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The state church of the Roman Empire refers to the Nicene church associated with
Roman emperors The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becoming "emperor" in English, it ...
after the
Edict of Thessalonica The Edict of Thessalonica (also known as ''Cunctos populos''), issued on 27 February AD 380 by three reigning Roman Emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting i ...
in 380 by
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. He is best known for making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and great ...
, which recognized
Nicene Christianity Nicene Christianity is a set of Christian doctrinal traditions which reflect the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and amended at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381. History By the 2nd and 3 ...
as the
Roman Empire
Roman Empire
's
state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion, religious body or creed officially endorsed by the Sovereign state, state. A state with an official religion, while not secular state, secular, is not neces ...
. Most historians refer to the Nicene church associated with emperors in a variety of ways: as the catholic church, the orthodox church, the imperial church, the imperial Roman church, or the Byzantine church although some of those terms are also used for wider communions extending outside the Roman Empire. The
Eastern Orthodox Church The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a Communion ( ...
,
Oriental Orthodoxy The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Eastern Christian churches adhering to Miaphysite Christology, with a total of approximately 60 million members worldwide. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are broadly part of the trinitarian ...
, and the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's old ...

Catholic Church
all claim to stand in continuity with the Nicene church to which Theodosius granted recognition but do not consider it to be a creation of the Roman Empire. Earlier in the 4th century, following the
Diocletianic Persecution The Diocletianic or Great Persecution was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In 303, the Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ...
of 303–313 and the
Donatist Image:Augustine and donatists.jpg, alt=Painting of Augustine of Hippo arguing with a man before an audience, Charles-André van Loo's 18th-century ''Augustine arguing with Donatists'' Donatism was a Christian sect leading to schism in the Catholic ...
controversy that arose in consequence,
Constantine the Great Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was a Roman emperor from 306 to 337. Born in Naissus, Dacia Mediterranea (now Niš, Serbia), he was the son of Constantius Chlor ...
had convened councils of bishops to define the
orthodoxy Orthodoxy (from Greek: ) is adherence to correct or accepted creed A creed, also known as a confession, symbol, or statement of faith, is a statement of the shared beliefs of (an often religious) community in the form of a fixed formula summa ...
of the Christian faith and to expand on earlier Christian councils. A series of
ecumenical councils An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical {{Short pages monitor In 311, with the Edict of Serdica the dying Emperor Galerius ended the
Diocletianic Persecution The Diocletianic or Great Persecution was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In 303, the Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ...
that he is reputed to have instigated, and in 313, Emperor Constantine I, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting to Christians and others "the right of open and free observance of their worship". Constantine began to utilize Christian symbols such as the Chi Rho early in his reign but still encouraged traditional Roman religious practices including Sol invictus#Constantine, sun worship. In 330, Constantine established the city of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The city would gradually come to be seen as the intellectual and cultural center of the Christian world. Over the course of the Christianity in the 4th century, 4th century the Christian body became consumed by debates surrounding
orthodoxy Orthodoxy (from Greek: ) is adherence to correct or accepted creed A creed, also known as a confession, symbol, or statement of faith, is a statement of the shared beliefs of (an often religious) community in the form of a fixed formula summa ...
, i.e. which religious doctrines are the correct ones. In the early 4th century, a group in North Africa during Antiquity, North Africa, later called Donatism, Donatists, who believed in a very rigid interpretation of Christianity that excluded many who had abandoned the faith during the Diocletianic Persecution, created a crisis in the western empire. A synod was held in Synod of Rome (313), Rome in 313, followed by another in Synod of Arles (314), Arles in 314. These synods ruled that the Donatist faith was heresy and, when the Donatists refused to recant, Constantine launched the first campaign of persecution by Christians against Christians, and began imperial involvement in Christian theology. However, during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, the Donatists, who formed the majority party in the Roman province of Africa for 30 years, were given official approval.


