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Book VI
Chapter 10

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book VII
Chapter 1

Book VI (end)

Vol. V
Chapter XI

The Istrian Schism


Sources: —

The various letters from and to the Istrian schismatics. These are published in a nearly complete form in Troya's Codice Diplomatico.

Guides: —

De Rubeis, Monumenta Ecclesiae Aquilejensis. Argentinae, 1740.

Gfrörer, Geschichte Venedigs von seiner Gründung bis zum Jahre 1084.º

I have postponed to this place the description of some ecclesiastical events which took place in the North of Italy during the latter part of the sixth century, and which exercised a powerful influence over the political condition of the cities of the Northern Adriatic, especially over that of the rising Venetian Commonwealth, during the greater part of the Lombard rule.

The Three Chapters Controversy. It is necessary to remind the reluctant reader of that dreary page in ecclesiastical history known as the controversy of the Three Chapters.1 Most futile and most inept of all the arguments that even ecclesiastics  p455 ever wrangled over, that controversy nominally turned on the question whether three Syrian bishops of irreproachable lives, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa, were to be stigmatised, a century or more after their deaths, as suffering the punishment of everlasting fire, because the Emperor Justinian, sitting in the library of his palace at the dead of night, and ceaselessly turning over the rolls of the writings of the Fathers, had discovered in the works of these three men the germs of the Nestorian heresy. That was nominally the issue, but as all men knew, something more than this trifling matter was really involved. The writings of these three Syrians had been received without condemnation, if not with actual applause, at the great Council of Chalcedon; and the real question was whether the Eastern Emperors should be allowed to inflict a backhanded blow on the authority of that Council by throwing out the souls of these three hapless Syrians to the Monophysite wolves of Egypt and of Asia, who were for ever howling after the Imperial chariot. The Council of Chalcedon was dear to the Western, especially dear to the Roman, heart. In it a check had been inflicted on the audacious speculations of Oriental ascetics, by it the Tome of the great pontiff Leo had been accepted almost as a fresh revelation, or (it would perhaps be better to say) as the best expression of Christian common sense on the matters in dispute, and had been used as a bulwark against the ever-rising tide of irreverent speculation into which the Fullers and the Weasels and the other grotesquely-named theologians of Alexandria delighted to plunge.

No Roman Pope would willingly connive at anything  p456 which seemed like disrespect to the Council of Chalcedon. Vigilius had struggled, we have seen how desperately, to avoid the slight on that Council which was involved in the condemnation of the Three Chapters; but having obeyed the Imperial summons to Constantinople, he had found that he was in the power of one stronger than himself, and, after doubling backwards and forwards like a frightened hare, he had at last yielded his reluctant but final consent to the proceedings of the Fifth Councilman by which the Three Chapters were condemned.

The Popes become energetic condemners of the Three Chapters. After the Holy See had once irrevocably committed itself to the propositions of Justinian, it could not be accused of lukewarmness in its newly-adopted cause. No partisans are more bitter than those who deserted a position which they declared they would never surrender, and who in their secret hearts envy the courage of its remaining defenders; a courage which they themselves have not dared to imitate. And thus it came to pass that for something like a century and a half the Roman Pontiffs oppressed with unusual bitterness and acrimony the men who were called the defenders of the Three Chapters, and who still struggled to maintain the position which a Pope had once fought for, and which was almost universally held in the Western Church when Justinian first started his idle controversy.

The condemnation of the Chapters unpopular in the West. As far as we can discern, the condemnation of the Three Chapters was for a generation or more an unpopular measure in Italy generally as well as in Africa, but the peculiar geographical position and political circumstances of one province, that of Istria, caused the opposition there to be more stubborn and long- p457 enduring, and to assume more completely the character of schism than in other parts of Italy.

Peculiar position of the Churches of Istria. The peninsula of Istria, stretching forth into the Adriatic Sea at its northern end, whose coast, during the sixth century, was still lined with fair cities which owned the sway of the Empire, formed one province with the mainland and islands to the West which bore the name of Venetia.2 But this province was now so circumscribed by the conquests of the Lombards, especially in the Western portion, that its full name, 'Venetia et Istria,' was often abbreviated, and it was called 'Istria' alone. The chief city of the province was Aquileia,3 for which, notwithstanding its awful destruction by Attila, its ecclesiastical supremacy had procured a fresh lease of life, though doubtless with greatly diminished splendour.

The Patriarch of Aquileia. The Patriarch of Aquileia4 was still therefore an important ecclesiastical personage, perhaps the most  p458 important between Ravenna and Constantinople. Paulinus, who was patriarch of Aquileia from about 558 to 570,5 raised the standard of ecclesiastical rebellion against the Fifth Council and the condemnation of the Three Chapters, and refused to communicate with Pope Pelagius, the successor of Vigilius, whom he regarded as a betrayer of the faith. Pope Pelagius I invites the aid of Narses against the Istrian schismatics. The Pope retorted by urging Narses, who was then ruling Italy with an all‑powerful hand, to seize both Paulinus of Aquileia and the bishop of Milan (who had consecrated Paulinus in defiance of a Papal mandate, and who probably shared his views), and to carry both these ecclesiastics to Constantinople, where they were no doubt to be subjected to the same gentle arguments which had enlightened the mind of Vigilius as to the damnation of the three Syrians. Narses, however, seems to have wisely refused to meddle in such matters; and though the schism was now formally begun, and was apparently shared by all the bishops of Istria, the dispute seems to have slumbered, till in 568 the Lombard avalanche descended upon Italy.

