Charlemagne gets played

In the spring of 777 a group of Arab emissaries from northern Spain arrived at Paderborn, Germany to meet with the Frankish King Charles. They had traveled more than a thousand miles, but it was worth it, for they had a proposal of continental scope to put forth. If Charles would raise his armies and march to Spain, he would be granted dominion over all of the lands from the Pyrenees to the Ebro river, if he could defend them against the depredations of the last of the Umayyad emirs, the merciless ‘Abd al-Rahman of Cordova. For a variety of reasons, thoughts of an easy conquest uppermost, Charles agreed. The word went forth throughout the realm to prepare for war.1.All of this is detailed more fully in my previous post.

No details reach us concerning the specific preparations that were undertaken for this particular expedition. The groundwork must have been immense, for the Spanish expedition was one of the larger armies Charles organized. “How big was it?” is, of course, the obvious question, and one to which much thought has been given. To no satisfactory result, it must be said. The sources give ridiculous numbers, in the hundreds of thousands, and must be taken as the rhetorical equivalent of a child’s answer to how many stars there are, “jillions!”

Part of the problem is how to define the army. Is it only those men who are armed for combat? Those armed with farm implements? What about the women, children, and other camp followers? They wouldn’t have fought, but to the villagers watching the horde pass through, they must have been considered part of “the army.” Despite its size the army was not a mob. There were strict rules about what could be taken by the army on the march, generally limited to animal forage, water, and firewood. In any case, I am going with an estimate that the army numbered between 20,000 to 30,000 fighting men. This seems to be in congruence with generally accepted sizes for a large army in this time and place.

The logistics of the early medieval army are murky, and I won’t go into any detail here. Anyone interested should consult Bachrach, Early Carolingian Warfare. He has chapters on military organization, training, morale, etc.

The only tactical measure revealed to us is that the army traveled in two wings. Charles himself led the western wing, which advanced south through Aquitaine, via Bordeaux into Gascony, and crossed into Spain over the Roman road, at the pass of Roncesvalles. The eastern wing came through Provence, followed the coast road in Septimania, and skirted the eastern edge of the Pyrenees. The army included “men from Burgundy, Austrasia, Bavaria, Provence and Septimania, as well as a contingent of Lombards.”2.King, Royal Frankish Annals, year 778, in Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.79. It is notable that the army did not include troops from Aquitaine, which was still depopulated after Pepin’s war of conquest that had ended ten years earlier.

The city of Pamplona, just south of the Roncesvalles pass, was taken or handed over as Charles marched through. The Royal Annals don’t mention it, but the Moissac Chronicle says that Charles “captured Pamplona.”3.Ibid, p.133. The Petau Annals says, “In this year the lord king Charles came with a great army into the land of Galicia and gained the city of Pamplona.”4.Ibid, p.152. It is not recorded if he left a garrison force or any kind of political representation. The army continued to march south.

Charles’ forces arrived at the city of Saragossa, and the eastern division came to Barcelona. The sources are not clear as to what Charles expected would happen once he descended from the mountains and arrived in Spain. The revised royal annals relate that he had “conceived the far from idle hope of gaining certain cities in Spain.”5.King, Revised Royal Frankish Annals, year 778, in Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.113. That much seems certain, but did he assume that every city’s gates would be thrown open and the residents proclaim him king by acclamation? At the very least he must have anticipated a good battle. He got neither.

At Saragossa the army halted, outside the walls, but took no further action. Collected scholarly wisdom believes that the eastern division of the army came to Barcelona, and then continued along the Roman road to Saragossa. While that does make sense, nothing (that I can find) in the sources confirms the assumption.

