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An Eastern Papal States

Should this be more developed?

  • Yes

    Votes: 9 90.0%
  • No

    Votes: 1 10.0%

  • Total voters
    10

CountZingo

Active member
What if Constantinople and its surrounding area came under the control of the Eastern Orthodox Church, just as Rome had come under control of the Catholic Church? Here's a potential scenario, that I may want to flesh out in the future.

1. The Crusades are successful. Maybe the Crusaders just hold onto their gains from the First Crusade, or they manage to take it back during the Third Crusade. This has a two-fold effect that will help us - no fourth Crusade (i.e. no sack of Constantinople), and the weakening of the presence of Islam in the Mediterranean. However, this also means that the Holy Land is now controlled by Catholics.

2. The planned Crusader-Mongol alliance is carried out. These two groups manage to weaken Islam enough so that it isn't a threat to the Byzantines.

3. With Catholics on both the south and west, and the Mongols in the east and north, the Orthodox Church is threatened. Over the 14th and 15th century, the religion slowly centralizes. Meanwhile, however, the Byzantine Empire is in a slow decline - the Catholic European powers prefer to conduct trade with the Mongols and Asia in general through the Crusader states, meaning that the once-rich Empire is in decline. Constantinople begins to lose its importance as a trading city, and it becomes more and more known as the center of the Orthodox faith. Meanwhile, as the Mongol Empire collapses, some Mongols conduct raids on the Byzantine Empire. Although the Byzantines defeat any unorganized raids, this further weakens them (parallels with Rome at this point).

4. The Renaissance and the Age of Exploration by Western Europe still happen (perhaps a half century or so later than in OTL), and they mark the true beginning of the end of the Byzantine Empire, as Imperial authorities refuse to adapt to the changing times, and the state is finally beginning to collapse around its own weight. The various states in the Empire begin to slowly break away from the Byzantine Empire in the mid-to-late 16th century. Finally, the Byzantine Empire formally collapses around 1600. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the only order left in Constantinople itself, and it quickly takes control over the city.

So that's how the general timeline goes. However, there are some questions that pop up.

- Does the Reformation still happen ITTL? If so, is it more or less successful than OTL?

- How do the surviving Crusader States and Byzantium effect the Renaissance? I can personally see a few Shakespeare plays set in the eastern Mediterranean.

- As Western Europe takes the path to modernization, what will the Byzantine remnant states do? What will the Crusader Kingdoms do?

- How does Islam evolve ITTL? What will be the fate of Iberia, North Africa, and Egypt? Will Islam attempt to spread eastwards even more with the collapse of the Mongol Empire, or will it try to reassert its influence in what remains of the Byzantine Empire? How will this work out?

As always, questions, comments, concerns, and suggestions are welcome.
 

Artaxerxes

Let them eat sprinkles
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What about the orthodox church managing to work with the Latin empire after the fourth crusade, or building itself up t bolster weaker regimes after it.

I'm not sure the orthodox church can really get much control while a secular emperor/king exists, after all the papacy only really became a player after the collapse of central authority and the instability of successor kings.
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
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There's going to be a fascinating theological debate on this, particularly considering that having reclaimed Antioch and Jerusalem the logical next step will be reclaiming Egypt, or at least Alexandria, for the Catholic church. That's obviously going to be a more challenging step, but it'll be a long goal for certain. Alexandria is slightly funny in the respect that a conquest of Egypt leads to the awkward situation of the Coptic Church being viewed as heretical, but also undeniably the one which most of the Christians would have been following. Expect problems here.

Essentially Rome viewed itself, as the see of St. Peter, as primus inter pares among the ancient Patriarchates, while Constantinople viewed itself as the New Rome and so at least equal to Rome proper even if you disregarded the concept of a Pentarchy of equal states. Here the Latin Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem are in place, but there's probably a parallel Orthodox structure continuing semi-clandestinely. Historically the viewpoint post-schism increasingly switched from 'we are all equals' to 'obviously we're the Imperial Capital and so at the top' in Constantinople. Where this started to cause problems is that because Constantinople's authority derived directly from 'the Emperor made this his capital' rather than Rome's authority of 'this is where Christ's anointed successor made his see (please ignore Alexandria and Antioch)' any state claiming the secular authority of Rome could see their bishops make the same claim to authority.