Debates within Christianity

Christian scholars and populace within the empire were increasingly embroiled in debates regarding christology (i.e., regarding the nature of the Christ). Opinions ranged from belief that Jesus was Jewish Christianity, entirely human to belief that he was Docetism, entirely divine. The most persistent debate was that between the Homoousios, homoousian view (the Father and the Son are of one substance), defined at the First Council of Nicaea, Council at Nicaea in 325 and later championed by Athanasius of Alexandria, and the Arianism, Arian view (the Father and the Son are similar, but the Father is greater than the Son). Emperors thereby became ever more involved with the increasingly divided early Church. Constantine backed the Nicene Creed of Nicaea, but was baptized on his deathbed by the Eusebius of Nicomedia, a bishop with Arian sympathies. His successor Constantius II supported Arian positions: under his rule, the Council of Constantinople (360), Council of Constantinople in 360 supported the Arian view. After the interlude of Emperor Julian the Apostate, Julian, who wanted to return to the pagan Roman/Greek religion, the west stuck to the Nicene Creed, while Arianism or Semi-Arianism was dominant in the east (under Emperor Valens), until Emperor Theodosius I called the First Council of Constantinople, Council of Constantinople in 381, which reasserted the Nicene view and rejected the Arian view. This council further refined the definition of orthodoxy, issuing the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.On 27 February of the previous year, Theodosius I established, with the
Edict of Thessalonica The Edict of Thessalonica (also known as ''Cunctos populos''), issued on 27 February AD 380 by three reigning Roman Emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting i ...
, the Christianity of the First Council of Nicaea as the official
state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion, religious body or creed officially endorsed by the Sovereign state, state. A state with an official religion, while not secular state, secular, is not neces ...
, reserving for its followers the title of Catholic Christians and declaring that those who did not follow the religion taught by Pope Damasus I of Rome and Pope Peter II of Alexandria, Pope Peter of Alexandria were to be called heresy, heretics: In 391, Theodosius closed all the "pagan" (non-Christian and non-Jewish) temples and formally forbade pagan worship.


Late antiquity

At the end of the 4th century the Roman Empire had effectively split into two parts although their economies and the imperial-recognized church were still strongly tied. The two halves of the empire had always had cultural differences, exemplified in particular by the widespread use of the Greek language in the Eastern Empire and its more limited use in the West (Greek, as well as Latin, was used in the West, but Latin was the spoken vernacular). By the time Christianity became the state religion of the empire at the end of the 4th century, scholars in the West had largely abandoned Greek in favor of Latin. Even the Church in Rome, where Greek continued to be used in the liturgy longer than in the provinces, abandoned Greek. Jerome's Vulgate had begun to replace the Vetus Latina, older Latin translations of the Bible. The Christianity in the 5th century, 5th century would see the further fracturing of Christendom. Emperor Theodosius II, Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, the First Council of Ephesus, first of which condemned the teachings of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, while the second supported the teachings of Eutyches against Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople.Price (2005), p. 52 Nestorius taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary (mother of Jesus), Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. Eutyches taught on the contrary that there was in Christ only a single nature, different from that of human beings in general. The First Council of Ephesus rejected Nestorius' view, causing churches centered around the School of Edessa, a city at the edge of the empire, to break with the imperial church (see Nestorian schism). Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church (the future Church of the East). The Second Council of Ephesus upheld the view of Eutyches, but was overturned two years later by the Council of Chalcedon, called by Emperor Marcian. Rejection of the Council of Chalcedon led to the exodus from the state church of the majority of Christians in Egypt and many in the Levant, who preferred miaphysitism, Miaphysite theology. Thus, within a century of the link established by Theodosius between the emperor and the church in his empire, it suffered a significant diminishment. Those who upheld the Council of Chalcedon became known in Syriac language, Syriac as Melkites, the ''imperial'' group, followers of the ''emperor'' (in Syriac, ''malka''). This schism resulted in an independent communion of churches, including the Egyptian, Syrian, Ethiopian and Armenian churches, that is today known as
Oriental Orthodoxy The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Eastern Christian churches adhering to Miaphysite Christology, with a total of approximately 60 million members worldwide. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are broadly part of the trinitarian ...
. In spite of these schisms, however, the Chalcedonian Nicene church still represented the majority of Christians within the by now already diminished Roman Empire.


End of the Western Roman Empire

In the 5th century, the Western Empire rapidly Decline of the Roman Empire, decayed and by the end of the century was no more. Within a few decades, Germanic tribes, particularly the Goths and Vandals, conquered the western provinces. Rome was sacked in Sack of Rome (410), 410 and Sack of Rome (455), 455, and was to be sacked again in the following century in Sack of Rome (546), 546. By 476 the Germanic chieftain Odoacer had conquered Italy and deposed the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, though he nominally submitted to the authority of Constantinople. The Arian Germanic tribes established their own systems of churches and bishops in the western provinces but were generally tolerant of the population who chose to remain in communion with the imperial church. In 533 Roman Emperor Justinian I, Justinian in Constantinople launched a military campaign to reclaim the western provinces from the Arian Germans, starting with North Africa and proceeding to Italy. His success in recapturing much of the western Mediterranean was temporary. The empire soon lost most of these gains, but held Rome, as part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, until 751. Justinian definitively established Caesaropapism,Ayer (1913), p. 538 believing "he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church".Ayer (1913), p. 553 According to the entry in Liddell & Scott, the term ''orthodoxy, orthodox'' first occurs in the Codex Justinianus: "We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed." By the end of the 6th century the church within the Empire had become firmly tied with the imperial government, while in the west Christianity was mostly subject to the laws and customs of nations that owed no allegiance to the emperor.