The Lombard invasion. Paulinus retires from Aquileia to Grado, 568‑9. It was probably very soon after this event that Paulinus, 'fearing the barbarity of the Lombards, fled to the island of Grado, taking with him all the treasures of the Church.'6 He died soon after, about the year 570, very likely worn out with the terrors of the times and the hardships incidental to his new abode, for Grado is a poor little island at the mouth  p459 of the Isonzo, and probably offered no accommodation for a Patriarch and his retinue at all comparable to that which they had enjoyed in the neighbouring Aquileia. Probinus, 570‑571. His successor Probinus also died, after a very short enjoyment of his dignity (about 570‑571), Elias, 571‑586. and a man bearing the name of the prophet Elias was elected in his stead (571‑586). In his days a step was taken which gave a new importance to the little island of Grado. For ten years or so the settlement in that island had been considered a mere temporary expedient. The Istrian clergy, like so many other subjects of the Emperor, looked upon the Lombard invasion as the overflow of a barbaric flood, which would soon pass away, allowing the dry land of the Roman Republic once again to appear. But by the year 579 this cherished hope had been of necessity abandoned, Council of Grado, Nov. 3, 579. and on the third of November in that year a Council was held at Grado, under the presidency of Elias, at which it was formally decreed that the city of Grado should receive the title of 'the new Aquileia,' and should be declared in perpetuity the metropolis of the whole province of Venetia and Istria. The alleged proceedings of this Council are unfortunately regarded with much suspicion by scholars.7 If genuine, they present an interesting picture of the times. We see in them the bishops of the whole important province assembled. Padua and Verona in the Venetian plain; Concordia and Opitergium (Oderzo) in the neighbourhood of the lagunes, Trieste, Pola and Parenzo on the Istrian coast, Aemona (Laybach)º in Carniola, Celeia (Cilli) in Styria; and Avoricium, which is perhaps  p460 Avronzo, the well-known resort of travellers, under the shadow of the Dolomites: all of them sent their representatives to the Council, which assembled in the new basilica of St. Euphemia. Then, while the bishops and presbyters sat, the deacons stood round them, and a copy of the Gospels having been placed in the middle of the assembly, Elias stood forth to explain his reasons for summoning the Council.

'Unspeakable,' said he, 'is the mercy of the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who condescends to help our weakness. Amid the pangs of the Church of God, and the fierce massacres of the heathen,8 who cease not to shake and devastate the remnants of our miserable province, I confess that it was beyond my hopes to see you all collected in this venerable assembly. For I feared lest anything should thwart the fulfilment of our common prayers; but now that by the mercy of Christ we are all met together, let me tell you wherefore I have summoned you. Long ago, by Attila, king of the Huns, our city of Aquileia was destroyed from top to bottom. Shaken afterwards by the inroads of the Goths and other barbarians, it had scarcely time to recover its breath under the rule of Narses, and now it absolutely cannot bear the daily scourge of the unutterable nation of the Lombards. Therefore with the consent of the blessed Pope Pelagius9 of the Apostolic See before whom I have laid our case, I ask, does it please your Holinesses to confirm this city of Gradus as our metropolis for ever, and to call it the new Aquileia?'

 p461  Grado to be called 'the new Aquileia.' The presbyter Laurentius, legate of the Apostolic See, handed in the Papal 'privilegium,' bestowing the new dignity on Grado; and when this was read by the notary Epiphanius, the bishops all shouted, 'Hear, O Christ: grant long life to Pelagius,' and unanimously ratified the proposal of Elias. Epiphanius read the Nicene Creed as contained in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon: and the members of the synod then all affixed their signatures to the record, Patriarch Elias first, the Pope's legate next, then the bishops, probably in order of age, and then the presbyters.

Did the Pope sanction the transference to see from Aquileia to Grado? If we have here a genuine record of the acts of the Council of 579,10 it is clear that some sort of reconciliation must have taken place between the sees of Rome and Aquileia, or such a letter as the 'privilegium' handed in by the legate Laurentius could never have left the Roman chancery. Possibly the deaths of both the original disputants (Pelagius I having died in 560, and Paulinus in 570) may have  p462 smoothed the way of peace. No doubt also the Roman pontiffs saw the great advantage which would accrue to the cause of orthodoxy from the transference of the patriarchal see. At Aquileia the heretical defenders of the Three Chapters could shelter themselves under the wing of those deadlier heretics, the Lombards, and defy both Pope and Emperor. At Grado they were of necessity the obedient servants of the Empire, and a visit from the Imperial galleys could at any time reinforce the cause of orthodoxy. And in fact, not many years had elapsed after the meeting of the Council at Grado, before the Patriarch of New Aquileia received an earnest admonition from the Pope as to the necessity of no longer delaying his condemnation of the Three Chapters.11

Letter from the Pope to the Istrian bishops, 584 (?). In this letter the Pope said that he took advantage of the interval of peace procured by the anxious labours of the Exarch Smaragdus12 to write to the bishop Elias, and the rest of his dear brethren the bishops of Istria, exhorting them no longer to continue in schism from the Church. He solemnly protested his unwavering faith in the decisions of the four great Councils, Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon; his veneration for the Tome of his great predecessor Leo, and his determination to uphold its authority unimpaired. He did not in this letter condescend to the details of the Three Chapters controversy,  p463 but desired the Istrians to choose out from among themselves bishops or presbyters whom they might send to Rome, and he promised to receive such messengers with love, meekly to offer them satisfaction on all the points as to which they were in doubt, and to allow them to return unhindered to their homes.