What this translates to, is that a weakening of the Byzantine Empire, especially if it comes at the same time as Rome is becoming more dominant in the East and rival empires such as Bulgaria or the Mongols converting, also weakens the authority of the Orthodox church in Constantinople. Historically the utter failure of the Crusades masked this- conversions directed from Constantinople recognised her authority rather than Rome's because the Byzantine Empire's own decline still meant that it was a choice of them or the HRE as a font of authority and the Byzantines were less inclined to require formal subjugation than the HRE. But pushing towards a complete collapse of the Byzantine Empire strips this authority- if Constantinople is the premier see because it's the seat of the Emperor, what makes it special if there is no Emperor? Historically after 1453 the answer became 'we've got no other choice' in the Ottoman Empire (and they claimed to be the new Rome and still used the old palaces anyway) or 'well that just means the man on top is our guy for the Bulgarians, Serbs, Russians etc.

I think what it comes down to is that the Patriarch of Constantinople theologically requires there to be some sort of secular 'absolute authority' in the city for his own claims of supremacy to work. So an Orthodox 'Papal States', if it's not a monastery settlement like Mount Athos, is going to be one where the church rules but has a puppet Emperor to claim her authority from.

The alternative is that an alternative to St. Bonaventure heads over to a fundamentally weakened Empire, perhaps one in total collapse, and makes a similar offer to that made historically- the west will give military support in return for the recognition that Rome is on top. Less the immediate existential threat of Islam that might well be rejected, but it might be possible if there's a threat of Turkic raiders from across the north of the Black Sea.

What that opens up is the prospect of a final collapse of the Empire and the Patriarchate coming to power as a Prince-Patriarchate, effectively absorbed into the Church structure of the West but with the possibility that a later Patriarch would use their secular authority to try and claim more spiritual authority.

Which admittedly is not what you were asking for but it's sort of heading in that direction.
 

CountZingo

Active member
There's going to be a fascinating theological debate on this, particularly considering that having reclaimed Antioch and Jerusalem the logical next step will be reclaiming Egypt, or at least Alexandria, for the Catholic church. That's obviously going to be a more challenging step, but it'll be a long goal for certain. Alexandria is slightly funny in the respect that a conquest of Egypt leads to the awkward situation of the Coptic Church being viewed as heretical, but also undeniably the one which most of the Christians would have been following. Expect problems here.

Essentially Rome viewed itself, as the see of St. Peter, as primus inter pares among the ancient Patriarchates, while Constantinople viewed itself as the New Rome and so at least equal to Rome proper even if you disregarded the concept of a Pentarchy of equal states. Here the Latin Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem are in place, but there's probably a parallel Orthodox structure continuing semi-clandestinely. Historically the viewpoint post-schism increasingly switched from 'we are all equals' to 'obviously we're the Imperial Capital and so at the top' in Constantinople. Where this started to cause problems is that because Constantinople's authority derived directly from 'the Emperor made this his capital' rather than Rome's authority of 'this is where Christ's anointed successor made his see (please ignore Alexandria and Antioch)' any state claiming the secular authority of Rome could see their bishops make the same claim to authority.

