Oxford history of the christian church


Patriarchal administration: the major officials of the Great Church



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6. Patriarchal administration: the major officials of the Great Church.


The patriarchal palace was conveniently connected with the south gallery of Hagia Sophia. Its extensive rooms provided departmental offices, a library, rooms for tribunals and the standing synod, chapels and reception rooms in which the Emperor and his entourage could be offered refreshments after the liturgy or where visitors could be given audience. The work of the Patriarch had a double aspect. His responsibilities included the Great Church and his own immediate sphere as well as supervision of the metropolitans throughout the patriarchate. But this authority was further extended to include certain Orthodox Churches which in the course of time came within his jurisdiction, as Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, though in practice the extent of his authority might vary with changing political circumstances, particularly in the Balkan princi palities. The content of his normal activities covered a wide range. Of prime importance was the maintenance of orthodoxy and the stamping out of heresy. Then there were pastoral and disciplinary duties and liturgical problems, the administration of extensive church property and of stauropegial foundations (held directly from him), as well as considerable jurisdictional activities for he was the final court of appeal in ecclesiastical cases. He had too a special relationship with the Emperor and his family, officiating at coronations and on such occasions as marriages and baptisms, this latter being particularly important with its traditional cutting of a lock of the infant's hair which was regarded as authentication of his legitimacy. The Patriarch might also be drawn into the government of the day, as was the case with the tenth-century Nicholas Mysticus, or, though less officially, the early fourteenth-century Athanasius I or later John Calecas.

All this demanded delegation and an extensive secretariat with numerous departments, some of which concentrated on patriarchal business while others dealt more specifically with the administration of the Great Church. In these patriarchal and cathedral activities there was both overlap and development. In a period lasting from the seventh to the fifteenth century change was inevitable, particularly with the added disruption caused by the Fourth Crusade and the Latin settlements and the temporary exile of the Byzantine Emperors to their restricted Nicaean kingdom. It is only gradually that the history of the major ecclesiastical officials and the administration over so long and so stormy a period is being reconstructed as the sparse and often intractable evidence is brought to light. Even so there still remain wide gaps. 30

The archons, or officials of the Great Church, were usually in orders and their administrative post had nothing to do with the conferment of their order. Symeon of Thessalonica called their office an 'external service' (ɛ″ξw διakòvι′a). The leading administrators in Hagia Sophia were normally deacons. They were the first five (called a pentas) and in importance they were rather like the cardinal deacons of Rome. The provinces and dioceses also had their officers appointed by the metropolitan or suffragan bishop. In Constantinople appointment would be by the Patriarch or very exceptionally by the Emperor as was the case for a time with the oeconomus who might then be a layman. In Hagia Sophia the five, at times increased to six, leading officials divided between them the main administrative work. They are mentioned in an imperial prostagma of 1094 as the exokatakoiloi (a name the meaning of which seems uncertain 30a ). Four of them had the title 'megas', and in the later middle ages other titles were somewhat arbitrarily given them without any but an honorary significance.

The great oeconomus had financial responsibilities and was concerned with certain, but not all, of the temporalities of the Great Church. Inevitably he had contacts with the officials of the imperial fisc. Though he did not deal with metropolitanates or stauropegial monasteries, his activities were far-reaching since the Great Church owned property throughout the Empire and from 1204 onwards financial claims and counter-claims must have been particularly complex, quite apart from the break caused by the Nicaean exile. Church property passed from Greek to Latin hands and back again with bewildering frequency. In the post-1261 period the authority of the oeconomus seemed to wane. Patriarchs made increasing use in financial matters of special officials, exarchs, thus bypassing the oeconomus, a move perhaps designed to favour the patriarchal privy purse in times of increasing financial stringency, and it no doubt also reflected the perennial struggle between bishop and cathedral over the division of temporalities. By the fourteenth century the name of the oeconomus of the Great Church had ceased to appear on official lists. For instance it is not found in the rulings of Patriarch Matthew drawn up at the end of the fourteenth century.

The great sceuophylax was a high-ranking sacristan who supervised liturgical matters, the sacred vessels, vestments, ceremonies, and chant, and accordingly his activities were concerned with the Great Church, a heavy responsibility in view of the elaborate ritual and established protocol which embellished the daily services and the festivals of the Christian year.

The great sacellarius, who appeared at the time of Patriarch Nicholas III, was charged with monastic supervision in Constantinople and in Pera across the Golden Horn. Outside this the Patriarch appointed special exarchs to visit diocesan monasteries.

The sacelliou, not known before the eleventh century, supervised parish churches and also those in private hands to see that there was a proper liturgical standard and due maintenance of the fabric.

The protecdicus, an official found as early as the mid-fifth century, had by the late twelfth century become the 'sixth finger' in the hand directing patriarchal administration and was by then one of the major cathedral officials with his own tribunal, responsible for ecclesiastical discipline and charged with the registration of marriage certificates, and with such problems as the right of sanctuary or the instruction of repentant apostates or foreign converts.

The great chartophylax and the patriarchal chancery. The great chartophylax became the most important of the leading archons of Hagia Sophia. Originally in the seventh century he had been an archivist and secretary, and was then not so important as the archdeacon or syncellus or protonotary. As the authority of the archdeacon and the syncellus (originally the close associate of the bishop or patriarch) decreased, so the importance of the chartophylax grew from the ninth century onwards until he became the leading figure in the patriarchal chancery and in the absence of the Patriarch was chairman of the standing synod. But he was not a judge (whatever Balsamon might say). In many respects he acted for the Patriarch and he controlled a large secretariat. Under his supervision the secretaries drafted patriarchal letters with all their careful variation of style, dignified and rhetorical in tone to other patriarchs, simpler and more popular in foreign letters, to Russia for example, with the opening prooimion always stressing the divine source of the patriarchal authority and its link with the apostolic succession. 31 If the patriarch was not present the chartophylax presided over elections in the standing synod, though without the right to vote or debate. His secretaries drew up the minutes and registered the acta. But he did not have overall control of patriarchal administration and there were other patriarchal secretariats. Balsamon himself had been chartophylax before he was elected Patriarch of Antioch and he attributed to the office powers which it did not in fact possess, including the right to judge in ecclesiastical cases. This was not so and would have infringed the rights of the court of the ecdiceion. But Balsamon was notorious among his contemporaries for his sense of his own importance and he liked to claim that he was 'the patriarchal cardinal', 'the mouth and hand' of the Patriarch.

The survival of the fourteenth-century register of the patriarchal chancery affords insight into Byzantine diplomatic and illustrates the range of chancery work during the years 1315-1404 (Patriarchs John XIII-Matthew). 32 It also shows a certain disarray in the somewhat haphazard ordering of the entries, perhaps reflecting the particularly troubled conditions of the post-1204 period. 33 The register lists both official and private acts varying in importance. The formal prostagma of Andronicus III setting up the metropolitanate of Serres (1329) contrasts with the simple promise of the priest ecclesiarch of the Great Church not to beat his wife. Some patriarchal acts, as distinct from those made in the synod, can scarcely be classed as diplomatic, such as the homily on the conversion of the professional magician Amarantina. There are instructions to specially appointed patriarchal eparchs who were ousting the sacellarius in monastic supervision. They had to deal with patriarchal rights over metropolitans and monasteries and churches. Some entries record administrative or judicial decisions taken jointly by Patriarch and synod.





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