The papacy played a leading role in policing the divide between heresies and orthodoxies. Papers in this session explore the common themes and key contrasts in the contributions and reactions of the papacy to various debat.
Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, organised a universal canonical collection, employing the most developed juridical methodology, around the end of the 5th and the very beginning of the 6th century. The enlarged Collectio Dionysiana‘s text was sent to Charlemagne in 774 by Pope Adrian I (772-795), as a basic and official ecclesiastical collection for the whole Frankish Empire. However, the Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana was not in fact promulgated by the pope, but became a unique basis of the councils which were held in Frankish territory. This canon law collection contains conciliar canons and decretal letters in chronological order. Among them we can find the basic ecclesiastical disciplines concerning bishops. There are canons about the personal qualities of bishop, episcopal consecration, the duties and rights of bishops, and the removal and transfer of bishops.
One of our best sources for early 6th-century Rome is a collection of papal biographies known as the Liber Pontificalis (LP), compiled in the wake of the Acacian and Laurentian schisms. However, it contains a number of odd references to a supposed persecution of Manichean heretics by three late 5th- and early 6th-century popes. Is it possible that the papacy was leading an all-out attack on a heretical group which, if we believe our external sources, had ceased to exist almost half a century earlier while at the same time completely ignoring the Arian heretics who were actually controlling Italy? It is my contention that these references, rather than representing factual accounts of historical events, are perhaps better understood as a late-classical version of ‘political spin’ in the ongoing conflicts between the Greek East and Latin West. By associating Rome with the fight against heresy, the author of the LP was able to depict the papacy as the consummate defender of Chalcedonian orthodoxy, in contrast to the Emperor who was all too willing to compromise the faith for his own political gain.
During the pontificate of Innocent III (1198-1216), the Roman church gained control of the whole of South-Eastern Europe, be it by force, like the conquest of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, or by diplomacy, as in the case of the kingdoms of Serbia and Bulgaria, which agreed voluntarily to put themselves under the protection of the Holy See for strictly political reasons. In the same period, the occurrence of a supposed heresy in Bosnia, denounced by the Hungarian ecclesiastical authorities, came to the attention of Innocent; subsequent missions to the area by his legate, Giovanni da Casemari, revealed an appalling situation in which the most basic precepts of the Church were ignored, although there are no reports of any doctrinal deviation, especially of the dualism which alleged by some. Faced by the concrete possibility of an interdict or of military action sanctioned by Rome, the Bosnian ban Kulin and his clergy, in 1203, promised obedience to the pontiff and placed the country under his protection. Innocent seemed satisfied with this outcome since, regarding heresy, he had much more important matters to attend to in the West. However, during the pontificate of his successor, Honorius III, the question again became a matter of concern, as it seemed evident that the Bosnian clergy and lay authorities were not collaborating, leading to a resurgence of heresy. In the last years of his pontificate Honorius organized a small-scale crusade, and again the Bosnian ban, Kulin’s successor Ninoslav, promised obedience and active involvement in the anti-heretical struggle. Yet, just like his predecessor, he did not comply with the pontifical instructions, that de facto consigned Bosnia to the authority of the Hungarian crown and clergy. During the pontificate of Gregory IX, who wished definitively to resolve the question, Bosnia was the theatre of a crusade of the Hungarian army and clergy from 1234 to 1238, which finally brought the region under the control of the Church, although only for a very short time. The Mongol invasion of East-Central Europe compelled the Hungarian contingent to leave Bosnia, thus ending the military presence in the region and allowing the local authorities to regain their autonomy.
The main points that will be discussed are:
The political situation of Bosnia before and during the time of Innocent III: formally dependent from Hungary, but actually enjoying such a degree of autonomy that it was, in practice, independent. The first pontifical missions to Bosnia between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, put into the context of the contemporary Catholic expansion in the nearby countries of Serbia and Bulgaria, and the loss of power and prestige of the Byzantine Empire, soon to be destroyed during the Fourth Crusade.
The accusations against the Bosnian clergy and lay authorities, suspected of heresy and of protecting heretics; these accusations were considered true by the pope after the Hungarian denunciations and the inspections of the pontifical legate, Giovanni de Casemari. The Bosnian defence: not heresy but ignorance, not wickedness but simplicity. The charter signed in 1203 by the ban (governor/king) Kulin and the Bosnian ecclesiastical authorities, asking forgiveness and promising obedience to Rome. The subsequent resurgence of ‘heresy’ and the countermeasures taken by Honorius III (deposition of the Bosnian bishop, replaced by a Dominican abbot, and the reorganization of the Bosnian diocese under the authority of the Hungarian clergy and of Coloman, son of Andrew of Hungary and governor of Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia.
The crusade preached against Bosnia during the pontificate of Gregory IX, in the years 1235-1238, and the partial pacification of the area under Hungarian control; the planned crusade against Bulgaria, caused by its friendly relations with the Empire of Nicaea and with its patriarch. The Mongol invasion of east-Central Europe in 1241; Hungary was no longer able to enforce pontifical authority in Bosnia, which regained complete autonomy. What was the heresy spread in Bosnia? Was it a resurgence of Bogomilism, the Balkan dualist heresy of the 11th century, as some scholars say, used by the local authorities in a kind of nationalistic way to gain autonomy from the foreign ecclesiastical and lay powers? Or was it just lack of conformity to canonical issues caused by the ignorance and backwardness of the clergy? And if this was the case, could the accusations of the Hungarian authorities be just a political tool to enforce Hungarian control on the region, using the ecclesiastical sanctions as the most powerful and indisputable weapon for a parallel expansion in Serbia and in the area of Belgrade and Branitchevo, under Bulgarian control but claimed by Hungary?