Saragossa was the power base of Sulayman ibn Yaqzan al-Arabi, whose son had been one of the emissaries to Paderborn the previous year. Whatever agreement Charles had clinched with the emissaries, evidently Sulayman was in no hurry to honor it. PD King notes, “Saragossa is not said to have fallen by Frankish sources and is said not to have done by Arabic.”6.Ibid, p.48. What Charles did get was hostages, which the Moissac Chronicle say were handed over at Pamplona. “Abu Taher, a rex of the Saracens, came to him, handed over the cities which he held and gave him his brother and son as hostages.”7.Ibid, p.133. The Petau Annals say only, “In Spain he then received hostages from the cities of of Abu Taher and Ibn al-Arabi, called Huesca, Barcelona, and Gerona.”8.Ibid, p.152. But he got nothing else.

Exactly why the “certain principes of the Saracens” had failed to fulfill their promise to “subject themselves with all whom they ruled to the dominion of the lord king Charles” is not known. But now things took a markedly darker turn. “At some stage in 778 Sulayman ibn Yaqzan al-Arabi was murdered in Zaragoza by his associate Al-Husayn. What relationship this had to the city’s failure to co-operate with Charlemagne is not clear. It may be that the two men differed fundamentally over the Frankish alliance…”9.Collins, The Arab Conquest of Spain, p.179. Unfortunately Collins doesn’t give us the quote from his source on this bit of internecine conflict.

For Charles the implication would have been clear: his expedition had failed in its objectives, and there was nothing left he could do. He had received only hostages and but one city, and the army never had a chance to come to grips with a foe. It would have foolhardy to start a fight with Al-Husayn, inside the city walls, with the feared ‘Abd al-Rahman somewhere to his rear.

Another factor must have been the weather in the Ebro valley, which is not pleasant. The average temperature in July is over 90 degrees, with more sunshine than Miami. Barely a drop of rain falls the entire summer. Compare that climate to Aachen, where it’s about 75 degrees in July, with plenty of moisture. For a northern European, a Spanish summer is trying.

The murder of Sulayman, father of one of the men who promised him northern Spain, sealed whatever faded hopes he would have had for a successful summer. Sometime in early August he sounded his trumpets and headed for home. But those that could pay, would pay. Sulayman’s son was taken “back to Francia in chains,”10.King, Translated Sources, Petau Annals, year 778, p.152. no doubt to face the wrath of the king in more secure surroundings. In another sign of a failed campaign, Charles razed the walls of Pamplona, ‘his’ city.

With this one ‘conquest’ under their belts, the army slogged over the pass at Roncesvalles, and headed back to Francia. Charles’ anger, frustration, and disappointment must have made for a difficult journey for his council and staff. No doubt they gave a great sigh of relief at the top of the pass, to see the realm stretched out before them. No one had any idea that the worst part of the campaign, and, indeed, one of the worst episodes of Charles’ entire reign, was about to transpire.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. All of this is detailed more fully in my previous post.
2. King, Royal Frankish Annals, year 778, in Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.79.
3, 7. Ibid, p.133.
4, 8. Ibid, p.152.
5. King, Revised Royal Frankish Annals, year 778, in Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.113.
6. Ibid, p.48.
9. Collins, The Arab Conquest of Spain, p.179. Unfortunately Collins doesn’t give us the quote from his source on this bit of internecine conflict.
10. King, Translated Sources, Petau Annals, year 778, p.152.

Charlemagne gets suckered

Spain in the second half of the eighth century was a place of splintered kingdoms, divided loyalties, and conflicting religions. Charlemagne, dreaming of easy conquests and religious glory, stepped right into the steaming pile of it, and ended up leaving his boot behind when he tried to scrape it clean.

Before we get into the details, let’s do a little scene-setting. As you may remember, Islam spread out of the Arabian peninsula with amazing rapidity, arrived in Spain around 711, and by 732 the Arab armies rapped at the very gates of Western Christendom. Charlemagne’s grandfather Charles Martel knocked them back across the Pyrenees, and his father Pepin had further cleansed the Narbonnaise, but to date the Franks had looked no further south. The Pippinids contented themselves with conquering Saxons and fellow Christians.

