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Tenth Century

Cultural Renaissance

In the East, in the tenth cen­tu­ry, there was a gen­er­al con­tin­u­a­tion of the cul­tur­al renais­sance of the ninth cen­tu­ry. The writ­ings of the Church fathers were col­lect­ed. For the first time, Saint Sime­on Metaphrastes cod­i­fied the Church’s Lives of the Saints. There was also a renewed inter­est in pagan antiq­ui­ty led by such men as Michael Psel­lus and John Ita­los whose extreme “hel­l­eniza­tion” led to con­flicts with the Church.

In 960 Saint Athana­sius of Mount Athos (d. 1000) found­ed the Great Lavra and thus opened the way to the devel­op­ment of the great monas­tic repub­lic on the Holy Moun­tain. Saint Sime­on the New The­olo­gian (d.1022) wrote his influ­en­tial trea­tis­es about the indwelling of the Holy Spir­it in Christians.

Church and State

The tenth cen­tu­ry also saw the increas­ing inter­pen­e­tra­tion of eccle­si­as­ti­cal and civ­il aspects of Byzan­tine Soci­ety. The Church received greater con­trol over such mat­ters as mar­riage and the fam­i­ly. For exam­ple, a church bless­ing â?? reg­u­lat­ed by Ortho­dox canon law â?? in time comes to be required if a mar­riage is to be acknowl­edged as valid by the civ­il author­i­ties. At the same time, the Church had to become more con­cerned with estab­lish­ing “min­i­mum require­ments” than it had been ear­li­er. This can be seen in the so-called “fourth mar­riage dispute.”

In 925 the patri­arch of Con­stan­tino­ple Nicholas Mys­tikos refused a fourth mar­riage to the emper­or Leo VI, thus bring­ing into Ortho­dox canon law the strict pro­hi­bi­tion of a fourth mar­riage in the Church to any­one, under any cir­cum­stances. This his­tor­i­cal act is the ori­gin of the gross­ly erro­neous opin­ion that the Ortho­dox Church “allows” three mar­riages to its faithful.

The Churchâ??s the­ol­o­gy of mar­riage upholds per­pet­u­al monogamy as its stan­dard: a union of one man and one woman which is not destroyed even by death. Remar­riage, even of wid­ows and wid­ow­ers, does not con­form to this stan­dard, even though it may be accept­ed as a con­ces­sion to human weakness.

The begin­ning of the tenth cen­tu­ry wit­nessed for the first time the “rite of crown­ing” as a sep­a­rate mar­riage ser­vice apart from the con­text of the divine litur­gy in which mar­riages were pre­vi­ous­ly per­formed as sacra­men­tal actions of the Church. Civ­il law estab­lished the prac­tice of “legal mar­riage” apart from the sacra­men­tal mar­riage of the Church. It also estab­lished a spe­cial sec­u­lar form for the adop­tion of chil­dren which was also pre­vi­ous­ly done only by the action of the Church.


In 918 Tsar Boris the Bul­gar­i­an, who was bap­tized in 869 with Michael III of Con­stan­tino­ple as his god­fa­ther, final­ly turned from Rome to Con­stan­tino­ple, thus estab­lish­ing his church firm­ly with­in the East­ern fam­i­ly of Church­es using the Slav lan­guage and the Byzan­tine litur­gy. Par­tic­u­lar­ly under his son, Tsar Sime­on, Bul­gar­ia was a pow­er­ful state and a Byzan­ti­no-Bul­gar­i­an cul­ture flour­ished. How­ev­er, by the end of the cen­tu­ry, the heresy of the Bogomils — a dual­is­tic, spir­i­tu­al­is­tic sect of the Manichaean tra­di­tion â?? was spreading.

Vladimir of Kiev

In 988 the sub­jects of the Kievan prin­ci­pal­i­ty were bap­tized in the Dnieper Riv­er under the lead­er­ship of the Great Prince Vladimir, thus begin­ning the his­to­ry of the Ortho­dox Church in the Ukraine and in Rus­sia. Vladimir received the Chris­t­ian faith from Con­stan­tino­ple, being bap­tized there with the emper­or Basil as his god­fa­ther. There is a leg­end that the legates of Vladimir could not find a more beau­ti­ful faith than that of the Byzan­tines. It is also well known that the Kievan prince found it polit­i­cal­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly expe­di­ent to mar­ry the Byzan­tine princess Anna, and to align his prin­ci­pal­i­ty with the Con­stan­ti­nop­o­li­tan empire.

After his bap­tism Vladimir expe­ri­enced a gen­uine spir­i­tu­al con­ver­sion. He did much to estab­lish Chris­t­ian prin­ci­ples in his realm, and to enlight­en his sub­jects with the Ortho­dox faith. For his per­son­al and offi­cial acts of right­eous­ness as a Chris­t­ian prince of his time, Vladimir has been can­on­ized a saint of the Church. His grand­moth­er, the great princess Olga, who was con­vert­ed before him and who appar­ent­ly influ­enced his deci­sions and actions, has also been can­on­ized a saint.

Liturgical Development

Litur­gi­cal­ly the feast of the Pro­tec­tion of the Vir­gin Mary comes from the tenth cen­tu­ry. Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ (d.956) saw a vision of the Theotokos inter­ced­ing before God and pro­tect­ing the pray­ing peo­ple of Con­stan­tino­ple with her veil (omophori­on- pro­tec­tion) dur­ing the time of an attack from the pagan Slavs. Iron­i­cal­ly the feast of the Pro­tec­tion of the Theotokos, which has been detached from its his­tor­i­cal roots and is now cel­e­brat­ed pri­mar­i­ly as the feast of the pres­ence of Mary in the midst of the Church, is kept as a pop­u­lar feast almost sole­ly by the church­es of Slav­ic tradition.

The West

In the lat­er ninth cen­tu­ry the West entered one of the dark­est peri­ods in its his­to­ry. New waves of inva­sions destroyed the rel­a­tive secu­ri­ty of the empire cre­at­ed by Charle­magne. The Church suf­fered from the dom­i­na­tion of lay lords. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the East was vir­tu­al­ly cut off. In 996 the first Ger­man was elect­ed as pope of Rome, with the name of Gre­go­ry V. In this cen­tu­ry the West­ern reform move­ment began at the monastery of Cluny in France. The reform move­ment, among oth­er things, brought the gen­er­al prac­tice of cler­i­cal celiba­cy and a pow­er­ful, cen­tral­ized Roman papa­cy to the West­ern Church.