What this translates to, is that a weakening of the Byzantine Empire, especially if it comes at the same time as Rome is becoming more dominant in the East and rival empires such as Bulgaria or the Mongols converting, also weakens the authority of the Orthodox church in Constantinople. Historically the utter failure of the Crusades masked this- conversions directed from Constantinople recognised her authority rather than Rome's because the Byzantine Empire's own decline still meant that it was a choice of them or the HRE as a font of authority and the Byzantines were less inclined to require formal subjugation than the HRE. But pushing towards a complete collapse of the Byzantine Empire strips this authority- if Constantinople is the premier see because it's the seat of the Emperor, what makes it special if there is no Emperor? Historically after 1453 the answer became 'we've got no other choice' in the Ottoman Empire (and they claimed to be the new Rome and still used the old palaces anyway) or 'well that just means the man on top is our guy for the Bulgarians, Serbs, Russians etc.

I think what it comes down to is that the Patriarch of Constantinople theologically requires there to be some sort of secular 'absolute authority' in the city for his own claims of supremacy to work. So an Orthodox 'Papal States', if it's not a monastery settlement like Mount Athos, is going to be one where the church rules but has a puppet Emperor to claim her authority from.

The alternative is that an alternative to St. Bonaventure heads over to a fundamentally weakened Empire, perhaps one in total collapse, and makes a similar offer to that made historically- the west will give military support in return for the recognition that Rome is on top. Less the immediate existential threat of Islam that might well be rejected, but it might be possible if there's a threat of Turkic raiders from across the north of the Black Sea.

What that opens up is the prospect of a final collapse of the Empire and the Patriarchate coming to power as a Prince-Patriarchate, effectively absorbed into the Church structure of the West but with the possibility that a later Patriarch would use their secular authority to try and claim more spiritual authority.

Which admittedly is not what you were asking for but it's sort of heading in that direction.
The I hadn't considered having a puppet emperor in place, but that seems like a good idea that I'll try to implement. It would provide for an interesting dynamic between a puppet emperor and a ruling patriarch, and it would help explain how the Church was able to take over. Thanks!

The Mongols taking up any flavour of Christianity is also much neglected.
Especially in the early Mongolian Empire, there was near-complete religious tolerance, so I don't think there would be any conversion in that period.

That being said, depending on how things go, one of the khanates might convert to Christianity (either Orthodox or Catholic). Of course, they're just as likely to take up Islam.
 

Artaxerxes

Let them eat sprinkles
Location
#VALUE!
The I hadn't considered having a puppet emperor in place, but that seems like a good idea that I'll try to implement. It would provide for an interesting dynamic between a puppet emperor and a ruling patriarch, and it would help explain how the Church was able to take over. Thanks!
What about full Shogunate? Secular warlord, religiously appointed Imperial figurehead from the Imperial family.

Especially in the early Mongolian Empire, there was near-complete religious tolerance, so I don't think there would be any conversion in that period.

That being said, depending on how things go, one of the khanates might convert to Christianity (either Orthodox or Catholic). Of course, they're just as likely to take up Islam.
It was religiously tolerant but a lot of the early mongols did take up other religions, with one of the more popular take ups being Nestorianism which is just hilarious if it ends up with 3 branches of Christianity, none of which can stand the other ones existence.

Meanwhile Islam just watches shouting "notice me senpai!"
 
if Constantinople is the premier see because it's the seat of the Emperor, what makes it special if there is no Emperor?
Possession of the city, on the same logic that you had with the Roman episcopacy. Even in the late empire, the theoretical basis of an emperor's right to rule was ultimately rooted in the SPQR. Constantinople's senate had been raised from a provincial body to an imperial body for precisely this reason. Just as the bishop of Rome was chosen by the Roman nobility and was - still is, actually - acclaimed by the Roman crowd, and so could fancy himself an imperial continuation, I would assume that the Patriarch would take more or less the same view. It's Rome and Constantinople's statuses as Rome and the New Rome - as imperial cities - that is important in their religious claims, not the continued existence of the monarchy.
 
