anathematized the iconoclasts without naming the emperor explicitly. Gregory wrote, “The civil powers and the ecclesiastical powers are things distinct; the body is subject to the former, the soul to the latter; the sword of justice is in the hands of the magistrate; but a more formidable sword – that of excommunication – belongs to the clergy. O tyrant, you come in arms to attack us; we, all unprotected as we are, can but call upon Jesus Christ, the prince of the heavenly army, and beg him to send out a devil against you, who shall destroy your body and the salvation of your soul. The barbarians have bowed beneath the Gospel’s yoke, and you, alone, are deaf to the voice of the shepherd. These godly barbarians are filled with rage; they burn to avenge the persecution suffered by the Church in the East. Give up your audacious and disastrous enterprise, reflect, tremble, and repent.”
730St. John of Damascus, tax collector for a Muslim caliph, wrote his Discourses on Sacred Images against the emperor Leo III and the Iconoclasts. Soon thereafter, he became a monk at Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. He wrote his The Source of Knowledge, including An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.
John gave the following list of Old Testament books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Kings (1 and 2 Samuel), 3 and 4 Kings (1 and 2 Kings), 1 and 2 Paraleipomena (1 and 2 Chronicles), Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, the twelve minor prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, two books of Esdras (Ezra and Nehemiah), and Esther. The only book included in modern Hebrew Bibles not listed here is Lamentations – but John may have it joined to Jeremiah. John specifically excluded the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), which he termed virtuous and noble.
John’s New Testament was the modern volume plus Clement’s Canons of the holy apostles (see the Exact Exposition, Book 4, Chapter 17).
731Bede completed his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. He was the author responsible for the popularity of the A.D. system of dates. (See year 541.) Bede was a disciple of Ceolfrith’s. At one point, due to a disease that wasted the community at Jarrow, Bede and Ceolfrith were the only two healthy enough to pray.
his The Reckoning of Time,
Eusebius’ chronology (see 327 above) according to the dates in the
(rather than the Greek) Old Testament. By doing so he was able to
postpone the day of judgment by several centuries, since the Hebrew and
Greek dates disagree, most severely in the ages at birth of the
patriarchs. For instance, a literal reading of the genealogy in
chapter 5 puts the flood in 2243 anno mundi following the LXX,
in 1657 according to the Hebrew. Largely (though not entirely) by
capitalizing on this difference, Bede was able to establish that
fifteenth year (Luke 3.1) was 3981 years after Adam.
he placed Christ’s birth in the year 3953 anno mundi.
731 Gregory III (731-41) held a council in Rome. All iconoclasts were excommunicated, and iconoclasm was denounced. The archbishop of Ravenna (an imperial territory) attended the council.
732 Battle of Tours (Battle of Poitiers). Franks under Charles Martel turned back the Saracens. Eudes (Odo), duke of Aquitaine, had rebelled against Frankish rule and had called the Saracens to come to his aid. He then turned to Charles Martel for aid against the Saracens. [Thus, some consider the Arab invasion to have been in support of a Gallo-Roman revolution against their Frankish overlords. At the battle of Provence in 739, in this view, the revolution was finally crushed.]
The Roman (Byzantine)
intended for an invasion of Italy, was destroyed by a storm. Leo
had intended to crush Western (in particular, papal) opposition to
Gregory III (731-41),
like his predecessors, to agree with Leo III on the issue of
Leo confiscated the papal estates in Sicily and southern Italy, from
most of Gregory’s income was derived. Leo also reorganized the
church: He removed the
provinces of Illyria, Sicily and southern
-- the archbishoprics of Thessalonica, Corinth, Syracuse, Reggio,
Athens and Patras -- from Gregory’s
jurisdiction, and placed them under
patriarch of Constantinople. In effect, Leo threw the
Rome out of the empire. (The papacy regained control over
Italy after the Norman conquest, around 1059.)
732 Pope Gregory III appointed Boniface archbishop of Germany.
733 Pope Gregory III successfully negotiated with the Lombards for the return of Ravenna to the empire – even though he and Constantinople were at odds over the emperor’s iconoclastic policy.