This balance of forces probably would have continued were it not for a coup in Syria around 750. The ruler of the Umayyad caliphate was murdered, and his family hunted down and killed. The new ruler, founder of the Abbasid caliphate, was determined to leave no root from which an Umayyad seedling might sprout. He got them all, but one. ‘Abd al-Rahman traveled first to Africa, then in 756 landed in Spain. Conditions were ripe for upheaval, as the ruler at that time was cruel, and a drought had caused much hardship.1.Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.169-170.

‘Abd al-Rahman spend the next twenty years putting down various revolts and establishing his rule. His first and greatest opponent was Yusuf ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahman, the Abbasid ruler. While Yusuf had ruled Muslim Narbonne and Provence from 735 onward, he must have, as we shall see, been known to the Franks in at least a respectful light. ‘Abd al-Rahman was, one might say, a firm opponent.

In 763 an ‘Abbasid expedition sent by the caliph Abu Ja’far (754-775) to challenge ‘Abd al-Rahman I, was easily defeated and its leaders executed. “In order the better to strike terror into his enemies, ‘Abd al-Rahman caused labels, inscribed with the names of the deceased to be suspended from their ears; their heads were then stored in sealed bags, together with the black banners of the house of ‘Abbas, and the whole given to a trusty merchant, who was directed to convey his cargo to Mecca, and to deposit it in a public place at a certain time.” The caliph, then on a pilgrimage to the holy city, there discovered the gruesome remains of his commanders, and exclaimed of ‘Abd al-Rahman: “God be praised for placing a sea between us!”2.Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.170-71. Collins’ quotes are from an Arab chronicler, Al-Makkari.

Al-Andalus is a big place, with many mountains, and despite his ferocity al-Rahman could not conquer everything at once. By 775, from his capital at Cordova, he was turning his attentions to the north, to the city of Zaragoza.

Zaragoza had always been a staunch supporter of Yusuf, and it is not surprising that al-Rahman would have taken his time before he attempted to take the region. The city sits almost exactly in the middle of the length of the Ebro river, and there are steep and forbidding hills to the south. But control of Zaragoza would enable further control downriver, to include Barcelona. In 776 or thereabouts3.The chronology of events in Spain during the eighth century is pretty rough. al-Rahman made an initial assault, which “proved a fiasco,”4.Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.177. but which did not cool al-Rahman’s desire for the conquest.

The paramount rulers in northern Spain were Sulayman ibn Yaqzan al-Arabi, wali (ruler) of Zaragoza, Abu Taher of Huesca, and Al-Husayn ibn Yahya al-Ansuri of Barcelona, all of whom no doubt knew that fresh assaults would be due in the near future. To strengthen their forces the Arabs sent a delegation to king Charles, and met him at the marchfield at Paderborn in the spring of 777. That’s when things get interesting.

At least three men showed up in Francia that spring. “To this same assembly came also Saracens from Spain, namely, Ibn al-Arabi and the son and son-in-law of Deiuzef [Yusuf], who is called Joseph in Latin.”5.King, Royal Frankish Annals, 777, Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.79. The son and son-in-law, both of whom are otherwise unidentified or mentioned again, must have been sent because of the Franks’ prior relationship with Yusuf, mentioned above. Ibn al-Arabi would seem to be Sulayman ibn Yaqzan al-Arabi. King and other translators of the Royal Annals reach this conclusion. But Roger Collins argues that a proper translation of the names in the Annals reveal that it is the son of Sulayman who reached Paderborn, and I find what he says persuasive.6.Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.179. In addition to the translation issue, Collins points out that ibn-Arabi is later taken to Spain as a hostage, while his father is killed in Zaragoza.

No doubt the embassy asked for Charlemagne’s assistance in the soon-to-occur assault on northern Spain. But what did they offer in return? The Royal Annals say that al-Arabi “surrendered himself and the cities which the rex of the Saracens had placed under his command.”7.King, Revised Royal Frankish Annals, 777, Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.113. The Petau annals (of the ‘minor annals’, according to King) say something similar, “…they subjected themselves with all whom they ruled to the dominion of the lord king Charles.”8.Ibid, p.151. While we will never know, I don’t believe that these emissaries simply offered complete overlordship to Charles, and if they did, they were over-promising to clinch the deal.