Patriarchates in the Empire

Emperor Justinian I assigned to five sees, those of Holy See, Rome, Patriarchate of Constantinople, Constantinople, Patriarchate of Alexandria, Alexandria, Patriarchate of Antioch, Antioch and Jerusalem in Christianity, Jerusalem, a superior ecclesial authority that covered the whole of his empire. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 reaffirmed that the bishop of a provincial capital, the metropolitan bishop, had a certain authority over the bishops of the province. But it also recognized the existing supra-metropolitan authority of the sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, and granted special recognition to Jerusalem. Constantinople was added at the First Council of Constantinople (381) and given authority initially only over Thrace. By a canon of contested validity, the Council of Chalcedon (451) placed Asia (Roman province), Asia and Diocese of Pontus, Pontus, which together made up Anatolia, under Constantinople, although their autonomy had been recognized at the council of 381. Rome never recognized this pentarchy of five sees as constituting the leadership of the church. It maintained that, in accordance with the First Council of Nicaea, only the three "Saint Peter, Petrine" sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch had a real patriarchal function. The canons of the Quinisext Council of 692, which gave ecclesiastical sanction to Justinian's decree, were also never fully accepted by the Western Church. Early Muslim conquests of the territories of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, most of whose Christians were in any case lost to the orthodox church since the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon, left in effect only two patriarchates, those of Rome and Constantinople. In 732, Emperor Leo the Isaurian, Leo III's Byzantine iconoclasm, iconoclast policies were resisted by Pope Gregory III. The Emperor reacted by transferring to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Constantinople in 740 the territories in Greece, Illyria, Sicily and Calabria that had been under Rome (see map), leaving the bishop of Rome with only a minute part of the lands over which the empire still had control. The Patriarch of Constantinople had already adopted the title of "ecumenical patriarch", indicating what he saw as his position in the ''oikoumene'', the Christian world ideally headed by the emperor and the patriarch of the emperor's capital. Also under the influence of the Caesaropapism, imperial model of governance of the state church, in which "the emperor becomes the actual executive organ of the universal Church", the pentarchy model of governance of the state church regressed to a monarchy of the Patriarch of Constantinople.


Rise of Islam

The Rashidun conquests began to expand the sway of Islam beyond Arabia in the 7th century, first Byzantine–Arab Wars, clashing with the Roman Empire in 634. That empire and the Sassanid Persian Empire were at that time crippled by Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628, decades of war between them. By the late 8th century the Umayyad caliphate had conquered all of Muslim conquest of Persia, Persia and much of the Byzantine Empire, Byzantine territory including Roman Egypt, Egypt, Roman Palestine, Palestine, and Roman Syria, Syria. Suddenly much of the Christian world was under Muslim rule. Over the coming centuries the successive Muslim states became some of the most powerful in the Mediterranean world. Though the Byzantine church claimed religious authority over Christians in Egypt and the Levant, in reality the majority of Christians in these regions were by then miaphysites and members of other sects. The new Muslim rulers, in contrast, offered religious tolerance to Christians of all sects. Additionally subjects of the Muslim Empire could be accepted as Muslims simply by declaring a belief in a single deity and reverence for Muhammad (see shahada). As a result, the peoples of Egypt, Palestine and Syria largely accepted their new rulers and many declared themselves Muslims within a few generations. Muslim incursions later found success in parts of Europe, particularly Spain (see Al-Andalus).


Expansion of Christianity in Europe

During the Christianity in the 9th century, 9th century, the Emperor in Constantinople encouraged missionary expeditions to nearby nations including the Muslim caliphate, and the Turkic peoples, Turkic Khazars. In 862 he sent Saints Cyril and Methodius to Slavic peoples, Slavic Great Moravia. By then most of the Slavic population of First Bulgarian Empire, Bulgaria was Christian and Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria, Boris I himself was baptized in 864. Serbia was accounted Christian by about 870. In early 867 Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople wrote that Christianity was accepted by the Kievan Rus', which however was definitively Christianized only at the close of the following century. Of these, the Church in Great Moravia chose immediately to link with Rome, not Constantinople: the missionaries sent there sided with the Pope during the Photian Schism (863–867). After decisive victories over the Byzantines at Battle of Acheloos, Acheloos and Battle of Katasyrtai, Katasyrtai, Bulgaria declared its church autocephalous and elevated it to the rank of patriarchate, an autonomy recognized in 927 by Constantinople, but abolished by Emperor Basil II Bulgaroktonos (the Bulgar-Slayer) after his 1018 conquest of Bulgaria. In Serbia, which became an independent kingdom in the early 13th century, Stephen Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia, Stephen Uroš IV Dušan, after conquering a large part of Byzantine territory in Europe and assuming the title of Tsar, raised the Serbian archbishop to the rank of patriarch in 1346, a rank maintained until after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Turks. No Byzantine emperor ever ruled Russian Christendom. Expansion of the church in western and northern Europe began much earlier, with the conversion of the Irish in the Christianity in the 5th century, 5th century, the Franks at the end of the same century, the Arian Visigoths in Spain soon afterwards, and the English at the end of the Christianity in the 6th century, 6th century. By Christianity in the 9th century, the time the Byzantine missions to central and eastern Europe began, Christian western Europe, in spite of losing most of Spain to Islam, encompassed Germany and part of Scandinavia, and, apart from the south of Italy, was independent of the Byzantine Empire and had been almost entirely so for centuries. This situation fostered the idea of a universal church linked to no one particular state. Long before the Byzantine Empire came to an end, Christianization of Poland, Poland also, History of Christianity in Hungary, Hungary and other central European peoples were part of a church that in no way saw itself as the empire's church and that, with the East-West Schism, had even ceased to be in communion with it.


