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Walter Berschin  

From the Middle of the Eleven Century to the Latin Conquest of Constantinople

From: Greek Letters and the Latin Middle Ages.
From Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa.
Translated by Jerold C. Frakes.
Revised and expanded edition.
The Catholic University of America Press,  http://cuapress.cua.edu/


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1.The Schism of 1054 

. . . regni uestri partes etsi oppugnari, nunquam amen expugnari (sc. deus] permisit, sed in uos magni illius Romani imperii gloriam nomenque transfudit. Voluit, ut sicut potestas sic et uocabulum ad uos transmigraret, ac religione mutata, imperio translato, sicut a pagano Romulo Roma dicebatur, sic a Christiano reparatore Constantino uestra urbs Constantinopolis uocaretur. Nanc ut dixi uelut metam intransmeabilem, uelut inuictum obicem, uelut praefixum quem nunquam liceat transgredi terminum, omnia prouidens supernus oculus paganis regibus, barbaris gentibus posuit, quo oriens terreatur, boreas subdatur, occidens defendatur.

[... even if [God] allows some of your realm to be attacked, he has never suftered it to be conquered; but he transferred the glory and name of this great Roman Empire to you. He wished that just as the power migrated over to you, so should the name as well; and since the religion had been changed and the power transferred, so also, just as Rome had been named after the pagan Romulus, so your city of Constantinople was named after the Christίan renovator Constantine. The all-seeing celestial eye has imposed, as Ι said, something like an impassable boundary, an unbreachable barrier, a fixed line which can never be crossed, on the pagan kings and barbarian nations, whereby the East is feared, the North subdued, the West defended. ]

Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny, epist. 75, to Emperor John ΙΙ Comnenus  

The idea that epochs are not necessarily defined by round numbers, battles, and genealogical accidents certainly holds true in medieval studies for the turning point which took place around the middle of the eleventh century. The Western Imperium, which still had a powerful presence under Henry ΙΙΙ, ran into a serious crisis under his son, Henry IV; the papacy, on the other hand, experienced an unprecedented increase in power. The "Romanesque" style in architecture arose. Book illumination of the old artistic schools degenerated; it arose anew at other places, but never regained the significance it had during the "Ottonian" period. The liturgy no longer took as central and dominant a role as it had formerly; the "politically gifted" forced their way up the ladder: even under Henry ΙΙΙ, an Adalbert of Bremen and an Anno of Cologne obtained their archbishoprics. Ecclesiastical law soon became the discipline in which the cleric who was called to lead distinguished himself no longer could one obtain an episcopal see on the basis of one's artistic ability, no matter what that talent might be. The missionary impulse was exhausted; the new borders established by the orbis latinus in the early eleventh century-in Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland- were scarcely extended any further in the East and North. The "concept of the Crusades" arose,  perhaps the most important phenomenon of this eleventh-century turn of the era.1  

The large, well-organized pilgrimages of the early eleventh century, which took the overland route through Hungary, Bulgaria, and Constantinople to the Mediterranean coast and on to the Holy Land, were precursors of the crusades. The foundation of the Christian Kingdom of Hungary on the model of the Western Imperium (King Stephan Ι, 997-1038) and the firm ties between the Bulgars and the Greek Empire, due to Emperor Basil ΙΙ Bulgaroctonus, had opened this route between the East and the West; the route came to have great historical significance. The most famous of the pilgrimages of the eleventh century was certainly that of the year 1064, which included in its number Archbishops Siegfried of Mainz and Thiemo of Salzburg, and Bishops Gunther of Bamberg and Altmann of Passau; in spite of occasional military entanglements, this pilgrimage was still of an entirely religious character -the "Ezzolied" bears witness to this fact:  

 o crux salvatoris,

du unser segelgerte bist.

disiu werlt elliu ist daz meri,
min trehtin segel unte vere,

diu rehten werch unser segelseil,
di rihtent uns di vart heim.

der segel de ist der ware geloube,
der hilfet uns der wole zuo.

der heilige atem ist der wint,

der vuoret unsih an den rehten sint
himelriche ist unser heimuot,

da sculen wir lenten, gote lob.  

[O cross of the savior, you who are our mast. All this world is the sea, my Lord the sail and ferryman; good works are the lines of our sails, which direct our course home. The sail is the true faith, which helps us toward salvation. The wind is the Holy Spirit, which leads us to the right way. Heaven is our homeland, there we shall land, God be praised.] 

Ezzo, Cantilena de miraculis Christi 33, ed. F. Maurer, Die religiösen Dichtungen des 11. und 12. Jahhunderts (Tübingen 1964), I, 300. The Vita Altmanni reports that Ezzo composed the song on the journey to Jerusalem in 1065 (c. 3, MGH Scriptores, XΙΙ, 230). Bishop Gunther of Bamberg, who commissioned the song, died during the return trip from Constantinople. His body was wrapped in a large Byzantine curtain of silk which depicted the emperor of the East on horseback between two crowned female figures (the "Günthertuch" is now in the Bamberg Domschatz).

Somewhat more than thirty years later, the Latins thought that they had to ensure the safety of the last portion of the route on a permanent basis: the crusader states of Antioch, Edessa, Tripoli, and Jerusalem (1099) were thus founded. The readiness for a solution won by force had obviously increased. 

It was an act of violence in the style of the new era when Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida excommunicated Patriarch Michael Cerullarius of Constantinople by laying a bull on the main altar of Hagia Sophia on 16  July 1054. This reformed monk from Lotharingia had attained great influence at the court of the German Pope Leo ΙX (1048-54); he was named archbishop of Sicily, which was at that time still under Saracen control and offered him no possibility of action. He led the embassy which sealed the schism between the Greek and Latin churches that was to last for centuries.  