The Istrian reply. The messengers were sent; but they brought what seemed to the Pope neither submission to his will, nor an answer to his arguments, nor open minds to receive his explanations, — but a short and sharp definition of the Istrian position; in fact a summons to the Pope himself to surrender, under pain of interdict from Elias and his brethren.13

The receipt of this letter filled Pelagius with such grief that, as he told the Schismatics, he 'kept silence even from good words.' Second letter from Pelagius II. In his second letter14 he told them that they did not understand what they were talking about. He had shown, he said, to their envoys the passages which they had quoted from the proceedings of the Councils, as they stood in the ancient documents still preserved in the Papal chancery,15 and had argued that when taken in their proper connection, and not read in garbled extracts in the  p464 Encyclicals of hostile bishops, they by no means sustained the contention of the defenders of the Chapters. Especially with much diplomatic skill, but hardly equal candour, he laid stress on some reservations of the great Leo, who, in assenting to the decrees of Chalcedon, had expressly stated that he only ratified that which was therein decided with reference to the faith. Doubtless Pope Leo himself, if he could have been questioned, would have replied that this exception did not refer to the alleged Nestorianism of Theodore, Ibas, and Theodoret (which was a question of faith), but did refer to the rash attempt of the Council of Chalcedon to raise the see of Constantinople to an equal with the see of Rome.16 Long extracts followed from Augustine and Cyprian on the necessity of keeping in unity with the visible Church, founded on the rock of St. Peter; and the letter closed with a somewhat peremptory demand that 'instructed persons, able to give and to receive a reason in the debate,' should be sent to Rome, or (if they feared the length of the journey and the unsettlement of the times) to Ravenna, where they would be met by envoys from the Pope.

The Istrians still defiant. The Istrian bishops, however, were quite immovable; refused to come either to Rome or Ravenna, and sent another letter in which, as the Pope declared, they hardly condescended to argue, but announced their own authoritative decision,17 and seemed to command the Pontiff to accept it. That there were,  p465 however, some arguments in this letter (now lost, like almost all the documents on that side of the controversy), we may infer from the reply which Paulus Diaconus calls 'a very useful Epistle, composed by the blessed Gregory while he was still deacon, and sent by Pelagius to Elias, bishop of Aquileia.'18

Third letter from Pelagius II, written by Gregory. In the interval between the second and third letters despatched by Pelagius II, Gregory had returned from Constantinople, and even without the express statement of Paulus, we could hardly be mistaken in attributing to him the altered tone now assumed by the Pope at whose elbow he was standing.

'I have hitherto,'19 he says, 'written to you words full of sweetness, and rather by prayer than by admonition have sought to guide you into the right way. But I now see with grieving wonder the lengths to which you dare to proceed, confiding in your own wisdom, and I have to confess to myself that my example of humility has been wasted upon you. Like Jeremiah I must say, "We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed."20 I have tried to kindle the fire of charity, and burn off your schismatic rust, but with the same prophet I must say "the bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire, the blower bloweth in vain: his ashes are not consumed."21

 p466  The Pope, or rather the deacon by his side (for in these passages we recognise all the characteristics of Gregory, his familiarity with the old prophets, and his desperate love of allegorical interpretation), proceeds to ply the recalcitrant bishops with passages from Jeremiah, Paulus and Ezekiel to convince them of their error.

' "Is there no resin in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is not the scar of the daughter of my people healed?"22 What does he mean by resin, which feeds the flames, and which for the adornment of the palace cements together severed marbles?23 What can he mean br charity, which kindles our hearts to love, and binds together the discordant minds of men by the longing after peace, for the adornment of Holy Church? And Gilead, which is by interpretation the heap of witness24 — what can he mean by that but the mass of sentences piled up on high in Holy Scripture? The physician, is not he the preacher? The daughter's scar, is not that the fault of the erring multitude laid bare before the eyes of God?'

After a few remarks of this kind the Papal champion plunges into the thick of the controversy, and goes over all the weary battlefield, whither we need not follow him, showing that Leo had not confirmed all the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, but had expressly reserved private and personal matters; that the case of the three Syrian bishops might be considered as included in these private and personal matters: that Chalcedon  p467 must have implicitly condemned them, since it approved of Cyril and the Council of Ephesus which they opposed: that there was good patristic authority for anathematizing heretics even after their death: and that the long reluctance of Vigilius and the western bishops to accept the decrees of the Fifth Council arose from their ignorance of Greek, and gave all the more value to the sentence which they at last, after such rigorous scrutiny, consented to pronounce.

On the whole, if the course taken by the Popes in this dismal controversy had to be defended, it was probably impossible to put forth a better defence than that here made by Gregory, and he did well in sending a copy of it six years later, when he was himself Pope, to each of the schismatic bishops, inviting their candid and unprejudiced study of its contents, and predicting that they would then speedily return to the bosom of the Church.25

Severus, Patriarch of Aquileia, 586‑606. This was not the effect, however, of the 'useful letter,' when issued either by Pope Gregory or his predecessor. In 58626 the Patriarch Elias died, apparently unreconciled, and was succeeded by Severus, who for twenty years ruled the Church of Aquileia. High-handed proceedings of the Exarch Smaragdus, 588 (?). Soon after his accession, to end this troublesome business, the Exarch Smaragdus came (probably with a few Imperial ships) from Ravenna to Grado, dragged the new Patriarch forth with his own right arm from the basilica itself, and carried him off in ignominious captivity27 to Ravenna. Severus went not alone, for  p468 there were carried off with him three bishops, John of Parenzo, Severus of Trieste, and Vindemius of Cissa,28 and an aged defensor of the Church of Grado named Antonius. At Ravenna the captive ecclesiastics were detained for a year till their spirit was broken by the violence used, and the further exile threatened; and they consented, doubtless with heavy hearts, to communicate with John, bishop of Ravenna, who was on the now winning side, and condemned the Three Chapters.

