Post-classical history

Constantinople, Latin Patriarchate of

The Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople represented the church organization and hierarchy of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204-1261). As such, it was a direct result of the deviation of the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). The Convention of March 1204 agreed to by the crusader leaders and the Venetians before the capture of Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey) mandated that the patriarch should be elected from whichever of the two parties did not provide the new emperor. The election of Count Baldwin IX of Flanders as emperor therefore meant that the patriarch would be a Venetian. The patriarchate ended de facto with the recapture of Constantinople by the Byzantines of the empire of Nicaea in 1261.

The Patriarchs, 1204-1261

The Venetian committee appointed to elect the patriarch chose Thomas Morosini (1204-1211), then only a subdean. He arrived in Constantinople in midsummer 1205 and, according to what was expected from him, tried to keep the church firmly under Venetian control, thereby coming into direct conflict with Pope Innocent III, Emperor Henry (Baldwin’s brother and successor), and the French clergy of Constantinople. Morosini’s problems were mostly related to the stipulations of the Convention of March 1204, which were unacceptable to the pope, as well as to the question of church property and related financial matters, and the appointment of the clergy. Dialogues with the Greek Orthodox Church were not successful, and Morosini’s difficult personality did not help a harmonious development of the patriarchate. He died in Thessalonica in June or July 1211.

After a vacancy in 1211-1215, Gervase, archbishop of Herakleia, was invested by Innocent III as the second patriarch (1215-1219); his period of office was dominated by the problem of church property. He was succeeded by Matthew, bishop of Jesolo (Equilio), a Venetian, who was appointed by the pope in January 1221. The papal legate John Colonna took charge during the vacancy (9 November 1219-January 1221). Matthew, like Morosini and Gervase, behaved like a power-hungry despot, without much concern for his subordinates, the empire, or the papacy. He was mainly interested in (mis)using church funds and extracting as much money as possible from his flock. Like his predecessors, he supported Venetian interests and discriminated against the French clergy. Pope Honorius III (1216-1227) balanced the power struggle first by strengthening the position of his legate, and then by supporting the patriarch. Matthew died at the end of 1226.

Simon, archbishop of Tyre (probably not a Venetian citizen), was appointed patriarch to succeed Matthew, perhaps by Honorius III (who died on 18 March 1227) or more probably in 1229 by Pope Gregory IX. The new patriarch’s reign was marked by a rather harmonious relationship with Pope Gregory IX, who appointed Simon as his legate. Simon died in early 1233. More than one year later, the pope appointed Nicholas of Santo Arquato, bishop of Spoleto, a noble from Piacenza, to the patriarchal see (1234), and some time later (on 12 August 1234), Nicholas also became legate. As was the case with Simon, relations between pope and patriarch remained good. Relatively little is known of Nicholas’s activity except that he was often away from the capital. Pope Gregory IX tried to secure financial support for the patriarch from the Morea and the islands, as the patriarchate had by now become as poor as the empire itself. Gregory’s successor, Innocent IV, reconfirmed Nicholas as papal legate on 10 July 1243 and again on 28 May 1249. Nicholas was present at the First Council of Lyons (1245), supporting the pope in his condemnation of Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. Nicholas died in Milan between July and September 1251.

After a vacancy of more than one year, the pope appointed the Venetian Pantaleone Giustiniani in February 1253. The pope’s choice reflected his belief that only Venice would be able to save the Latin Empire. Giustiniani was also appointed legate, and the next pope, Alexander IV, confirmed this appointment. The pope’s most important problem now regarding the patriarchate was how to alleviate its misery and penury. In July 1261, when the Greeks recaptured Constantinople, the last Latin patriarch fled to the West, where he died in 1286.

