1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Constantinople, Councils of

17436601911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 7 — Constantinople, Councils ofTheodore Freylinghuysen Collier

CONSTANTINOPLE, COUNCILS OF. Of the numerous ecclesiastical councils held at Constantinople the most important are the following:

1. The second ecumenical council, 381, which was in reality only a synod of bishops from Thrace, Asia and Syria, convened by Theodosius with a view to uniting the church upon the basis of the Orthodox faith. No Western bishop was present, nor any Roman legate; from Egypt came only a few bishops, and these tardily. The first president was Meletius of Antioch, whom Rome regarded as schismatic. Yet, despite its sectional character, the council came in time to be regarded as ecumenical alike in the West and in the East.

The council reaffirmed the Nicene faith and denounced all opposing doctrines. The so-called “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed,” which has almost universally been ascribed to this council, is certainly not the Nicene creed nor even a recension of it, but most likely a Jerusalem baptismal formula revised by the interpolation of a few Nicene test-words. More recently its claim to be called “Constantinopolitan” has been challenged. It is not found in the earliest records of the acts of the council, nor was it referred to by the council of Ephesus (431), nor by the “Robber Synod” (449), although these both confirmed the Nicene faith. It also lacks the definiteness one would expect in a creed composed by an anti-Arian, anti-Pneumatomachian council. Harnack (Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie, 3rd ed., s.v. “Konstantinopolit. Symbol.”) conjectures that it was ascribed to the council of Constantinople just before the council of Chalcedon in order to prove the orthodoxy of the Fathers of the second ecumenical council. At all events, it became the creed of the universal church, and has been retained without change, save for the addition of filioque.

Of the seven reputed canons of the council only the first four are unquestionably genuine. The fifth and the sixth probably belong to a synod of 382, and the seventh is properly not a canon. The most important enactments of the council were the granting of metropolitan rights to the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, Thrace, Pontus and Ephesus; and according to Constantinople the place of honour after Rome, against which Rome protested. Not until 150 years later, and then only under compulsion of the emperor Justinian, did Rome acknowledge the ecumenicity of the council, and that merely as regarded its doctrinal decrees.

See Mansi iii. pp. 521-599; Hardouin i. pp. 807-826; Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 1 sqq. (English translation, ii. pp. 340 sqq.); Hort, Two Dissertations (Cambridge, 1876); and the article Creeds.

2. The council of 553, the fifth ecumenical, grew out of the controversy of the “Three Chapters,” an adequate account of which, up to the time of the council, may be found in the articles Justinian and Vigilius. The council convened, in response to the imperial summons, on the 4th of May 553. Of the 165 bishops who subscribed the acts all but the five or six from Egypt were Oriental; the pope, Vigilius, refused to attend (he had made his escape from Constantinople, and from his retreat in Chalcedon sent forth a vain protest against the council). The synod was utterly subservient to the emperor. The “Three Chapters” were condemned, and their authors, long dead, anathematized, without, however, derogating from the authority of the council of Chalcedon, which had given them a clean bill of orthodoxy. Vigilius was excommunicated, and his name erased from the diptychs. The Orthodox faith was set forth in fourteen anathemas. Opinion is divided as to whether Origen was condemned. His name occurs in the eleventh anathema, but some consider it an interpolation; Hefele defends the genuineness of the text, but finds no evidence for a special session against Origen, as some have conjectured.

The council was confirmed by the emperor, and was generally received in the East. Vigilius was soon coerced into submission, but the West repudiated his pusillanimous surrender, and rejected the council. A schism ensued which lasted half a century and was not fully healed until the synod of Aquileia, about 700. But the ecumenicity of the council was generally acknowledged by 680.

See Mansi ix. pp. 24-106, 149-658, 712-730; Hardouin iii. pp. 1-328, 331, 414, 524; Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 798-924 (English translation, iv. pp. 229-365).

3. The sixth ecumenical council, 680–681, which was convened by the emperor Constantine Pogonatus to terminate the Monothelitic controversy (see Monothelites). All the patriarchates were represented, Constantinople and Antioch by their bishops in person, the others by legates. The number of bishops present varied from 150 to 300. The council approved the first five ecumenical councils and reaffirmed the Nicene and “Niceno-Constantinopolitan” creeds. Monothelitism was unequivocally condemned; Christ was declared to have had “two natural wills and two natural operations, without division, conversion, separation or confusion.” Prominent Monothelites, living or dead, were anathematized, in particular Sergius and his successors in the see of Constantinople, the former pope, Honorius, and Macarius, the patriarch of Antioch. An imperial decree confirmed the council, and commanded the acceptance of its doctrines under pain of severe punishment. The Monothelites took fright and fled to Syria, where they gradually formed the sect of the Maronites (q.v.).

