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Twelfth Century

Major Trends

The twelfth cen­tu­ry saw the con­tin­u­al strug­gle of the Com­neni impe­r­i­al dynasty in Con­stan­tino­ple with the cru­sad­ing Latins from the West and the encroach­ing Moslem Turks in the East. The emper­or Alex­ius Com­nenus offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned Mount Athos as the cen­ter of Ortho­dox monas­ti­cism. Eudiymios Ziga­be­nus pro­duced his Dog­mat­ic Panoply, a hand­book of the offi­cial doc­trines of the Church. Although there was a gen­uine inter­est in the­ol­o­gy in the empire at this time, the actu­al the­o­log­i­cal work in East­ern Chris­ten­dom was lim­it­ed to a rep­e­ti­tion and cat­a­loging of tra­di­tion­al doctrines.

Art and archi­tec­ture devel­oped in the twelfth cen­tu­ry with such clas­si­cal Byzan­tine mon­u­ments as the church build­ings and mosaics of the Church of Saint Luke and the Church of Daph­ni near Athens. In Rus­sia Saint Alyp­ius (d. 1114), the “father of Russ­ian iconog­ra­phy,” lived in this peri­od. Some of the great­est archi­tec­tur­al and icono­graph­ic achieve­ments of Nov­gorod, Vladimir, Suz­dal, and Pskov came from this time.

Kievan Russia

Chris­tian­i­ty in Kievan Rus­sia con­tin­ued to expand and devel­op. A fire in Kiev in 1124 is report­ed to have destroyed six hun­dred church edi­fices ‑an indi­ca­tion of the great devel­op­ment of this cos­mopoli­tan city which had become a lead­ing cen­ter of Euro­pean and Byzan­tine cul­ture and trade. Ear­ly in this cen­tu­ry, the Prince Vladimir Mono­makh (d.1125) wrote his famous “charge to my chil­dren,” a doc­u­ment intend­ed to guide his sons in their lives as Chris­t­ian lead­ers. Byzan­tine influ­ence was still very strong in Kievan Chris­tian­i­ty. The Russ­ian Pri­ma­ry Chron­i­clecon­tain­ing the lives of many ear­ly Kievan saints, was edit­ed tra­di­tion­al­ly by the monk Nestor of the caves monastery.


The twelfth cen­tu­ry wit­nessed the emer­gence of Ser­bian state­hood through the efforts of the ruler Nemanya (1113–1199). It was Nemanya’s son, Rastko, who fled to Mount Athos to become a monk by the name of Sava. He was des­tined to become the great nation­al saint and leader of the Ser­bian peo­ple. Sava final­ly brought his father to Mount Athos to end his life in the monas­tic habit with the name of Sime­on, can­on­ized by the Church as Saint Sime­on the Myrrh-flow­ing. The Byzan­tine emper­or Ange­los gave the Ser­bian father and son the monastery of Hilan­dari on Mount Athos which remains until today as the Ser­bian monastery on the holy mountain.

The West

Togeth­er with the cen­tral­iz­ing of papal pow­er and the vic­to­ry of the papa­cy over the sec­u­lar rulers, the twelfth cen­tu­ry West saw the rise of the Vic­torine school of Augus­tin­ian the­ol­o­gy led by Hugo (d.1141) and Richard of St. Vic­tor (d.1173). At this time Peter Lom­bard wrote his influ­en­tial Sen­tences, while on the more pop­u­lar lev­el the spir­i­tu­al­is­tic, dual­is­tic move­ments of the Walden­sians and Albi­gen­sians were mak­ing their impact.