Relations with Papacy and Latin Empire

The Convention of March 1204 had stipulated that “Frankish” (i.e., non-Venetian) clergy were to be appointed in the churches that would be assigned by the Partitio Romaniae to the Franks, and Venetians in the churches assigned to Venice. The clergy were to receive from the treasures of these churches enough to have a respectable life, and the churches themselves were to have enough for their maintenance. The rest of the ecclesiastical treasures were to be divided among the emperor, the crusaders, and the Venetians. The pope rejected these terms. A further problem was created by the Convention’s provision that the patriarchate was to belong to the group from which the emperor was not elected (i.e., the Venetians), and that the Venetian chapter of St. Sophia would thus elect the patriarch. Pope Innocent III had accepted Morosini’s election as a fait accompli, but successive popes did not accept the uncanonical arrangements of the Convention. Yet Innocent III and his successors had to balance the idea of a strong Latin patriarchate in Constantinople with the desire for subjugation of, or at least reconciliation with, the Greek Orthodox Church.

The question of church property was steadily resolved by a series of agreements with the Latin emperors. On 17 March 1206, a convention between Benedict of St. Suzanne (the papal legate) and Thomas Morosini on the one hand, and Emperor Henry and the barons on the other hand, assigned one-fifteenth of all property outside Constantinople (with some exemptions) to the church along with one-fifteenth of tolls and custom duties. Moreover, all monasteries were to be free and not subjected to lay hands. The same agreement also regulated the payment of tithes to the church, while the clergy and the church properties were not to be subjected to lay jurisdiction. However, the Venetians were not part of the deal, and Morosini obstructed the application of the pact, whose regulations were not fully applied until 1210.

Another settlement was reached regarding church property and the status of the clergy in the kingdom of Thessa- lonica and the other Frankish states in Greece. This settlement was formally accepted at a council at Ravennika on 2 May 1210, and a pact was signed between the patriarch and clergy on the one hand, and the barons (with Emperor Henry’s approval) on the other hand. This pact also contained the introduction of the payment of the acrostichon (Byzantine property tax) not only by the Greek, but also by the Latin, clergy. The agreement was confirmed in January 1219 by Pope Honorius III.

In the Latin Empire itself, however, practically all church property was still in lay hands around 1218, and further negotiations took place at a meeting in Rodosto among Patriarch Gervase, the papal legate John Colonna, the Venetian podestà (plenipotentiary representative of the Doge) in Constantinople, and the regent, Conon of Béthune, and his barons. A final settlement was reached on 15 December 1219 and confirmed in June 1221 by Emperor Robert and in March 1222 by Honorius III. It was also accepted by the barons of the kingdom of Thessalonica. This agreement finally regulated the questions of property, asylum, lay and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the acrostichon. Church property was restored in a realistic way, in order not to ruin the empire and its knights. The Venetians, who were not part of the pact, were finally obliged to adhere to the agreement in 1223.

Successive popes also tackled the problem of Venetian domination of the patriarchate, created by the Pact of March 1204. They mainly used their legates, especially Peter Capuano, Benedict of St. Suzanne, and John Colonna, to counter the power of the patriarch, until finally, under Patriarch Simon, the Venetian grip on the patriarchate was broken, and as a symbol of the new relationship, Patriarchs Simon and Nicholas were elevated to the position of papal legate. The pro-Venetian policy of the first patriarchs had also entailed discrimination against the French clergy. This was countered by the papacy through its legates and the right of the popes to appoint themselves canons and praepositi (provosts) in Constantinople. In one instance the right of appointing praepositi was even given to Emperor Robert by Honorius III, but later was taken away by Gregory IX. The popes succeeded in breaking the Venetian monopoly on the church, but later realizing that only Venice was able to sustain the empire, they reversed this policy during the last period of the empire’s existence.