737 A Saracen force defeated a Khazar army near the Volga. But as the Saracens were forced to retreat, the Khazars won a strategic victory, thought by many to be as significant as the Battle of Tours (732). By holding the Caucasus against Islamic aggression, the Khazars delayed their conquest of eastern Europe and thwarted the Saracen’s desire to attack Constantinople from the north.
The Khazars were a Turkic people who first appeared near the end of the sixth century, on the steppes north of the Caucasus. Their capital was at Itil’ in the Volga estuary, and they ruled the steppes between the Volga and the Dneiper. According to medieval Hebrew sources of uncertain reliability, the Khazar Bulan accepted some Jewish beliefs between 730 and 740. Some modern historians are of the opinion that the Khazar ruling class accepted Judaism between 850 and 900.
739 An Coptic uprising in Egypt bloodily suppressed by the Saracens.
Boniface reorganized the
Bavaria later acted as a base for the Frankish mission to the Slavs.
739 Liutprand, king of the Lombards, took four cities from the duchy of Rome and sacked Ravenna. He also besieged Rome. His troops ransacked the basilica.
740 Leo III defeated the Saracens at Akroinon, effectively halting the Arab invasion at the Tarsus mountains in the East, as Charles Martel had limited them at the Pyrenees in the West at Poitiers in 733.
741 Constantine V (741-75) became Roman Emperor. Like his father, he was an iconoclast. It is reported that, when he was baptized, he fouled the baptismal waters. Thus, he is known as Constantine Copronymus (that is, Constantine "dung-name"). In 742, his throne was usurped by his brother-in-law, Artabasdus. In 743, however, Constantine regained his throne. Patriarch Anastatius (730-54), who had supported the usurper, was paraded naked around the arena, riding backward on a donkey, but then restored to office.
In addition to images, Constantine rejected the baptism of infants and the veneration of the saints, whom, he said, could not intercede for us.
743 In exchange for Bavarian assistance in defeating the Avars, Boruth, leader of the Carantians, accepted Bavarian overlordship, and delivered his son Cacatius and nephew Cheitmar as hostages, whom he asked to be raised as Christians. The Carantians lived near the upper Drava river (southern Austria). Cheitmar later became duke of the Carantians (~752) and invited priests and bishops from Salzburg into the Carantania.
744 Boniface founded a monastery at Fulda (in modern Germany), which housed about 360 monks by 779.
744-50 Reign of the caliph Marwan II. Of him, the Monophysite monk Pseudo-Dionysius wrote, “Marwan’s main concern was to amass gold, and his yoke bore heavily on the people of the country. His troops inflicted many evils on the men: blows, pillage, outrages on women in their husbands’ presence.”
744 When the Egyptian governor offered them relief from the jizyah (poll tax), 24,000 Coptic Christians converted to Islam. From about this time, and certainly by 832, the Copts were a minority in Egypt.
745 Boniface became bishop of Mainz.
745 The teachings of Clement (see 719 above) and those of a certain Aldeburt were condemned at a synod in Rome. Aldeburt, a native of Gaul, claimed to have received a letter from Jesus. He distributed his own hair and fingernails as holy relics, and doubted the spiritual benefit of pilgrimage to Rome. Aldeburt also set up rival churches or chapels, tempting the people away from the older churches.
745-7 Bubonic plague in Asia Minor killed ~1/3 of the population. The Peloponnese was hit by plague, in 746-7. Afterwards, the Peloponnese was inhabited almost entirely by Slavs.
746 Constantine V invaded Syria and captured Germania. He resettled the population in Thrace. Many of the new settlers were Paulicians, whom the iconoclast Constantine considered allies and needed to offset iconodule strength in Thrace.
747 The Roman ecclesiastical calendar was adopted in England by a synod meeting in Cloveshoe. In addition, observance of the feast days of Sts. Gregory the Great and Augustine (of Canterbury) was ordered. The English church made unilateral (without the permission of the bishop of Rome) changes to her calendar until 1161, when Edward the Confessor was canonized. The same synod prohibited monasteries from housing poets, harpists, musicians, and jesters.