Violence, however, now, as so often before and since in affairs of the conscience, failed of its purpose. When the bishops were at length at the year's end allowed to return to Grado, neither their brother bishops nor the lay multitude would have aught to say to them: and thus the end of the schism was as far off as ever. Insanity and recall of Smaragdus. Smaragdus, the audacious violator of the sanctity of the Church of Grado, became insane, and men saw in his mental disease the work of a demon to whom he was given over for his crime. He returned to Constantinople, 589‑597 (?) and Romanus, as we have seen, was sent as his successor to Ravenna.29

Council of Marano, 589 (?). A Council was now held at Marano, a place on the mainland, but overlooking a broad lagune, and  p469 about twelve miles west of Aquileia.30 From this place, where the Lombard rather than the Byzantine was supreme, the Schismatics could venture to hurl unabated defiance both at Constantinople and at Rome. The names of the sees represented at this Council are not quite the same as those which took part in the former one. They wear a more Venetian, and less Istrian character, as might be expected from the fact that the men who bore them were now leaning on Lombard protection, and somewhat estranged from the rule of the Empire. We find the bishops of Verona, Vicenza, Treviso, Belluno, Feltre, and Zuglio from continental Venetia, to which names must be added Asolo, which I mention separately for the sake of its Cypriote queen, and its English poet. Altino and Concordia on the shores of the lagunes, Trient and Seben from the country which we now call Tyrol, all sent bishops to the Council. The Istrian peninsula was apparently represented by Pola alone.31 At this Council the Patriarch Severus  p470 handed in a paper32 in which he humbly confessed his error in having communicated with the condemners of the Three Chapters. He was hereupon received again into fellowship with his suffragans.

This Council33 of Marano was probably held in 589,34 during a pause of something like peace in Italy. Letter from Pope Gregory to the Schismatics. Next year the great Gregory ascended the pontifical throne, and one of his earliest acts was to write a letter,35 short, sad, and stern, to the Patriarch of Aquileia, lamenting his wilful departure from the way of truth (of which, having once walked in it, he could no longer pretend ignorance), and summoning him, with his followers, to the threshold of St. Peter, there to be judged by a synod concerning all the matters about which doubt had arisen.

This summons purported to be issued in accordance with the command of 'the most Christian and most Serene lord of all things;' but in point of fact, since the substitution of Romanus for Smaragdus, the Pope had neither the Emperor nor the Exarch at his back.

Petitions from the Schismatic bishops to the Emperor, 591. On the receipt of this Papal summons two Councils were assembled, one of the bishops in Lombard territory, and one of those who dwelt in the Imperial cities on the coast. From these two Councils and from Severus in his individual capacity three letters were sent to the Emperor. Of these only the first has been preserved,36  p471 but the contents of all were probably similar. The bishops who were under the Lombard yoke expressed their unshaken loyalty to the Empire, recalled with a sigh the happy days of peace which they had once passed under its shadow, congratulated Maurice on the recent successes of his arms in Italy, and predicted the speedy arrival of the day when the 'Gentiles' would be suppressed, and all would be once more subject to the beneficent rule of the 'Holy Roman Republic.' When that day should come they would gladly present themselves before a synod in the sacred city of Constantinople. Meanwhile, however, let a religious truce be proclaimed, and let them not be compelled to appear before Gregory, who was really a party to the cause, since they had renounced communion with him, and could not accept him as their judge. In all that they were now doing, they were only upholding the authority of Chalcedon, and maintaining the position which Pope Vigilius had himself ordered them to take up when he anathematized the condemners of the Three Chapters. If their enemies were allowed to persecute them, and destroy the rights of the Metropolitan Church of Aquileia, the inevitable result would be that on the death of the present occupants of the Venetian and Rhaetian sees, their successors would be appointed by a Gaulish Metropolitan, and would transfer their allegiance to him (a thing which had already happened in three churches of the Province): and where ecclesiastical obedience had gone, political obedience would probably follow.  p472 Thus even from a political point of view it was important for Maurice to uphold the rights of the struggling Church of Aquileia.

A religious truce proclaimed by the Emperor. This, and the kindred petitions drew forth a letter37 addressed 'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,' by 'the Emperor Caesar Flavius Mauritius Tiberius, the faithful in Christ, the Peaceful, the Mild, the Mightiest, the Beneficent, the victor of the Alamanni; — to the very holy Gregorius, most Blessed Archbishop of the fair City of Rome, and Pope.' After referring to the three petitions, the Emperor says that he has learned from them (one imagines with some surprise) that the Pope has himself sent a tribune and a guardsman38 to enforce his summons on Severus and his brother bishops. He also mentions their prayer for a religious truce, and concludes, 'Since therefore your Holiness is aware of the present confusion in Italian affairs, and knows that we must adapt ourselves to the times, we order your Holiness to give no further molestation to those bishops, but to allow them to live quietly until by the providence of God the regions of Italy be in all other respects restored to peace, and the other bishops of Istria and Venetia39 be again brought back to the old order.40 Then, by the help of your prayers, all measures will be better taken for the restoration of peace, and the removal of differences in doctrine.' To which the Emperor added in his own handwriting, 'May God preserve you for many years, holiest and most blessed Father!'

 p473  Gregory had certainly some reason to complain of such a mandate as this. The question of the Three Chapters was none of Rome's raising. It was an Emperor at Constantinople who had dug up the bones of Theodore, Theodoret and Ibas, and set the whole Christian world at variance over the question of their damnation. The Popes had merely been the instruments, at first the most unwilling instruments, of the State in enforcing conformity with the decrees of the Fifth Council on their suffragans, and now, when the unity of the Western Church was endangered, and Rome was threatened with the uprising of a new and insolent rival at Aquileia, Constantinople intervened, and would not allow the use of one tribune and one life-guardsman in order to put pressure on the Schismatics. Doubtless the remembrance of that letter about the Istrian bishops was one of the things which rankled in the breast of Gregory, when, eleven years after, he sang his lamentable hosannas over the murder of Maurice and his sons. However, for the present the Pope bowed his head to the hard necessity of the times, and, as far as we can see, during the whole Exarchate of Romanus (that is till 597) made no attempt to invoke the powers of the State in order to end the Istrian schism.

