Foundation and Early Eastern Roman Empire   Justinian Dynasty (518 - 602)   Phocas (r.602-610)

Heraclian Dynasty ( 610 - 711 )   Isaurian Dynasty ( 717 - 866 )

  Macedonian Dynasty (867-1081)    Comneni Dynasty (1081-1204)

     Fall of the Byzantine Empire   Byzantine Military   The Hippodrome   Administration   Religion

   Byzantine Art  Byzantine Empire Maps   Glossary   Time Line   Byzantine Empire Links



Religion in the Byzantine Empire


One of the world's first monasteries, St. Catherine's in Mount Sinai, where Moses is said to have beheld the burning bush. A far outpost of the Orthodox Church built by Justinian. By the 8th century tens of thousands of men lived as monks, many being located on Mount Athos and Meteora. Usually a monastery began when a hermit attracted a band of followers.


The imperial Roman Church, what came to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, never represented all Christians in the Empire, other forms of Christianity were allowed such as Nestorianism and other sects and Jews were tolerated, while suffering occasional persecution. To the Western European, the Orthodox Church with its icons which were holy themselves,miracles and a host of saints may strike him as a collection of superstition and glorified the mysterious, supernatural basis of Christian belief, a revival of the ancient mystery cults of the classical age .The Roman West developed ethical and legal elements. One of the heroes of the East was the otherworldly ascetic monk, in the West the monk was put to work.


The Ecumenical Councils


The Church held Ecumenical ( Greek for 'worldwide') councils to settle matters of dogma. The first, held in 325 at Nicaea under Constantine's chairmanship me to resolve the Arian controversy, over whether God and Christ were of the same nature or whether they differed in kind as the Arians maintained sine Christ came into being after God the Father.This first council resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Creed of Nicaea. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly . Approximately 250 to 318 bishops attended, from every region of the Empire except Britain. Constantine had invited all 1800 bishops of the Christian church (about 1000 in the east and 800 in the west), but a lesser and unknown number attended.


There were to be seven major religious assemblies between 325 and the 9th century.The second Council in 381 gave the patriarch second place in the state after the emperor and declared the Virgin Mary the Mother of God .The Third in 431, discussed the Nestorian sect whose members believed that Christ's human nature was more important than His divine nature. The Council declared Nestorianism to be heresy.The Fourth in 451 met to discuss the two natures of Christ and decided Christ to be fully God and fully human a result of which the Egyptian Church broke away from the Orthodox Church and became known as Coptic.The fifth Ecumenical Council of 533 was held to deal with Monophysitism, which holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature" The sixth in 681 The conclusion of the council was that Jesus has two wills as well as two natures (divine and human), and that those two wills did not conflict with or strive against each other. In the seventh in 787 was the last to be accepted by both Eastern and Western churches. It was called to restore the honoring of icons after which had been suppressed by imperial edict inside the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Leo III (717 - 741). His son, Constantine V (741 - 775), had held a synod to make the suppression official. The eighth in 870 It deposed Photios, a layman who had been appointed as Patriarch of Constantinople, and reinstated his predecessor Ignatius.


The Iconoclastic Crisis


In the Christian world, veiled hostility to the use of images went back to the pagan idols of classical times. The movement against images began to take shape in the 8th century, and the excessive importance given to images produced a reaction. Images were condemned by Leo III in 726 and emperors were to led the movement against images for 120 years. Many images and statues were destroyed at this time and art produced during this period were mostly abstract. A reaction to the severity of the Iconoclastic period led to the renaissance of the Macedonian Emperors ( 867-1081).


Separation of Christianity into Roman Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox Church


The division of the Church arose in part over the rivalry between Rome and Constantinople. Both East and West held the same fundamental creed, but the Eastern Church did not recognize the supremacy of the pope. In the East, Greek was the language of ritual, not Latin and in the east married men were allowed to enter the lower clergy. The Greek Church used leavened bread, while the Roman used unleavened in the Eucharist. Monks in the East, the hair of monks was shaved off in the front in the West on the top.When the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other in 1053-4, the separation was complete.One of the main doctrinal causes of the split in the 11th century was controversy over filoque Latin for "and (from) the Son." The Roman Church, following St.Augustine maintained that the Holy Ghost proceeded from both the Father and the Son. The Eastern Church maintained that there was no basis for such a doctrine and maintained that the Holy Ghost proceeded only from the Father.






Byzantine Empire Maps