The story of how the patriarchs were elected illustrates this struggle. Thomas Morosini was directly elected by the Venetians and had sworn to serve Venetian interests, but Innocent III obliged him to retract his oath on 15 December 1208. After Morosini’s death in 1211, the Venetian chapter of St. Sophia was determined to elect a Venetian. The chapter’s election of its dean, Philip, was declared illegal by Innocent III. A formal election by the chapter and the (French) praepositi took place on 24 December 1211. The result was a deadlock: the French elected Gervase, who was nevertheless a Venetian citizen, while the Venetians chose Ludovico, plebanus (canon in charge of the parish ministry in a cathedral church) of the church of St. Paul in Venice. The pope unsuccessfully tried to solve the issue through his representative, Maximus, and his legate, Pelagius of Albano. The matter was only settled in 1215 when Gervase was directly appointed by Innocent III himself. After Gervase’s death (8 November 1219), the patriarchal election by the chapter and praepositi produced a new stalemate, and the pope himself appointed Matthew of Jesolo. From then on, papal appointment became the norm.

Several Greek notitiae (episcopal lists) and papal correspondence have allowed modern scholars (especially Robert L. Wolff) to reconstruct the list of archbishoprics and bishoprics of the Latin Empire. The system in the Latin Church was quite different from the previous Byzantine system, mainly as to the number and status of suffragan bishoprics as well as of archbishoprics. According to the 1228 edition of the so-called Provinciale Romanum, a catalogue of archbishoprics subject to Rome, the following Latin archbishoprics existed in Romania (as the Latin Empire and other Frankish states were referred to in the West): Constantinople (with six suffragan bishoprics), Herakleia (with seven suffragan bishoprics), Parium or Parion (with three suffragan bishoprics), Kyzikos (with eight suffragan bishoprics), Vrysis (with three suffragan bishoprics), Madytos, Adrianople, Trajanopolis (with one suffragan bishopric), Makrê (with one suffragan bishopric), Mosynopolis (with one suffragan bishopric), Philippoi (with three suffragan bishoprics), Serres, Thessalonica (with two suffragan bishoprics), Larissa (with six suffragan bishoprics), Neopatras (with one suffragan bishopric), Thebes (with two suffragan bishoprics), Athens (with eight suffragan bishoprics), Corinth (with one suffragan bishopric), Patras (with seven suffragan bishoprics), Corfu, Durazzo, Crete (with five suffragan bishoprics), and Rhodes.

Relations with the Greek Orthodox Church

The creation of a Latin Empire and patriarchate presented Pope Innocent III with the opportunity of reuniting the Greek “schismatics” with the Latin Church. He therefore ordered that Greek bishops were to retain their sees, but give obedience to the Latin patriarch and acknowledge papal supremacy. The pope instructed Morosini to this effect and laid down these conditions for the retention of Greek bishops. Ecclesiastical dialogues between the Latin and Greek churches, sponsored by Emperor Henry, took place in August-October 1206 but did not bring results. The Greek clergy was not keen to cooperate with the Latin conquerors, especially after the election of a Greek patriarch, Michael Autoreianos, in Nicaea in 1208. Even those bishops who at first had given allegiance to Morosini refused to be anointed or to anoint according to the Latin rite. Consequently, the pope took a harder line and eventually decided to organize the church according to new, “Latin” lines. This led to tensions with Emperor Henry and Queen Maria of Thessalonica, who continued a policy of reconciliation. Thus in 1214, when the arrogant papal legate Pelagius had closed the Greek churches of Constantinople, Henry received a Greek delegation and reopened them.

Similar problems were experienced with the Greek monasteries, while Latin orders, including military orders such as the Templars, were introduced in Romania. It seems safe to say, however, that the lower levels of the clergy largely remained Greek. Tensions between the two clergies and hardships imposed on Greek clergymen and Greek monasteries by lay barons and knights were common, and are well documented in the surviving documents. The Latin patriarchate thus contributed little to peace and integration within the empire; indeed, it provoked more tensions and stiffened the resistance of the indigenous population.

Latin Patriarchs of Constantinople

Thomas Morosini


Gervase of Herakleia


Matthew of Jesolo


Simon of Tyre


Nicholas of Santo Arquato


Pantaleone Giustiniani


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