It was during this interval that, as has been said, he reissued the 'useful letter' which he had himself composed for his predecessor Pelagius, and sent a copy to each of the schismatic bishops, informing them that if, after reading that document, they still remained unconvinced, their error could only be imputed to their obstinacy. He also pointed out to them that they were entirely in error in saying that they were  p474 'Persecuted.' Persecution, martyrdom and words of that kind can only be rightly used of those who hold the truth. Men who are in error have no right to claim them. This reasoning would have been cheerfully adopted by Diocletian or Galerius.41

Schismatics returning to the fold. Towards the end of this period (July 595), two bishops, Peter of Altinum, and Providentius of an unknown see, made overtures for reconciliation to the Pope, and were invited to visit him at Rome.42 We are not informed, however, of the result of the negotiations. A little later on (June 596), we find one solitary monk, Joannes by name, returning from the schismatic fold. He takes refuge in Sicily, and Gregory makes him a small annual allowance from the Church patrimony;43 but his conversion cannot be considered a signal triumph for the cause of orthodoxy.

597 (?) Change resulting from the appointment of Callinicus as Exarch. With the appointment of Callinicus to the office of Exarch a slight change comes over the scene. The Imperial veto on compulsory conversion remains in force, but it is evidently felt that the man in power at Ravenna is now more friendly to the Roman See, and that the Istrians may have a harder struggle to maintain their position of independence. A certain Magister Militum with the barbaric name of Gulfaris receives the warm thanks of Gregory for his watchful care over the souls of those under his rule, and his desire to  p475 bring them back from schism into the bosom of the Church.44

Affairs of the Insula Capritana with its Castellum ad Novas. But our attention is especially attracted by the case of the Insula Capritana, which appears to be the island in the lagunes at the mouth of the Piave, upon which was soon to arise the city of Heraclea, the precursor of Venice.45 The story is somewhat obscurely told us in Gregory's letters,46 but seems to have been something like this. A certain man named John, coming from Pannonia, had been appointed bishop of the Venetian 'Newcastle' (Castellum ad Novas), and had violently annexed to his diocese the adjoining island of Caprea, expelling its bishop. He had then temporarily abjured his schismatic profession, and had, together with the laity on the island, sought through the Exarch Callinicus reconciliation with the Roman Church. Before long, however, the bishop relapsed into schism, while the congregation, or at least a considerable portion of them, still desired to re‑enter the Catholic fold. The expelled bishop also, who had made his way to Sicily, that chosen home of all the Roman 'emigration,'47 showed some signs of  p476 willingness to condemn the Three Chapters.48 A deputation from his late flock having arrived in Rome, Gregory invited the bishop to come himself to the 'threshold of the Apostles' in order to be confirmed in his new faith. Whether he accepted the invitation or not, a meeting was to be arranged between the Istrians and their bishop, and the new converts were sped upon their homeward way (the journey being apparently accomplished by water, and therefore taking them round by Sicily), and were supplied with letters of amplest commendation to the Exarch, to the bishop of Ravenna, and to all their fellow countrymen of the island of Caprea. The result of this affair, as of so many others which had been opened to us by the Papal correspondence, does not seem to be anywhere disclosed. But there is an interesting passage in the first of Gregory's letters to the Exarch about these poor returning Capritans.49 Two pieces of news have just been communicated by the Exarch which have equally gladdened the Pope's heart. One is a series of victories over the Sclavonians, and the other this return of the inhabitants of Caprea to their ecclesiastical obedience. The Pope assures him that his victory over the enemies of the State is the reward of his exertions to bring back the enemies of God under the yoke of their true Lord. But Callinicus had some doubts whether he was not transgressing the Emperor's commands in going even as far as he had gone to meet the returning heretics. To this Gregory answers that  p477 the Imperial prohibition, itself obtained under false pretences,50 only restrained the Exarch 'during this time of uncertainty,' from forcibly compelling the unwilling, and by no means ordered him to repel those who were willing to return to the unity of the Church;

'wherefore it is necessary that you should hasten to make this suggestion to our most pious Emperors, so that they may understand that under their reign, by the help of Almighty God, and of your labours, the Schismatics are of their own accord returning to the Church.

'Know, however, that it caused me no little sorrow that your Intendant [Major Domus], who had received the petition of a bishop desirous to return, professes to have lost it, and that it afterwards fell by accident into the hands of the adversaries of the Church. I think this was done, not through negligence, but for a bribe: wherefore I wonder that your Excellency should have so slightly punished such a fault. But after saying "I wonder," I at once corrected myself, for where my lord Justin is allowed to give advice, a man who is himself out of the peace of the Catholic Church, one cannot expect that heretics will be punished.'

Dark hints these as to cabals in the Exarch's cabinet, to which we have no further clue.51

Conversion of Firminus, bishop of Trieste, 602. In May 602, as we find from another letter of Pope Gregory,52 Firminus, bishop of Tergeste (Trieste), returned to his obedience to the Roman See. He suffered, we are told, many things at the hands of his  p478 schismatic Metropolitan Severus, who even endeavoured to stir up an insurrection against him in his own city. The conversion of the bishop of so important a city was doubtless a great triumph for the condemners of the Three Chapters, and we are not surprised to find Pope Gregory earnestly entreating the Exarch Smaragdus to protect the new convert.53

The Three Chapters Controversy at the Lombard Court. It was not only on the shores of the Northern Adriatic that this miserable controversy about the Three Chapters disturbed the peace of the Church. Constantius, bishop of Milan, the firm friend and adherent of Gregory, was beset by entreaties, both from above and below, that he would separate himself from the see of Rome in this matter. The bishop and citizens of Brescia called upon him to write them a letter, in which he was to assert upon oath that he had never condemned the Three Chapters. Pope Gregory forbade him to give them assurances of the sort.54 Three of his suffragan bishops solemnly informed him that they renounced his communion because he had condemned the Chapters, and had given a bond for his perpetual adhesion to the Fifth Council.55 And not only so, but the pious Theudelinda  p479 herself, 'seduced by the words of evil men,' consented to the course pursued by the three bishops, and withdrew for a time from communion with Constantius. Here was indeed a blow for the Catholic cause, if the royal influence so hardly won, after the long contest with Arianism, was to be lost again over the souls of the three Syrians. Gregory's letters to Theudelinda. Gregory wrote to the queen,56 expressing his regret that she should endanger the result of all her good works and all her pious tears by listening to the talk of 'unskilled and foolish men, who not only were ignorant of what they were talking about, but could scarce understand what they heard,' and at their persuasion separating herself from the communion of the Catholic Church. He assured her that whatever had been done 'in the times of the pious Emperor Justinian, had been so done as in no degree to impair the authority of the great council of Chalcedon.' This letter was sent to Constantius for delivery, but was prudently suppressed by him, for he knew that an allusion to the Fifth Council, however faint and indirect, would ruin all chance of its reception by Theudelinda.57 Thus warned, the Pope wrote another letter, in which he dwelt with earnest emphasis on his adhesion to the four councils (the number of which, like that of the four gospels, the four living creatures in the Apocalypse, the four rivers of Eden, had a charm for devout minds), and, in slightly different words, renewed his entreaties that she would submit herself to the judgment of the priests of God.