747 A Saracen fleet from Alexandria was destroyed at sea by a Roman fleet using Greek fire.
747 A Frankish synod prohibited clergy from carrying weapons or wearing ostentatious clothing. A synod held in Germany under Boniface (perhaps the same?) forbade clergy from hunting (see 517, 673), going about with dogs, and keeping hawks.
747 A council in England adopted the Rogation Days (see Mamertus above, ~452).
749 The Lombard king Aistulf announced his intention to bring the Papacy to vassalage. He conquered the exarchate of Ravenna (July 751). Some modern historians believe that it is about this time that the Donation of Constantine was forged to secure the papacy by giving ti legal title to the exarchate of Ravenna, in effect allowing the bishop of Rome to take the exarch’s place.
749 The Omayyad Caliph Marwan II (744-750) brought an army to Egypt to suppress a Coptic insurrection centered on al-Bashmur in the marshlands of the Nile delta. He imprisoned the Coptic Pope Kha’il (744-767), and carried him to Rashid (Rosetta) in chains. His army was defeated by the Copts, who then destroyed Rashid. The Pope and other clergy were freed.
750-800 The onset of “the little optimum,” a period of relative warmth in Europe which lasted until the second half of the twelfth century (roughly 1150-1200). The mild weather may have been a cause for the population increase associated with this period.
750 The Battle of the Greater Zab River. Caliph Marwan II's forces were crushed by those of Abu al-Abbas al-Suffah, ending the Omayyad dynasty of Damascus. The caliphate came under control of the Abbasids of Baghdad. Saracen military pressure on the Roman Empire fell, as the Abbasids were interested in lands to their east.
(754?) Pepin III (751-68),
the Palace in France, turned to Rome for legal assistance in deposing
Merovingian king. He asked, “Is it wise to have kings who
have no power of control?” The pope responded,
“It is better to have a
king able to govern. By apostolic
authority, I bid that you be crowned king of the Franks.”
Pepin with oil, and crowned him king of the Franks. At this time,
Zacharias (741-52) was bishop of Rome.
751 By 7 July, the exarchate of Ravenna (568 or 584 to 751) had ended at the hands of Aistulf, king of the Lombards.
751 When the Saracens conquered Samarkand this year, they acquired the secret to manufacturing paper. The Chinese had just sent a team to set up a paper factory there. This Arab skill drifted into Europe. By 1280, there was a water-powered paper mill in Fabriano in Italy. The manufacture of paper is key to the development of inexpensive printing, and thus to the distribution of the printed Bible during the Reformation.
752 End of the Era of Greek Popes (687-752). Death of Zacharias, bishop of Rome from 741. After Zacharias, no other pope of eastern origin would be elected until an interval of ~ 700 years had elapsed.
753 Pope Stephen II (752-7) turned to Pepin the Frank for support against Aistulf. Stephen had appealed to Constantinople, but was ignored.
754-75 Persecution of Christians by the caliph al-Mansur. He doubled the tribute due from Christians. The tax was extorted by torture. Men fled the tax collectors, moving continually from place to place. In addition to the excessive taxes, the collectors demanded gifts for themselves. Even the very poor, widows and orphans, were despoiled.
754 When Boniface (see 716) was slain in Frisia in this year, 53 members of his household died with him.
754 (and again in 756) Pepin defeated Aistulf and turned the lands of the old exarchate of Ravenna over to Stephen (an action known as the Donation of Pepin). These became the States of the Church. The Franks, in following years, referred to these states as the Roman Empire, and the true Romans in the Empire ruled from Constantinople, they called Greeks.
The significance of this is that the bishop of Rome was transformed from a subject of the Eastern Roman emperor into an independent secular sovereign, not dependent on any other sovereign, with an independent territory and with possession of supreme state authority on this territory.