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The chances of the headquarters of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople recognising Papal authority as more than the honorary senior among the original Patriarchates (ie Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria) are low unless as in OTL the regime in Constantinople was desperate for a reconciliation with Rome for political or military reasons. In OTL, the 'Reunion' and Byzantine recognition of Papal seniority was due to the militarily hard-pressed restored post-1261 regime in Constantinople under Michael VIII needing to stop the Papacy ordering a 'Crusade' to restore the Latin Empire. Michael forced the Church to accept it, but had to sack or imprison large numbers of Church personnel (led by the Patriarch) who were then regarded by many of his subjects as 'martyrs' and were sheltered from him by rival Orthodox regimes , eg Epirus Bulgaria and Thessaly; once the threat of invasion was over (with the defeat of Charles of Anjou's French/ Sicilian invasion in 1281) and Michael was dead the Church Reunion was cancelled by his son Andronicus II to popular rejoicing.In any case, the Papacy had backed the invasion despite the Reunion (alleging that M was not sincere in it) so this seemed to be not playing fair. The second Reunion in 1439 was forced by John VIII when the Empire was much weaker and in dire straits against the Ottomans and so needing Western goodwill and help - and it was again controversial though it did lead to the 'rescue' Crusade of Varna , which was defeated in 1444. Once Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 the Union was cancelled again by the successor Church in the ex-capital that now had to work with and for the Sultan, and even before this the number of elite or ordinary Byzantines prepared to back it was low.

If the Empire is not invaded in 1203 and split up by force in 1204 (with a Papal-appointed and pro-Catholic church regime installed in Constantinople until 1261 and the holy relics carted off to the West as loot) there is less bitterness against the West thereafter, though the latter was already unpopular after earlier Crusades and commercial competition from Italy. The first massacre of Westerners in the capital was back in 1182 after the fall of the regency for Manuel I's half-Western son Alexius II, led by his Crusader (Antioch) princess mother Maria. But there are still major problems for any East/ West religious agreement. The Eastern Church based in Constantinople had long regarded the Catholics as 'heretics' on account of 'illegal' words being added on to the original universal Church Creed formulated at Nicaea in 325
in the C9th without ratification by a new universal Council - the 'filioque', ie 'and the Son' ('the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son', originally it was just 'from the Father') , plus new post-C5th Western Church practices. These caused the formal 'Break' between the Western and Eastern Churches in 1054, when the Popes and Patriarchs of C stopped recognising each other's legality and abused each other's Church practices as heresy. The Reunions of 1274 and 1439 cancelled this out but the East only accepted it out of dire necessity and against majority resistance and a a still powerful Empire not needing help was very unlikely to concede any of this voluntarily. An autocratic secular ruler might order it, and face a backlash later; a politically dominant Church would be even more unlikely to concede that the Papacy should have its way. To the Orthodox, the Pope might be 'first among equals' as the heir of senior Apostle St Peter but his universalist claims were inaccurate - and so was the notion of one man not a universal Church Council determining doctrine which was the Papal position after the early-mid C15th 'conciliarist' movement in the Catholic Church stalled. The Eastern position was that all five patriarchs should work together as in the C4th and C5th not one , in Rome, issue orders.

Assuming that Manuel I manages to defeat the Saljuks heavily in 1176 at Myriocephalon not lose his army and he breaks up the Saljuk state at Konya ( or his less Western-orientated father John II survives longer than 1143 or passes his throne to his elder sons Alexius or Andronicus, who died in 1142 in OTL), then the Empire restores a degree of control over inland and E Asia Minor.But it is still short of settlers to repopulate the region , which is unsuitable for intensive and corn-growing smaller farms in any case, has limited possibilities for settling farmers and paying for an army or for trade, and is now full of mobile Turcoman tribes with their own herds who can evade his armies and raid Byzantine settlements. Restoring the full Byz control pre-1071 is unlikely, though an atomised Turkish military presence and forcing the nomads to become loyal Byz vassals and help its armies is possible if Manuel wins in 1176, survives for another decade or so with some resettlement work, and passes his throne to a stable succession not weak rulers and civil war.