East–West Schism (1054)

With the defeat and death in 751 of the last Exarchate of Ravenna, Exarch of Ravenna and the end of the Exarchate, Rome ceased to be part of the Byzantine Empire. Forced to seek protection elsewhere, the popes turned to the Franks and, with the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800, transferred their political allegiance to a rival Roman emperor. Disputes between the see of Rome, which claimed authority over all other sees, and that of Constantinople, which was now without rival in the empire, culminated perhaps inevitably in mutual excommunications in 1054. Communion with Constantinople was broken off by European Christians with the exception of those ruled by the empire (including the Bulgarians and Serbs) and of the fledgling Kievan Rus', Kievan or Russian Church, then a metropolitan bishop, metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople. This church Jonah of Moscow, became independent only in 1448, just five years before the extinction of the empire, after which the Ottoman Turks, Turkish authorities included all their Orthodox Christian subjects of whatever ethnicity in a single ''Millet (Ottoman Empire)#Orthodox Christians, millet'' headed by the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Westerners who set up Crusader states in Greece and the Middle East appointed Latin Church, Latin (Western) patriarchs and other hierarchs, thus giving concrete reality and permanence to the schism. Efforts were made in 1274 (Second Council of Lyon) and 1439 (Council of Florence) to restore communion between East and West, but the agreements reached by the participating eastern delegations and by the emperor were rejected by the vast majority of Byzantine Christians. In the East, the idea that the Byzantine emperor was the head of Christians everywhere persisted among churchmen as long as the empire existed, even when its actual territory was reduced to very little. In 1393, only 60 years before the fall of the capital, Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople wrote to Basil I of Muscovy defending the liturgical commemoration in Russian churches of the Byzantine emperor on the grounds that he was "emperor (βασιλεύς) and autokrator of the Romans, that is ''of all Christians''". According to Patriarch Antony, "it is not possible among Christians to have a Church and not to have an emperor. For the empire and the Church have great unity and commonality, and it is not possible to separate them", and "the holy emperor is not like the rulers and governors of other regions".


Legacy

Following the schism between the Eastern and Western churches, various emperors sought at times but without success to reunite Christendom, invoking the notion of Christian unity between East and West in an attempt to obtain assistance from the pope and Western Europe against the Muslims who were gradually conquering the empire's territory. But the period of the Western Crusades against the Muslims had passed before even the first of the two reunion councils was held. Even when persecuted by the emperor, the Eastern Church, George Pachymeres said, "counted the days until they should be rid not of their emperor (for they could no more live without an emperor than a body without a heart), but of their current misfortunes". The church had come to merge psychologically in the minds of the Eastern bishops with the empire to such an extent that they had difficulty in thinking of Christianity without an emperor. In Western Europe, on the other hand, the idea of a universal church linked to the Emperor of Constantinople was replaced by that in which the Roman see was supreme. "Membership in a universal church replaced citizenship in a universal empire. Across Europe, from Italy to Ireland, a new society centered on Christianity was forming." The Catholic Church, Western Church came to emphasize the term ''Catholic'' in its identity, an assertion of universality, while the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Church came to emphasize the term ''Orthodox'' in its identity, an assertion of holding to the true teachings of Jesus. Both churches claim to be the unique continuation of the previously united state-sanctioned Chalcedonian and Nicene Church, whose core doctrinal formulations have been retained also by many of the churches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism.


See also

* Arian controversy * Caesaropapism * Chalcedonian Christianity * Christian state * Early Christianity * History of the Eastern Orthodox Church * History of Oriental Orthodoxy * History of the Roman Catholic Church, History of Roman Catholicism


References


Literature

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