The “Donation of Constantine,” which was to play a large role in the growth of papal power in the Middle Ages, was forged in this era (see 749 above), either to help convince Pepin to provide land to the church, or to establish legal grounds for turning Roman (Byzantine) imperial territory over to the papacy. The document has Constantine writing, “And we ordain and decree that he [the Pope] shall have the supremacy as well over the four chief seats: Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, as also over all the churches of God in the whole world. And he who for the time being shall be pontiff of that holy Roman church shall be ... chief over all the priests of the world; and according to his judgment, everything which is to be provided for the service of God or the stability of the faith of the Christians is to be administered.” In another section, Constantine is depicted as giving the pope “all the prerogatives of our supreme imperial position and the glory of our authority” and as giving “over to the oft-mentioned most blessed pontiff ... the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts and cities of Italy or of the western regions.”
754 Constantine V called a synod, which met at the Palace of Hiera in Constantinople and condemned the use of images in worship. The synod, under the presidency of Bishop Theodosius of Ephesus, declared against icons on the grounds that Christ's nature was perigraptos, uncircumscribed. They stated:
Whoever, then, makes an image of Christ, either depicts the Godhead which cannot be depicted and mingles it with the manhood (like the Monophysites), or he represents the body of Christ as not made divine and separate and as a person apart, like the Nestorians.
The synod excommunicated the iconodule church leaders. No bishops from the patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch or Jerusalem were present.
the synod, Constantine V
of the monasteries. Hundreds of monks and nuns were mutilated or
put to death. The governor of the Theme of Thracesion (located in
the central Ionian coast), Michael Lachanodrakon, assembled monks and
and commanded them to marry immediately. He also had monks'
soaked with flammable liquid and set on fire. Michael burned
libraries and had consecrated vessels melted down, sending the precious
metal to Constantine. Many monks fled to the West. In Rome,
Pope Paul I (757-67) gave them refuge.
Constantine referred to monks as ‘the unmentionables’ and accused them of all manner of corruption. He had one of the leaders of the iconodule resistance, Stephen, abbot of the monastery of St. Auxentius in Bithynia, stoned to death in the street.
756 Constantine V destroyed an invading force of Bulgars. Engagements against the Bulgars subsequently occurred frequently, and Constantine led nine campaigns against them.
Constantine V placed Syrian
in fortresses in Thrace to strengthen the empire against Bulgar
It is thought that these colonists first spread the Paulician heresy
872) into the Balkans.
762 Pope Paul I (757-67) transferred the relics of Sylvester I, bishop of Rome (314-355), to the church of S. Silvestro in Capite.
763 In a day-long battle on June 30, Constantine V demolished the invading forces of King Teletz of the Bulgars.
764 During a battle between the monasteries of Durrow and Clonmacnois (Ireland), two hundred monks of Durrow were slain.
764 Bishop Felix of Cordoba criticized Christians who wished to observe Jewish fasts.
767 Now that the bishop of Rome had become a temporal lord, controversy and violence arose over his election. Riots broke out when a local lord (Toto, duke of the bishopric of Nepi) had his brother raised from layman to bishop of Rome in one day (July 5, 767). This unfortunate person (Constantine II) had his eyes gouged out by the troops of the Lombard king, Desiderius. The Lombards killed Toto. Another contender (Philip) was murdered. A third (Stephen III, 768-72) succeeded to the bishopric by appealing to the Lombards for military support. [Note: there seems to be some uncertainty about the fate of the pretenders. Britannica says only that Constantine II disappeared from view, and that Philip entered a monastery.]
767The Council of Gentily. The Emperor Constantine V “Copronymus” sent ambassadors to Pepin, King of the Franks. Pope Paul I (757-67) also sent representatives. The acts of the council are lost, but it appears that the veneration of images was discussed, and the Franks were persuaded that the iconophiles were in the right. One late source states that the filioque was also discussed. From this time, Constantine V made no new attempts to gain support for iconoclasm in the West.
767 St. Stephen the Younger martyred as an iconophile.
767 Coptic rebels defeated a Muslim army sent to subdue them.
769 King Tassilo III of Bavaria established the monastery at Innichen “because of the unbelief of the Slav peoples, to lead them into the way of truth.” (Innichen was located near the headwaters of the Drava River, and so was suitable for missions downstream, to the east, among the Carantians and Croats.)
