Latin as the mortal enemy of Byzantium. Under Andronikos II there were no meaningful exchanges with the Latin Church. This isolationism was deliberate policy on the part of Andronikos, but to an extent it was forced on him by a power struggle within the Orthodox Church, as different factions claimed -with little justification - credit for victory over unionism. At the same time, monks were assuming an increasingly dominant role within the Orthodox Church. This was fuelled by a wave of mysticism centring on the vision of the uncreated light, which would take the Orthodox Church even further away from Rome. It was in this period that Mount Athos, which had only had a muted role in the struggle over union, began to come to the forefront of Byzantine ecclesiastical life, as a centre of mysticism or - better - 'hesychasm'.
While Andronikos II reigned, the Orthodox Church was protected from contact with the Latin Church. This changed with his overthrow in January 1328 by his grandson Andronikos III (1328-41), who came to power with ambitious plans to revive Byzantium. Their implementation was largely left to his right-hand man John Kantakouzenos. It was clear that, whereas by itself Byzantium was incapable of holding back the Turkish advance in Asia Minor, with western aid this might still be possible. The price would be talks on the reunion of churches. At the centre of negotiations was a Greek monk from Calabria called Barlaam.24 Almost nothing is known about his early life and education. In the 1320s when there was increasing pressure on the Greek communities in southern Italy Barlaam moved first to Arta and then to Thessalonike, which had become a major centre of education and scholarship. He soon came to the attention of John Kantakouzenos, who established him as head of a school attached to the Constantinopolitan monastery of St Saviour in Chora. This did not please its previous head, the great scholar Nikephoros Gregoras. He wrote a Platonic dialogue entitled Phlorentios, in which he took Barlaam to task for his Latin education and cast of mind.25 Recent scholarship has dismissed this line of accusation as pure Byzantine prejudice against a Greek from southern Italy. Barlaam's writings at the time underline his sincere attachment to Orthodoxy,
24 J. Meyendorff, 'Un mauvais théologien de l'unité au XIVe siècle: Barlaam le Calabrais', in 1054-1954: l'Église et les églises: neuf siècles de douloureuse séparation entre l'Orient et l'Occident (Chevetogne: Editions de Chevetogne, 1954-55), 11, 47-64; R. E. Sinkewicz, A new interpretation for the first episode in the controversy between Barlaam the Calabrian and Gregory Palamas', JThSt n.s. 31 (1980), 489-500; R. E. Sinkewicz, 'The doctrine of Knowledge of God in the early writings of Barlaam the Calabrian', Mediaeval Studies 44 (1982), 181-242; T. M. Kolbaba, 'Barlaam the Calabrian. Three treatises on Papal Primacy', RÉB 53 (1995), 41-115.
25 Nikephoros Gregoras, Fiorenzo o intorno alla sapienza, ed. P. A. M. Leone [Byzantina e neohellenica napolitana 4] (Naples: Universita di Napoli, 1975).
Was this article helpful?