Theory and Reality in the Ninth Century
This chapter examines the fate of both the theory and reality of pentarchy from the 640s until the 880s, a period that links the Arab conquests of the Near East with the Eighth Ecumenical Council. The pentarchy formalized the existence of a hierarchy of five major sees—Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem—which assumed collective responsibility for the united direction of the entire church within the confines of the Byzantine Empire. The chapter considers the replacement of the rule of five by a distinct authority vested in the bishop of Rome by virtue of his Petrine tradition. It looks at two great intellectuals of the ninth century, Pope Nicholas I and Patriarch Photios, who developed quite different theories of ecclesiastical authority. It shows how the conversion of the Bulgars triggered a new conflict between the Christians of East and West that inevitably brought the pentarchy into question. It also discusses East–West divisions over the filioque.
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