Hadrian I (or Adrian I,
of Rome. In a letter to Tenasius of Constantinople, he wrote,
the holy six synods I receive with all their canons, which rightly and
divinely were promulgated by them, among which is contained that in
reference is made to a Lamb being pointed to by the Precursor as
being found in certain of the venerable images.” This is a
to canon 82 of the Quinisext council, held in the year 692.
statement implies that he considered the Quinisext council part of the
sixth ecumenical council.
773 Desiderius, king of the Lombards, besieged Rome.
The Lombard king Desiderius
Hadrian, bishop of Rome, over ownership of cities from the former
of Ravenna. Charlemagne conquered the Lombard kingdom, captured
its capital (Pavia), and
himself king of the Franks and Lombards. By making himself king
the Lombards, Charlemagne contravened the Donation of
But the pope got his cities.
Charlemagne spent Easter in Rome, where Pope Hadrian greeted him with the honors formerly bestowed on the exarch. Hadrian asked Charlemagne to confirm the Donation of Pepin, and Charlemagne complied, recognizing Hadrian as ruler of two thirds of the Italian peninsula. (Charlemagne’s act is sometimes referred to as the Donation of Charlemagne.)
view of some, one of
political aims was to prevent revolution from the non-Frankish
population, who still considered themselves Romans and felt a loyalty
the Roman empire, still in existence and ruled from
To break this bond, he began a campaign to paint the Romans as “Greeks”
and heretics. Hence, his church’s condemnation of the 7th
Council’s ruling on images (Frankfurt, 794) and its insistence on the filioque
Charlemagne wished to impose uniformity over the church in his territories. Hadrian gave him a collection of canons (the Dionysio-Hadriana) for church government, and Roman liturgical books to use as a model in worship.
775 Death of Constantine V (Copronymous), after a campaign against the Bulgars.
777 King Tassilo III of Bavaria founded the Kremsmunster monastery (south of Linz, Austria) with a view to the conversion of the Slavs.
780Irene became Roman (Byzantine) empress (780-790). She decided to restore icons in the Eastern churches. The veneration of icons was allowed within the empire between 787 and 815 (813?), when a second period of iconoclasm began.
780 In the decade, the bishop of Rome stopped the old practice of dating documents by the Byzantine emperor’s regnal year, using Charlemagne’s instead. In the 790’s the official announcement of his election was sent to Charlemagne, instead of to Constantinople, as had been customary.
784 Irene appointed Tarasius patriarch of Constantinople when his iconoclast predecessor retired.
785 The synod of Cealchythe or Calcuith. Only instance where papal legates were present at a synod in Anglo-Saxon England. The council was called by Offa, king of Mercia, in an attempt to take revenge on Jaenbert, archbishop of Canterbury (766-90). The archbishop had wished to become king of Kent when that throne became vacant, and, knowing that Offa had his eyes on that throne also, had appealed to Charlemagne for assistance. Offa, having added Kent to his domains, called the council to establish a new archbishopric at Lichfield in Mercia. As a result, the territory directly under the supervision of Canterbury was greatly reduced. The archbishop of Lichfield received the pallium from the bishop of Rome. In addition, the papal legates proposed a canon restricting the diet and apparel of monks and nuns.
785 After numerous Frankish incursions, including one in 782 where Charlemagne had 4500 prisoners massacred, King Widukind of the Saxons submitted and accepted baptism. The bishop of Rome, Adrian I (772-795), on hearing the news, held three days of litanies in thanksgiving. After the Saxon capitulation, Charlemagne used Boniface’s monastery at Fulda and other monastic houses as bases for missionary activity among the Saxons.
Forced conversion of the Saxons: Charlemagne backed up this missionary activity with legal action. The Saxon Capitulary, or the capitulary of Paderborn, set the punishment for refusal to accept baptism at death. The death penalty also applied for the crimes of eating meat during Lent, attacking churches, killing clergy, participating in pagan rituals, and conspiracy against the Frankish king. The capitulary also required that Sundays and holy days be regarded as days of rest, and church attendance on those days. Baptism of infants was to occur within one year of birth. Tithes were required to support the church. Burials were limited to church cemetaries. Cremations were forbidden, and marriages of near kin were proscribed.