The entreaties of the Pope probably availed to induce Theudelinda to resume her communion with  p480 Constantius, and her relations with Pope Gregory seem thenceforward to have been those of unbroken friendship. He sent her a copy of his marvellous 'Dialogues' with the deacon Peter,58 and in 599 he wrote to her that letter of congratulation, which has already been quoted, on the great peace obtained through her mediation.

One last letter, as we have seen,59 Pope Gregory wrote to the Lombard queen in December 603, only three months before his death. In it, while congratulating her on the birth and Catholic baptism of her son Adalwald, he excused himself on the plea of sickness from writing an elaborate answer to the paper sent him by 'his dearest son the abbot Secundus.' We have here an interesting glimpse of the Tridentine Ecclesiastic, to whom we are indirectly indebted for so much of the early history of the Lombards. It is evident that Secundus was on the side of the vindicators of the Three Chapters, and we are thus enabled to understand why the allusions to the controversy in the pages of his copyist Paulus are written with so obvious a bias towards the schismatic side. We may conjecture also that Secundus, who, according to Paulus, lived on till the year 612,60 exerted his influence till the close of his life on behalf of the defenders of the Three Chapters. Theudelinda would seem, at any rate after the year 594, to have occupied a middle position, heartily co‑operating with the Pope in all good works, but not renouncing the communion of the  p481 Istrian schismatics, perhaps at heart well inclined to their cause.

Along with the letter just referred to, Gregory sent a copy of the Acts of the Fifth Council, which the royal infant was, at some future time, to read,61 and thereby convince himself that all that was alleged against the Apostolic See was utterly false, and that the Popes had deviated in nothing from the Tome of the sainted Leo. There is evidently here some change in the relations of the two parties from the time when the Pope did not venture even to mention the name of the Fifth Council to Theudelinda.

The Schism becomes geographical. At the time of Gregory's death the Schism was not closed, but had assumed a geographical character. All round the coast of Istria, at Grado itself, and probably among the lagunes of Venetia — in fact, wherever the galleys of Constantinople could penetrate — churchmen were desirous to return into unity with the Emperor and the Pope, and were willing to admit that Theodoret, Theodore and Ibas were suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. On the mainland, at Aquileia itself, in the great old desolate Venetian cities, Padua, Vicenza, and the like, in the little towns under the shadow of the Dolomites, wherever the swords of the Lombards flashed, men took a more hopeful view of the spiritual prospects of the three Syrians. Death of Severus, 606.
Two Patriarchs chosen.
At the death of Severus, in 606, the divergence became manifest. The abbot John was chosen by one set of ecclesiastics, assembled at old Aquileia, as their Patriarch, and the champion of the Three Chapters, while the bishop Marcianus, and, after him, Candidianus, both  p482 in full communion with the Pope, were chosen Patriarchs of Grado by the bishops and clergy of the coast.62 'And from henceforth,' as Paulus relates, 'there were two patriarchs.' The detailed history of the schism after this point does not greatly interest us, nor indeed are there many materials from which it could be written. Its effect, however, in throwing the defenders of the Three Chapters into the arms of the Lombard invaders is vividly shown by a letter from the Aquileian Patriarch John to King Agilulf.63 In it the Patriarch complains bitterly of the severities practised by the 'Greeks,' and asks what sort of unity is that which is obtained at the point of the sword, by imprisonment, by the blows of the cudgel, by long and dreary banishment. The old grievance of the forcible abduction of the bishops to Ravenna by Exarch Smaragdus is again brought up, and the king is informed that in more recent times three Istrian bishops have been dragged away by the soldiers of the Empire from their churches, and forced to communicate with Candidianus at Grado. Now, however, at the hour of writing, that worthless prelate64 has departed this life and gone to the place of eternal torment, and Agilulf is entreated to interpose on behalf of the Catholic faith and prevent another unjust ordination of a Patriarch from taking place in the village of Grado.65 However, the election was held, and the schism continued. Some years later, a certain Fortunatus, though a secret champion of the Three Chapters,  p483 was chosen Patriarch of orthodox Grado. He soon found his position untenable, and fled, with all the Church's treasure, to the mainland, where the Lombard duke of Friuli obtained for him the Patriarchate of Aquileia.66 In vain was application made to the Lombards by his successor Primogenius (a faithful adherent of the Pope) for the surrender of the fugitive Patriarch, or at least of the stolen treasure. Both were steadfastly refused, and, on the 'lamentable petition' of Primogenius to the Emperor Heraclius, setting forth the sad condition of the Church of Grado, bereft of all her wonted ornaments, a large sum was transmitted from the Imperial treasury to enable the Patriarch to make good the deficiency.