Humbert is to be remembered for his work in that typically eleventh-century genre, the polemical treatise. A number of Greco-Latin polemical treatises in Codex Bernensis 292 are associated with him. At the beginning of the codex, in the Latino-Greek polemic, attributable to the cardinal, one finds the translation of a letter from the Bulgarian Archbishop Leo of Achrida to Bishop John of Trani, which takes a position against the Saturday fasts and azyme (unleavened bread) of the Latin Church. Perhaps Humbert magnified the importance of the controversy between East and West with the translation of this letter. Ιn answer to this letter, Humbert wrote a Latin dialogue between a Roman and a Constantinopolitan (from the year 1054), about which it is noted in the Codex Bernensis that the text was translated into Greek by order of Emperor Constantine ΙX Monomachus. Thereafter a treatise against the Latins (in Latin translation) by Nicetas Stethatus appeared and was followed by Humbert's refutation. The dossier was rounded out by the embassy's report and the text of the fateful bull of excommunication.

The best overview of this literary complex is found in the description of the manuscript Bern 292 in H. Hagen, Catalogus Codicrιm Bernensium (Bern 1875) pp. 311-13. H. Hoesch gives a new description and evaluation of the section of the manuscript relevant here, in Die kanonischen Quellen im Werk Humberts von Moyenmoutier (Cologne/Vienna 1970), pp. 11-16. The texts mentioned are edited by C.Will, Acta et scripta quae de controversiis ecclesiae graecae et latinae saec. XΙ compositae extant (Leipzig/Marburg 1861). A. Michel followed up his two-volume work Humbert und Kerullarios (Paderborn 1924 and 1930) with numerous other studies, in which he attributed a whole series of works to Humbert, whom he had raised to the level of a universal thinker and author on the basis of parallel passages in the various works (even the beast epic Ecbasis cuiusdam captivi per tropologiam!). But the indigesta moles of Michel's Humbert studies scarcely concerned the Greco-Latin portion of Humbert's oeuvre.

It is open to question whether the translations of the Greek polemical treatises, which offered the cardinal such a welcomed motivation for his own polemics, were executed by Humbert himself or whether he only had them prepared.2 It is mentioned in the vita of Pope Leo ΙX that the pope "learned to read the Holy Scriptures in Greek"3-could this be an indication of how Humbert also worked with Greek? Ιn Humbert's sphere of ecclesiastico-political activity in southern Italy, interpreters and translators were not hard to find. But Humbert also takes an important place in Greco-Latin literary history as a patron: he was the first to be interested exclusively in the controversy between East and West.

One of the southern Italian opponents to the Roman claims has become more distinct through a study by C. Giannelli: "Reliquie dell'attività 'letteraria' di uno scrittore italo-greco del sec. XΙ med. (Nicola arcivescovo di Reggio Calabria?)," Atti dello VIII Congresso Internazionale di Studi Bizantini (Rome 1953), Ι, 93-119. The concern here is a glossator who writes Greek and Latin; in pl. 10, Giannelli gives samples of the "scrittura latina originalissima" (with scattered Greek letters) from Cod. Vat. gr. 1667. The glossator, who was, according to Giannelli, Archbishop Nicholas of Reggio in Calabria or an Italo-Greek from among his associates, formulated critical opinions about Rome and the Latins.

The Western attitude toward the Greeks changed around the middle of the eleventh century-not everywhere nor simultaneously, but at any rate in the movement of "Reform monasticism," which was dominant for about three generations and through Gregory VII even attained to the papacy. The movement wished forcibly to impose and enforce the Kingdom of God on Earth; and it was to be a Latin Kingdom of God. From this perspective, Greek was of secondary importance. This new situation is clearly illustrated by the actions of a reform monk and enemy of the emperor, who made use of just that encoding and transposing device with which the Ottonian and early Salian emperors represented themselves as learned, universal, and exalted in the "second sacred language"-namely, by writing Latin words in the Greek alphabet-in order to denounce and disparage the emperor. For the year 1085, in which the death of Gregory VII sharpened many pens, Bernold of Constance wrote: "Eo tempore quidam ex Saxonibus a fidelitate sancti Petri apostatantes, et a rege Heremanno turpiter declinantes ├HYNPYKYM regem totiens abiuratum receperunt. ... Episcopi autem Saxoniae et quidam ex principibus cum rege eorum Heremanno in fidelitate sancti Petri permanserunt. ... Qui ... postea a Saxonibus ad proprias sedes revocati sunt, postquam Saxones ├HYNPYKYM inde expulerunt. ..."4 ("At that time some of the Saxons who had fallen away from the faith of St. Peter and had shamefully turned from King Heremannus took Heinricus as their king. ... The bishops of Saxony, however, and some of the princes remained with the king constant in the Christian faith. ... Later they were recalled to their sees by the Saxons, after the Saxons had expelled Heinricus.")  

Ιn Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen Wattenbach and Holtzmann offer the comment on the passage that the use of Greek letters here has an "amusing" ("erheiternd") effect.5 But Bernold's inspired idea demonstrates in all earnest that Ottonian Hellenism could literally be reversed in meaning. Ιn 1085├HYNPYKYC (=Heinricus) did not call to the Swabian Gregorian's mind the successor of Constantine, the ecumenical kingdom, the second "sacred language," but rather perfidy, schism, heresy, apostasy. Bernold had used the Greek alphabet as if it were a death warrant.