785 Irene and her son, the fifteen year old Constantine VI, invited Pope Hadrian I (772-95) to send delegates to a council to overturn iconoclasm. Hadrian, in turn, replied in writing, in his synodica, a document read and approved at the council of 787, but later condemned by the Franks.
786 A council began to meet in Constantinople to re-instate the religious use of icons, but it was forced to disband by a group of soldiers from the imperial guard. The representatives from Rome departed by ship. The rebellious troops were sent into Asia, and the council delegates were reassembled.
786 A synod in England forbade use of a drinking horn in the eucharist as a chalice.
787The first Viking (Danish) raid on the English coast.
787Seventh Ecumenical Council, held at Nicaea in the Church of Holy Wisdom, where the first council of Nicaea had met. It was under the leadership of two papal legates, who had left Constantinople and made it to Sicily before they were recalled, but Patriarch Tarasios (Tarasius) served as acting chairman. The council condemned the iconoclasts. It stated:
“We, therefore ... define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God ... to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honorable Angels, of the saints and of all pious people.”
These figures were to be honored, though not worshipped. The Septuagint and the New Testament both use the word proskunhseiV for honor shown, both to created things and to God, but they reserve the word latreuseiV (worship) for God alone. The council encouraged proskunhseiV of images:
“...and to these should be
and honorable reverence (proskunhsin), not
that true worship (latreian) of faith which
pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of
the precious and life-giving Cross and the Book of the Gospels and to
holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient
custom. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to
which the image represents ...”
The council’s decrees were agreed unanimously by the 350 bishops assembled.
No Frankish representatives were invited to the council. Charlemagne felt he had been insulted and treated as a barbarian king.
787 England began to pay Peter’s pence, an offering of alms to Rome.
788 Charlemagne annexed Bavaria after deposing Tassilo III, last king of the Agilolfing family.
789 Charlemagne issued an edict, drafted by Alcuin (735-804), an Englishman, chosen mentor of Frankish educational and ecclesiastical reform, which commanded: “In each bishopric and in each monastery let the psalms, the notes, the chant, calculation and grammar be taught and carefully corrected books be available.” Charlemagne took these steps to mitigate the decline in Christian learning. In addition, monasteries were adopting diverse rules for forming letters, leading toward a Balkanization of knowledge. Charlemagne appointed Alcuin head of a school of calligraphy in Tours to standardize letter formation. The modern Roman lower case letters are a result of Alcuin's efforts.
790 By about this time, Charlemagne and his theologians had received a Latin translation of the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. A document opposing these acts was drafted, the Capitulare adversus synodum. The Capitulare was critical of Irene’s role in calling the council, since she was a woman; of Tarasios’s sudden rise from layman to patriarch; of the council’s use of past conciliar decrees that they considered irrelevant; and of the decision made in favor of the veneration of images, since nowhere in the Bible is the veneration commanded; and of the portions of Hadrian’s synodica of 785 read to the council in 787. The text of the Capitulare has been lost but has been surmised from Hadrian’s response. It is thought that Charlemagne’s opposition to the second council of Nicaea was an attempt to disrupt the rapprochement between the papacy and the Roman (Byzantine) empire.
~792 The Libri Carolini was sent to the bishop of Rome by the Franks. The Libri was a more elaborate consideration of the issues regarding the Seventh Ecumenical Council, motivated by Hadrian’s refutation of the Capitulare (see 790). It accused the “Greeks” of authorizing the worship or “superstitious adoration” of icons. In the view of the Libri, the proper use of images was limited to the instruction of the illiterate. The council of 787 was also criticized for failing to give sufficient respect to the bishop of Rome. Somewhat ironically, Pope Hadrian was criticized for relying upon the Acts of St. Sylvester for evidence in favor of icon veneration. Constantinople was characterized as a den of heresy.