There are several clues as to what else Charlemagne may have been thinking. The biographer known as ‘The Astronomer’, in his life of Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious, says that Charlemagne went to Spain to “bring succour to the church suffering under the most harsh yoke of the Saracens.”9.Ibid, p.168. In an exchange of letters between Charlemagne and Pope Hadrian in 778, Hadrian noted that “the people of the Hagarenes are intent on invading your territories to make war,” apparently a restatement of an argument Charles was making.10.Ibid, p.288. We don’t have Charles’ letter, only Hadrian’s. ‘Hagarenes’ was a term used by Christian writers to describe the Arabs of the early Islamic conquests. Hagar was one of Abraham’s wives or concubines, and the mother of Ishmael.

So it appears that three different motivations may have motivated Charlemagne in that spring of 777: easy conquest, religious revival and rescue, and self-defense (what we might call a pre-emptive invasion). Personally I don’t give much credence to the idea of self-defense. There is no reason to think that the Muslims of Spain posed any threat to the Frankish lands. The idea of Christian liberation rings somewhat louder, but not conclusively. McKitterick notes that “Although religion was used as an excuse for attacking the Avars, it appears not to have been a consideration in the various dealings Charlemagne had with the peoples of Spain, whether in Muslim Al-Andalus, the Christian Visigothic kingdoms of northern Spain, or the mixed population of the area brought loosely under Carolingian control known as Septimania.”11.McKitterick, Charlemagne, p.133. The temptation of free land makes the most sense.

“The hope of an easy conquest was undoubtedly the principal reason for the campaign.”12.Barbero, Charlemagne, p.57. Charlemagne was a ruler who depended on the goodwill of his leading men to support him in his kingship. Remember that he was only a second-generation king, his father Pepin having overthrown the last of the Merovingian line and then had himself proclaimed rex in 754. The best way to gain and keep the loyalty of the magnates was plunder and land that could be handed out to their own followers, and thus increase their power. When the Arab party arrived at Paderborn and literally handed over a swath of territory just over the border, it was too good to pass up.

Charlemagne immediately began planning the operation, with such zeal that he actually forgot or ignored a prior appointment with the pope! In in of those letters from 778 Hadrian laments that Charles had not appeared at Easter as promised by one of his missi, when the pope had planned to stand as godfather at the baptism of a newly born son.13.King, Caroline code, letter 17, Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.286. It was to this letter than Charlemagne responded by pointing out the ‘threat’ from the south, as noted above.

We don’t have any real detail on the preparations for the expedition, but they must have substantial. Next time we’ll look at the army, the expedition, and what happened during that Spanish summer of 778.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.169-170.
2. Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.170-71. Collins’ quotes are from an Arab chronicler, Al-Makkari.
3. The chronology of events in Spain during the eighth century is pretty rough.
4. Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.177.
5. King, Royal Frankish Annals, 777, Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.79.
6. Collins, Early Medieval Spain, p.179. In addition to the translation issue, Collins points out that ibn-Arabi is later taken to Spain as a hostage, while his father is killed in Zaragoza.
7. King, Revised Royal Frankish Annals, 777, Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.113.
8. Ibid, p.151.
9. Ibid, p.168.
10. Ibid, p.288. We don’t have Charles’ letter, only Hadrian’s. ‘Hagarenes’ was a term used by Christian writers to describe the Arabs of the early Islamic conquests. Hagar was one of Abraham’s wives or concubines, and the mother of Ishmael.
11. McKitterick, Charlemagne, p.133.
12. Barbero, Charlemagne, p.57.
13. King, Caroline code, letter 17, Charlemagne: Translated Sources, p.286.