That way the Empire can keep a 'corridor' open across SE Asia Minor to Antioch and help the latter hold out against the Moslems, or even - under half-Western Alexius II if he is a good general ? - help the Third Crusade retake Jerusalem in 1191-2 and keep up good Byz/ Crusader relations. Or maybe if King Amalric of Jerusalem does not die aged c38 in 1174, his son Baldwin IV is a vigorous ruler not a leper, and his sister Sibylla then does not marry Guy of Lusignan there is no battle of Hattin. The Kingdom does not fall in 1187 and holds out against Saladin with better leadership, Byz help under Alexius II, and sustained Western support; the Ayyubid state breaks up into two separate sultanates of Egypt and Damascus under Saladin's sons; and the Kingdom survives under an adequate line of male kings until the Mongols attack the Moslems in the rear in the 1230s-40s. Somehow the Byzantines avoid being attacked and defeated by the Mongols in a struggle for Asia Minor (the Mongols defeated the Saljuks in 1243 in OTL), perhaps due to Mongol diversion to Syria and a pan-Christian alliance;then the Byz and Crusaders acquire Mongol siege technology and gunpowder missiles to outweigh their lower manpower.

That way I can see the Crusader states surviving for centuries more; and I have considered the possibilities of Byz survival in detail in my book 'Rampart of Christendom' which I am planning to bring out with Sealion some time soon. The question of a Byz state led by the Church not the Emperor is more unusual and the last Imperial dynasty (Palailogos, 1261 to 1453) was a huge family full of heirs so unlikely
to die out , but here I will note that:
1. The Orthodox Church was on doctrinal grounds hostile to the pre-Christian 'pagan' classics as heretical and written by 'devil-worshippers' (eg when Byz scholars like Michael Psellus and John Italus revived classical learning in the mid-late C11th) and so was likely to have been dubious about too much interest in Plato or Aristotle in a surviving Byz state, unless reined in by the secular powers. A 'Renaissance' in Byzantium would be problematic; in OTL the main Byz enthusiast for Plato in the C15th, philosopher Plethon, had to settle in Mistra (next door to Sparta in the Peloponnesse)well away from the Church in Constantinople. The Empire's mindset looked back, but to the Christian Empire post-312, not to the pagan 'Hellenes'.

2. A Byzantine imperial state could have broken up into mutually hostile minor principalities in Greece and the capital if Asia Minor and Thrace were lost to the Turks and the Serbs had overrun the main Balkan region to Thessalonica - this nearly happened in OTL 1340s-50s. Then if a more commercially successful Constantinople survived as a city-state backed by the Italian republics and their navies, the Church might take over if the Imperial line died out. But it is 'long shot'!
 

Roger II

Well-known member
What would it take for the pope to not have a universalist stance or recognize explicitly at an earlier date the legitimacy of local and regional customs?
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
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What would it take for the pope to not have a universalist stance or recognize explicitly at an earlier date the legitimacy of local and regional customs?
The survival of the Western Empire.

Or at least the survival of a strong Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy that means that the Pope's never able to get secular power.
 
Going down the potential road of a Byzantine 'Shogunate' has one advantage in its plausibility, as the Emperor was built up as a semi-divine figure and the centre of religious ceremonial from the time of Constantine 'the Great', and starred in a round of public and private religious rituals like the Japanese emperors. He was seen as the 'Thirteenth Apostle', based on the role that Constantine had claimed for himself at the Church Council of Nicaea in 325 in chairing the talks and pushing the delegates to reach the theological conclusions that he wanted; and the Church in Constantinople was seen by the Imperial and Patriarchal authorities as the leader of the hierarchy of provincial churches in the (Eastern Roman) Empire. Arguably the fact that Constantinople was the newest of the five patriarchates , the only one not allegedly founded by an apostle, and in a city that had only been a minor Greek colony at the time of Christ led to a determined propaganda 'push' in the C4th to C7th to build up its prestige and authority, hence the Imperial 'cult'. (The Church in Alexandria, older and more forcefully led, had taken the lead in Church Council decisions on what was and was not heresy in the early C5th; the Church in C was keen to see this stopped.) The Empire also acquired lots of holy relics to be paraded for pilgrims and Justinian built the new Hagia Sophia to outdo Soloman's Temple in Jerusalem- keeping up with the rivals and dazzling the public with bling?