792 A Frankish synod meeting in Regensberg condemned the teaching of Felix, bishop of Urgel, a town in the Spanish border region under Charlemagne’s overlordship. Felix was a proponent of adoptionism, the doctrine that Christ was a member of the Trinity only by virtue of his adoption by God. The doctrine had some strength in Spain, being supported by Archbishop Elipand of Toledo. Alcuin and Paulinus (a former teacher of grammar, ecclesiastical advisor to Charlemagne,and at some point archbishop of Aquileia) wrote monographs against adoptionism, which were approved by synods in Frankfurt (794) and Aquileia (796).
793 Viking raiders sacked Lindisfarne.
793 Muslim raiders from Spain burned down suburbs of Narbonne in France.
794The Synod of Frankfort, called by Charlemagne, opposed the conclusions of Nicaea II, 787, and denied that it had been an ecumenical council. Support for Nicaea’s rulings from Hadrian (772-95), bishop of Rome, was also condemned. The worship of images, under the terms worship, adoration, and service of any kind, was forbidden. Destruction of images was also opposed, inasmuch as the synod did not condemn depictions as decorations or tools for instructing the illiterate, only the worship or adoration of depictions. The Franks also criticized Nicaea II because, they thought, the question of the veneration of icons was too trifling to merit consideration by an ecumenical council - a clear indication of theological naivete on the part of the Franks. (The English church agreed with the Gallican, against the pope.)
Patriarch Tarasios’s formula indicating the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father through the Son” was condemned as an error. In the Frankish view, it implied that the Holy Spirit was created, not properly a member of the Trinity. Paulinus of Aquileia’s libellus, which defended the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, was also read at Frankfort. (The filioque was embraced by Charlemagne who went so far as to accuse the East of deliberately omitting it from the ancient Nicene Creed.)
Adoptionism was also condemned, as works by both Alcuin and Paulinus against that heresy were read and approved. Alcuin, who was present at the synod of Frankfort, considered that Charlemagne, by directing the synod, had effectively served as “rector of the Christian people” in his empire.
795 Theodore, abbot of a monastery near Mount Olympus in Bithnia and later known as Theodore Studites or Theodore of Stoudion, criticized Constantine VI (780-97) for his second marriage, this to his mistress Theodote. Theodore was exiled to Thessalonica.
796 Frankish victory over the Avars resulted in the annexation of Pannonia (western Hungary). One of Charlemagne’s sons met with Arn of Salzburg and Paulinus, archbishop of Aquileia, and determined not to force baptism on the Avars (see 785 above for the Frankish treatment of the Saxons).
796 The synod of Aquileia. Paulinus of Aquileia argued that the filioque was simply a clarification of the original Nicene creed, as the creed of 381 had been. He encouraged the public recitation of the creed, with filioque, as a tool against heretical beliefs such as adoptionism (see 793 above) and Arianism.
797 Irene had the eyes of her son, the Emperor Constantine VI, put out. He died from his injuries. From this point until she was deposed in 802, Irene was empress.
Irene recalled Theodore Studites (see 795) from exile, and he and his followers moved to the monastery of Stoudion in Constantinople.
Bavaria obtained an
was at Salzburg. The first incumbent, Arn, labored for the
of the Avars (see 796) and the Carantians. Arn is also partially
responsible for an excellent library at Salzburg.
799 In April, the late Pope Hadrian’s nephew Paschalis led a crowd in an assault on Leo III, the new pope (795-816). They attempted to tear his tongue out and blind him, but he escaped. Leo fled to Charlemagne in Paderborn. Charlemagne sent a commission to Rome to investigate the complaints against Leo, then he himself came to Rome.
the West around this
Rome began to be termed “Pope” exclusively. The word means
and was used when referring to bishops (and even priests) from the
800 Pope Leo III (795-816) crowned Charlemagne Roman emperor. By crowning the emperor, the bishop of Rome was asserting his claim to the West, as presented in the Donation of Constantine: if he gave the imperial title, he could also remove it.
800 Sometime during the eighth century, azymes (unleavened bread) was introduced into the eucharist in the West.
800 The town of Mikulcice in Moravia (between the Morava and Danube rivers) was established by this time.
800 Felix of Urgel renounced adoptionism.
Christian writings, previously
in Latin, began to be widely disseminated in Irish.