The Schism ended by the Lombard king Cunincpert, 698 (?). So the Schism smouldered on till near the very end of the seventh century, when the reigning Lombard king Cunincpert summoned a council at Pavia,67 which was attended by a full representation from the lately schismatic Patriarchate of Aquileia. With shouts of triumph they entered the church, declaring that they renounced the heresy of Theodore and his companions, and wished to be restored to the unity of the Church. Tears and sobs expressed the overpowering emotion with which the spectators, Catholics and Schismatics alike, witnessed this ending of so long a struggle. Legates were sent to bear the joyful news to Pope Sergius, who returned for answer to King Cunincpert, 'He which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save his soul from death, and shall cover  p484 a multitude of sins.' At the same time he gave orders that all the MSS. setting forth the doctrines of the now defeated sect should be burned, lest their errors should ever again infect the souls of the new converts.

So ended the heresy of the Three Chapters; a heresy which at one time had all that was best and wisest in the Western Church, including the Pope's own authority, on its side. But not even thus was peace restored to the Church, nor were occasions of strife between Rome and Constantinople done away. The Monotheletic word‑war had already tormented Christianity for half a century, and the dispute about the worship of images was shortly to ascend above the horizon.

The Author's Notes:

1 See book V chap. XXIII, 'The Sorrows of Vigilius.'

2 'Venetiae etiam Histria connectitur et utraque pro una provincia habentur' (Paulus, H. L. II.14).

3 'Hujus Venetiae Aquileia civitas extitit caput: pro qua nunc Forum Julii' (Paulus, H. L. II.14). 'Nunc' of course means towards the end of the eighth century, by which time the consolidation of the Lombard rule had made the capital of the Lombard duke a more important place than the derelict city by the Isonzo. See vol. II p152 (2nd edition) as to the destruction of Aquileia and her resurrection. I now think that the assertion there made, 'from this time Aquileia almost disappears from history,' is too strongly worded.

4 De Rubeis (p194) thinks that the higher title of Patriarch was first given to Metropolitan bishops by Gothic and Vandal kings. There is some doubt as to the exact time when the bishop of Aquileia was first called Patriarch. Possibly he would receive that title from friends and flatterers before it was formally conceded to him by other patriarchs. I am following the example of Paulus, who probably here copies Secundus, in giving it to Paulinus.

5 Muratori, whose guidance I am here following, puts the beginning of the schism under Paulinus at 556. But Paulus tells us expressly that Paulus (as he miscalls Paulinus) governed the Church for twelve years, and Muratori places his death in 579 (Annali d'Italia, III.449).

6 Paulus, H. L. II.10.

7 They are given by Troya (IV.1.10‑20), being copied by him from De Rubeis' Monumenta Ecclesiae Aquilejensis.

8 Gentium.

9 This is, of course Pelagius the Second (579 (?)‑590), successor of Benedict I, and predecessor of Gregory; not Pelagius the First (556‑561), successor of Vigilius, from whom Paulus seceded.

10 The authenticity of this document has been attacked by De Rubeis (pp245‑255) and others (see Troya, IV.1.168‑173). It would require an expert to decide such a question; but I should have thought the document bore the impress of truth, except perhaps for the attribution to Elias of the title of Patriarch by the Pope; and this may well be the work of a late copyist. As Troya points out, Elias does not sign as 'Patriarcha,' but as 'Episcopus.' The most serious objection raised by De Rubeis appears to me to be that connected with the date of the Council (November, 579). The election of Pelagius II has been generally fixed November 30, 578 (so Clinton, Fasti Romani sub anno). But if the Liber Pontificalis according to its latest editor, Duchesne, is to be trusted, the alleged letter from him produced at the synod of Grado on the 3rd of that month cannot be genuine. It does not seem to me, however, that the chronology of the Liber Pontificalis for this period rests on any very certain basis.

11 This and the following letters are given at length by Troya, Nos. xiv and xv, and are by him assigned to the end of 584 or the beginning of 585.

12 'Postea ergo quam Deus omnipotens pro felicitate Christianorum principum per labores atque solicitudinem filii nostri excellent­issimi Smaragdi Exarchi et Chartularii sacri palatii, pacem nobis interim vel quietem donare dignatus est.'

13 'Neque his quae nos vobis scripsimus respondistis, neque ut fraternam decuerat caritatem, fidei nostrae satisfactione suscepta ad unitatem ecclesiae revertendi obedientiam commodastis: postremo nec aliter qui venerunt dirigere pertulistis, ut apertissimam lucidissimamque satisfactionem se paterentur accipere: sed scripto nobis quasi capitulare vel interdictum potius ostenderunt nihil injunctum sibi a vobis aliud asserentes nisi ut vestrae tantummodo essent portatores epistolae.'

14 No. xv in Troya's collection.

15 'Praesentium portatoribus quos fraternitas vestra direxit et ex codicibus et ex antiquis polyptychis scrinii sanctae sedis apostolicae relecta sunt aliqua': an interesting passage, as giving us a glimpse of the record office of the Roman see in the sixth century.

16 See vol. III p153.º

17 'Tandem dilectionis vestrae literas suscepi, quae non rationis causas quaererent sed deliberatâ apud vos judicii sententiâ imperarent' (Pelagii Epistola, ap. Troya, IV.1.xviii).

18 'Hic Pelagius Heliae Aquileiensi episcopo, nolenti tria capitula Calchidonensis (sic) synodi suspicere, Epistulam satis utilem misit. Quam beatus Gregorius, cum esset adhuc diaconus, conscripsit' (H. L. III.20). Of course Paulus is not correct in calling the treatises in dispute 'three chapters of the synod of Chalcedon.'

19 This letter is partially copied by Troya (No. xviii), and in full by Baronius.

20 Jeremiah li.9.

21 Ibid. vi.29. In the A. V. 'The founder melteth in vain, for the work are not plucked away.'

22 Jeremiah viii.22. The resina of the Vulgar is 'balm' in the A. V.

23 'In ornamentum domus marmora dissipata conjungit.' Is it the process of inlaying mosaics to which Gregory here alludes?

24 Genesis xxxi.47.

25 Greg. Ep. II.51.

26 This is the date given by De Rubeis. Muratori says 587. The Chronicon Gradense gives Severus twenty‑one years of rule.

