From the fall of Constantinople 1204 to the council of Lyons 1274 and its aftermath

These were not feelings that were widely shared, for a natural consequence of the crusader conquest of Constantinople in 1204 was a vilification of the Latins. The Byzantines remembered the sack of Constantinople as a deliberate insult towards Orthodoxy. This was the theme of a tract compiled soon after 1204 by Constantine Stilbes, bishop of Kyzikos, listing the errors of the Latins.3 It took this form of polemical literature to its logical conclusion. It provided a rather different image of the Latins from that which prevailed before 1204, when the Byzantines had been inclined to idealise the crusade and crusaders, as opposed to the Latins, who evoked mixed feelings. Stilbes provided an original analysis in which the crusade was presented as part of the apparatus of papal plenitudo potestatis. The papacy offered crusaders indulgences which applied not only to past sins, but also to those yet to be committed. Equally, the papacy released them from their oaths. It taught that those dying in battle went directly to paradise. Stilbes's list of Latin errors closes with the crimes committed by the Latins during the sack of Constantinople. These clinched the underlying argument of his tract that addiction to war had perverted Latin Christianity and had turned it into a heresy.

This tract was a key document in the refashioning of the Byzantine identity, which was now defined against the Latins. If the defence of Orthodoxy against the Latin threat became its central feature, the exact nature of that threat was not always clear and produced mixed reactions across the Byzantine population. In the short term, an even greater danger was that the Orthodox Church would split up into a series of autonomous churches, which mirrored the political conditions of the time. That this did not happen was largely the work of the patriarch Germanos II (1223-40). He took his ecumenical duties very seriously, asserting his authority in different ways over the various separated churches, whether in Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Epiros or Cyprus. He confirmed the Greeks of Constantinople in their faith and exhorted the Cypriots to resist Latin pressure for submission. These actions inevitably brought him into contact with the Latin Church. In the process he rescued five Franciscans, who had fallen into captivity among the Seljuqs of Rum.4

3 J. Darrouzès, 'Le mémoire de Constantin Stilbès contre les Latins', REB 20 (1962), 61-92. See T. M. Kolbaba, The Byzantine lists: errors of the Latins (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 32-87.

4 M. J. Angold, Church and society in Byzantium under the Comneni 1081-1261 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 522-9.

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