The anathematizing of Honorius as heterodox has occasioned no slight embarrassment to the supporters of the doctrine of papal infallibility. It is not within the scope of this article to pass judgment upon the various proposed solutions of the difficulty, e.g. that Honorius was not really a Monothelite; that in acknowledging one will he was not speaking ex cathedra; that, at the time of condemning him, the council was no longer ecumenical; &c. One thing is certain, however, he was anathematized; and the notion of interpolation in the acts of the council (Baronius) may be dismissed as groundless.

See Mansi xi. pp. 190-922; Hardouin iii. pp. 1043-1644; Hefele, 2nd ed. iii. pp. 121-313.

4. The “Quinisext Synod” (692), so-called because it was regarded by the Greeks as supplementing the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils, was held in the dome of the Imperial Palace (“In Trullo,” whence the synod is called also “Trullan”). Its work was purely legislative and its decisions were set forth in 102 canons. The sole authoritative standards of discipline were declared to be the “eighty-five apostolic canons,” the canons of the first four ecumenical councils and of the synods of Ancyra, Neo-Caesarea, Antioch, Changra, Laodicea, Sardica and Carthage, and the canonical writings of some twelve Fathers,—all canons, synods and Fathers, Eastern with one exception, viz. Cyprian and the synod of Carthage; the bishops of Rome and the occidental synods were utterly ignored.

The canons of the second and fourth ecumenical councils respecting the rank of Constantinople were confirmed; the rank of a see was declared to follow the civil rank of its city; unenthroned bishops were guaranteed against diminution of their rights; metropolitans were forbidden to alienate the property of vacant suffragan sees.

The provisions respecting clerical marriage were avowedly more lenient than the Roman practice. Ordination was denied to any one who after baptism had contracted a second marriage, kept a concubine, or married a widow or a woman of ill-repute. Lectors and cantors might marry after ordination; presbyters, deacons and sub-deacons, if already married, should retain their wives; a bishop, however, while not dissolving his marriage, should keep his wife at a distance, making suitable provision for her. An illegally married cleric could not perform sacerdotal functions. Monks and nuns were to be carefully separated, and were not to leave their houses without permission.

It was forbidden to celebrate baptism or the eucharist in private oratories; neither might laymen give the elements to themselves, nor approach the altar, nor teach. Offerings for the dead were authorized, and the mixed chalice made obligatory. Contrary to the occidental custom, fasting on Saturday was forbidden. The mutilation of the Scriptures and the desecration of sacred places were severely condemned; likewise the use of the lamb as the symbol for Christ (a favourite symbol in the West).

The synod legislated also concerning marriage, bigamy, adultery, rape, abortion, seductive arts and obscenity. The theatre, the circus and gambling were unsparingly denounced, and soothsayers and jugglers, pagan festivals and customs, and pagan oaths were placed under the ban.

The council was confirmed by the emperor and accepted in the East; but the pope protested against various canons, chiefly those respecting the rank of Constantinople, clerical marriage, the Saturday fast, and the use of the symbol of lamb; and refused, despite express imperial command and threat, to accept the “Pseudo-Sexta.” So that while the synod adopted a body of legislation that has continued to be authoritative for the Eastern Church, it did so at the cost of aggravating the irritation of the West, and by so much hastening the inevitable rupture of the church.

See Mansi xi. pp. 921-1024; Hardouin iii. pp. 1645-1716; Hefele, 2nd ed., iii. pp. 328-348.

5. The iconoclastic synods of 754 and 815, both of which promulgated harsh decrees against images and neither of which is recognized by the Latin Church, and the synod of 842, which repudiated the synod of 815, approved the second council of Nicaea, and restored the images, are all adequately treated in the article Iconoclasts.

See Mansi xii. pp. 575 sqq., xiii. pp. 210 sqq., xiv. pp. 111 sqq., 787 sqq.; Hardouin iv. pp. 330 sqq., 1045 sqq., 1457 sqq.; Hefele, 2nd ed. iv. pp. 1 sqq., 104 sqq.

6. The synods of 869 and 879, of which the former, regarded by the Latin Church as the eighth ecumenical council, condemned Photius as an usurper and restored Ignatius to the see of Constantinople; the latter, which the Greeks consider to have been the true eighth ecumenical council, held after the death of Ignatius and the reconciliation of Photius with the emperor, repudiated the synod of 869, restored Photius, and condemned all who would not recognize him. (For further details of these two synods see Photius.)

See Mansi xv. pp. 143-476 et passim, xvi. pp. 1-550, xvii. pp. 66-186, 365-530; Hardouin v. pp. 119-390, 749-1210, et passim, vi. pp. 19-87, 209-334; Hefele, 2nd ed., iv. pp. 228 sqq., 333 sqq., 435 sqq.; Hergenröther, Photius (Regensburg, 1867–1869).  (T. F. C.)