Концерн 'БАЙАЗЕТ'

Armenian-Byzantine Church Relations in the Second Half of the 12th century

Over the course of history the Byzantine and Armenian Churches has tried to unite with each other: the first attempt took place in 654 in Dvin in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Constans II (641-668) and Catholicos Nerses III (641-661), the next ones - in the 8th and 9th centuries. However, the most serious attempt to unite both Churches took place in the 12th century. This period of time in Armenian history was marked by the migration of the Armenian people into the eastern parts of the Byzantine Empire.

In the beginning of 1165 Bishop Nerses Shnorhali, who strongly supported the idea to unite the Byzantine and Armenian Churches, and the Byzantine envoy Alex, the son-in-law of the Emperor Manuel Comnenus, talked about theological and ritual differences between the Churches. Alex asked the bishop to take notes of their discussion and answer the questions that were given to him by the Greek archimandrites.

Nerses formulated and gave the envoy the “Armenian Church’s Fundamentals of Faith” in two parts. In the first part he wrote about the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity, in the second one - about the specifics of the services offered in the Armenian Church.

Alex personally gave the “Armenian Church’s Fundamentals of Faith” to the Emperor Manuel Comnenus. After talking to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the emperor decided that the work “Fundamentals of Faith” can become a basis for the unification of the Armenian and Byzantine Churches.

St. Nerses, who had already become the Catholicos of All Armenians by that time, sent the Emperor one more letter stating that the unification of the Churches had not to be between “master and servant”, but between equal partners. They needed to resolve all theological and ritual differences and build relations on the basis of the Holy Bible and the Sacred Tradition. In reply to Nerses Shnorhali’s letter, the Emperor and Patriarch Michael III in 1172 offered the Armenians to accept a range of the following terms and conditions:

  1. To confess that Lord Jesus Christ has two natures, two wills, two energies in one person;
  2. To anathematize those who confess Jesus Christ’s one nature: Dioscorus, Eutyches, Timothy and Severian;
  3. To sing the Trisagion hymn without adding the words “crucified for us”;
  4. To celebrate such great holidays as Christmas, Annunciation Day, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple on the same dates as Byzantines;
  5. To use leavened bread and wine mixed with water for the sacrament of the Holy Communion;
  6. To use olive oil for preparing the Holy Chrism (Muron);
  7. During the celebration of the Divine Liturgy people (except the penitents) should be in the Church, not in the hall;
  8. The election of the Catholicos of All Armenians should be confirmed by the Emperor;
  9. To accept the decisions of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh Ecumenical Councils.

As a zealous advocate of the unification of the Byzantine and Armenian Churches, St. Nerses was disappointed in such an answer. He replied to the Emperor’ envoy that he would take a decision only after convening a National-Ecclesiastical Council. In 1179 the promised Council in which the terms of the unification were discussed took place in the town of Hromkla.

The Council of Hromkla was attended by the bishops of Greater Armenia, Cilicia, the representative of the Patriarch of the Syrian Jacobite Church, the Catholicos of Aghvank. On the one hand, the Council confirmed the doctrine of the Armenian Church concerning the question of the hypostatic union in the single person of Jesus Christ and rejected the confession of two natures, two wills, and two energies; on the other hand – they condemned the Monophysiticism teaching.

The Council’s official response reached Constantinople only after the death of the Emperor Manuel Comnenus in 1180. His successors were not interested in the unification of the Byzantine and Armenian Churches and stopped all negotiations on that question.


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