The Emperor stayed in his capital and did not lead in war from 395 until the invasions crises of the years after 610; even a strong ruler like Justinian or Maurice left frontier campaigning to his generals. Arguably this provided the opportunity for the tradition to become long-term and the Emperor to become a figurehead and ceremonial Head of State, had this been kept up and a stable political/ military leadership emerged at a lower tier of government as a sort of 'regent' - for example, if the mental weakness and incapacity of Justin II in 574-8, requiring a deputy ('Caesar') to govern for him, had lasted for decades rather than J dying aged 58 and his deputy Tiberius becoming Emperor. Alternatively, if Heraclius had been the military strongman for a legitimate Emperor (a surviving and restored but weak Theodosius, son of Maurice?) after 610 not the actual Emperor, or if after 641 a series of strong 'Caesars' had governed for his
heirs.
In the Western Empire, as of 395-408 the regent for weak and incompetent under-age emperor Honorius, who acceded aged ten (and strongman as 'Magister Utriusque Militiae', ie commander-in-chief once he was adult) was Stilicho - who could have lasted for Honorius' lifetime and then passed on rule b y a commander-in-chief to a competent heir as military chief, probably Constantius (died 421 as emperor in OTL) as regent for C's son and Honorius' nephew, Valentinian III. Then C could be succeeded as military chief by Aetius, and the tradition of a weak figurehead ruler and a strong military man as the real regime leader continued for decades - with the figurehead Emperor in Rome or Ravenna (cf the Japanese Emperor in Kyoto) and the regent in Milan (cf Shogun in Edo). If the Empire survived this could become fixed, at least until the Imperial line produced a dynamic strongman who swept the military leadership away. WE could have a western emperor as a 'roi faineant' at Ravenna for centuries, with the real ruler further N to keep an eye on Francia and Germany.


In the East, the tradition of personal leadership of the army as well as administration resumed under Heraclius and figurehead emperors were only occasional thereafter - and if there was a strongman or regent he usually took the title of co-emperor, eg Romanus Lecapenus under Constantine VII or Nicephorus Phocas and John Tzimisces under the young Basil II. Even in the late Empire,the weaker Paleologus emperors who could have been sidelined or helped by more capable lower-class 'strongmen' were offset by more capable ones, eg Andronicus II by A III ,John V by John VI and Manuel II. The weaker emperors who were being sidelined and were not much good at politics or war, eg John V, had a tendency to fight back and try to remove their regents - and John arguably caused disaster by starting a civil war to remove his father-in'law John VI just as the Ottomans took Gallipoli and entered Europe in 1354. But given the weakness of the regime in the capital and strength of its semi-autonomous provincial deputies (mostly run by Imperial relatives in c.1354-1453 this could have stabilised as such had the Ottomans been kept or driven out of Europe - by the 1396 Crusade or a massive civil war after Timur wrecked their army in 1402.

Then we would see an honorary Emperor in the capital with little power, still claiming to be Roman Emperor and head of the civilised world but at the mercy of provincial warlords - the principalities/Despotates of Mistra, Epirus, Thessalonica, and Selymbria plus Bulgaria and Serbia? He would thus use the patriarchate as a political weapon to try to enforce more respect and obedience. But if this situation becomes stable into the C16th and C17th, what happens when Russia arrives on the scene in the Black Sea after overunning the Crimea and building a fleet? I can see the Czars trying to turn the 'Holy City' of Orthodoxy into a puppet-state, as with Bulgaria in 1878 in OTL, to get to the Mediterranean and the British and French trying to stop this by intrigue. Cue a 'Great Game' thriller situation in Constantinople in the Victorian era?
 
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