Constantinople 553

It was in the great hall of Hagia Sophia Cathedral that Justinian convened a council on 5 May 553. Two theological controversies needed to be redressed. The first was the need to reach a consensus about the Christological claims of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret and Ibas of Edessa; their works in question were called the 'Three Chapters'. Divergent responses to their writings were leading to further divisions within an already fractious situation. Another set of problems had emerged concerning the theology of Origen of Alexandria and several other authors who had been influenced by him. Whether the latter problems were settled in the Council of Constantinople as such, or in a preparatory session, is a matter of dispute, but it is undisputed that they were a major issue during Justinian's reign.


The debates about Origenism in Justinian's time followed an earlier controversy at the end of the fourth century. Jerome (c. 342-420) set up a monastery in Bethlehem during 385 with the backing of a Roman multi-millionaire named Paula (347-404) and her daughter Eustochium. Paula sought to increase her faith through life in a nunnery, or perhaps a double monastery for men and women. By giving much of her enormous wealth to the church, she could dictate where and how the money was used and so avoid the never-ending pressure from those of her upper class and the government to keep her financial holdings in general circulation. In her case, a monastic vow was indeed liberation from many of the demands in her daily life.96

That she still controlled a considerable sum while she lived in the monastery becomes clear in noticing that she and her aristocratic 'nuns' still had servants.

95 R. L. Nice, Saint Sophia in Istanbul; T. Klauser, 'Hagia Sophia'; N. Teteriatnikov, Mosaics of Hagia Sophia.

96 S. Rebenich, Jerome; E. Clark, 'Ascetic renunciation and feminine advancement'.

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