27 'Per semet ipsum e basilicâ extrahens, Ravennam cum injuriâ duxit' (Paulus, H. L. III.26). All our information as to this and the immediately following events comes from Paulus, and is doubtless derived from Secundus, himself a Schismatic or a favourer of Schismatics. The reader will see how this change of authority at once gives a different colour to the narrative.

28 An island off the coast of Istria. Another reading has Ceneda under the Dolomite mountains, in the Trevisan.

29 'Smaracdus patricius a daemonio non injuste correptus successorem Romanum patricium accipiens Constantino­polim remeavit' (Paulus, H. L. III.16).

30 A theory was started by some scholars of last century that the place where the Council was held was not Maranum, but Marianum, and that this is represented by Maniago on the Zelline, about twenty-five miles south of Ampezzo. This theory is vigorously combated by De Rubeis (pp262‑270), who contends for the site given in the text. It should be mentioned that he does not take so strong a view of the Lombard patronage of the Schismatics as that which I have put forward. According to him it was from Maurice rather than from Agilulf that the Istrians derived the assurance of support which made them so contumacious towards the Pope.

31 Paulus says, in some ambiguous fashion, 'Cum patriarcha autem communicaverunt isti episcopi'; and then follow the names of the bishops of Trieste, Parenzo, Cissa (all these were of Istria, and had shared in the Patriarch's defection), Aemona (Laybach), and Celeia (Cilli). Whether he means us to understand that these bishops communicated with Severus before or after his recantation at the Council of Marano, that is, whether they were condemners or defenders of the Three Chapters, is not very clear. One inference it seems safe to draw from his separate mention of them, that they were not present at the Council of Marano.

32 'Libellum erroris sui.'

33 Or 'conciliabulum', as orthodox writers call it.

34 So Weise argues (p93). Troya places it in 590.

35 Greg. Ep. I.16.

36 Troya, No. LVIII. It is interesting to see that it purports to proceed from the bishops 'Venetiarum seu [= et] Secundae Rhaetiae.'

37 Troya, lix.

38 Excubitor.

39 'Istriae seu Venetiarum.'

40 'Iterum ad pristinum ordinem religantur.' No doubt this means the old political order.

41 Greg Ep. II.51 (49).

42 Greg. Ep. V.51 (56). In the letter of Patriarch John to Agilulf, which will shortly be mentioned, Petrus and Providentius are claimed as belonging to the party of the Schismatics till compelled by violence to communicate with the orthodox bishop Candidianus.

43 Greg. Ep. VI.39 (36). There seems to be no sufficient MS. authority for fixing the allowance at 8 solidi (£4 16s.).

44 Ep. IX.93 (160).

45 Diehl (p48, n. 5) fails to convince me that Ad Novas is the Istrian Città Nuova, formerly Neapolis,º and that Insula Capritana is represented by a neighbouring village bearing the significant name of Isola. A place named Capris, between Tergeste and Piranum, mentioned by the geographer of Ravenna (IV.31, V.14), certainly helps his theory; but after all it is chiefly founded on the fact that Gregory places the 'insula Capreae' in the province of Istria, and the whole correspondence shows with what vagueness the term Istria was used, almost as equivalent to 'Venetia et Istria.'

46 Ep. IX.9, 10, 94, 95, 96, 97. These letters, according to Ewald's arrangement, were all written about May 599.

47 I purposely borrow a word from the vocabulary of the French Revolution.

48 I cannot doubt that Greg. Ep. IX.154ºrelates to the same bishop as the one mentioned in IX.10, though this is not expressly stated.

Thayer's Note: The second citation appears to have got as garbled as the first, which I managed to fix; the letter Hodgkin cites does not mention a bishop nor anyone named John. I've been unable to find the correct passage.

49 Ep. IX.9.

50 'Quia quamvis jussio ipsa subrepta est.'

51 Justin is possibly a former praetor of Sicily, with whom Gregory had had some disputes, and whom he accused of taking bribes (Greg. Ep. II.33 (30) and III.38 (37).)

52 Greg. Ep. XII.33.

53 Greg. Ep. XIII.33.

54 Ep. IV.39.º

55 Strange as it may appear, this seems to be the only meaning that we can put upon the words of Gregory (Ep. IV.2), 'Dicentes vos in damnationem trium capitulorum consensisse atque cautionem fecisse.' Apparently Laurentius, predecessor of Constantius, had given a similar bond to the see of Rome: 'quamvis decessor fraternitatis tuae Laurentius districtissimam cautionem sedi apostolicae emiserit, in qua viri nobilissimi et legitimo numero subscripserunt. Inter quos ego quoque tunc urbanam praeturam [prefecturam] gerens pariter subscripsi.' As was before remarked (p288) this is the only allusion that we have in Gregory's correspondence to high official position which he once held in Rome.

56 Ep. IV.4.

57 Ep. IV.39.º

58 Paulus, H. L. IV.5.

59 Ep. XIV.12.

60 'Sequenti quoque mense Martio' (Waitz gives the marginal date 612) 'defunctus est apud Tridentum Secundus servus Christi, de quo saepe jam diximus, qui usque ad sua tempora succinctam de Langobardorum gestis composuit historiolam' (H. L. IV.40).

61 We shall see hereafter that the unfortunate Adalwald eventually became insane.

62 Paulus makes Candidianus the immediate successor of Severus, but Dandolo, who had old documents before him, interposes a three years' Patriarchate of Marcianus. See Gfrörer, p22.

63 See Troya, IV.1.560‑562.

64 'Candidianus inutilis.'

65 'In Gradensi Castro.'

66 Chronicon Gradense, Dandolo apud Muratori, XII.13.

67 Commemorated in a very rude contemporary poem, 'Carmen de Synodo Ticinensi,' which is printed by Waitz at the end of his edition of Paulus Diaconus.

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