The biggest, fakest donation ever

O Constantine, what evil did you sire,
not by your conversion, but by the dower
that the first wealthy Father got from you!1.Dante, The Inferno, trans. Mark Musa, canto 19, lines 115-117, p.244.

Such was Dante’s lament as he surveyed the ditch of the Simonists, head down in flaming pits. He believed that the corruption and greed of the 14th century church could be laid at the feet of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who, in a grand gesture of piety in 335, donated (there’s that word again) all of Italy to the church and the popes that would lead her. That wealth, Dante believed, created a culture of ecclesiastical greed that had infected and weakened the church in his own time.

The pledge in question is called the Donation of Constantine, for that emperor who converted to Christianity in 317 AD. He later moved the capital of the empire to the ancient city of Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople. The Donation is a document of some 4700 words, in twenty chapters, and it is written in the first person, allegedly by Constantine himself. In the first eleven chapters the author lays out the foundations of Christian theology, and relates the miraculous healing of “a mighty and foul leprosy” that led to his conversion. Pope Sylvester, the man who led him through his experience, is addressed frequently, as are “all his successors, the pontiffs who are about to sit upon the chair of Saint Peter until the end of time…”2.Donation of Constantine, in Carolingian Civilization, A Reader, ch.1, p.14.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Dante, The Inferno, trans. Mark Musa, canto 19, lines 115-117, p.244.
2. Donation of Constantine, in Carolingian Civilization, A Reader, ch.1, p.14.

Pepin donates Aistulf’s toys

“Concerning all the cities received, he [Pepin] issued a donation in writing for their possession by St Peter, the holy Roman church and all the apostolic see’s pontiffs forever; it is kept safe even till now in our holy church’s archive.”1.Book of the Popes, bk.94, ch.46, p.72. Thus did the eighth century church issue yet another claim to a spiritual authority so powerful and unique in the western world, that the greatest king of the age forgo his Lombard conquests, but rather donated the lands to the budding Papal States.

As we saw in last week’s post, this idea of granting land to the papacy was not a new one. The Lombard king Liutprand had done so several times earlier in the century (if you can call giving back land you conquered and then were paid dozens of pounds of gold to return a ‘donation’). Pepin’s donation was the culmination of decades of conflict between the Lombards, the weakening presence of the Byzantine empire in Italy, and the popes. The Lombards would launch various territorial incursions to grab what lands they could. The pope would then beg and plead and bribe to get some of it back, and the Byzantines, generally otherwise embroiled in the Iconoclast controversy far to the east, would not do much. But the general trend was of a gradual separation of the papacy from the eastern emperor, while the Lombards continued to expand their territorial holdings. To the north and across the Alps, the Franks looked on Italian affairs with a benign neglect, while wrestling with Muslim incursions, secession issues, and other family matters.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Book of the Popes, bk.94, ch.46, p.72.

Black smoke, white smoke – red blood

In my last post Pope Constantine II won a contentious papal election, in a revolt of the ‘aristocratic party’ against the ‘clerical party’ for control of the Duchy of Italy (the nascent Papal States). But the clerical party, in a daring move, enlisted the help of the despised Lombard King Desiderius to regain the papacy. Desiderius, eager for the chance to have the pope deeply in his debt, ordered the Lombard priest Waldipert to assist papal clericists Christopher and his son Sergius, and sent them all to Spoleto to gather Lombard forces for the counter-revolution.

In Spoleto the clerics gathered a force of soldiery and marched on Rome.1.Liber Pontificalis, n.96, ch.7, p.91. As I mentioned in the previous post, virtually the only source for these events is the vita of Stephen III from the Book of the Popes. I won’t cite this source every time, but you can go read chapters 1 – 22. On 28 July 778, a little more than a year after Constantine’s consecration, the combined Lombard and clerical forces took possession of the Salarian gate. A fair question to ask is, what had the clerical party been doing for the past year? Aside from the plot that brought them to see Desiderius, no one knows. Biding their time, hoping for a miracle, and hatching schemes that never came to fruition are probably fair guesses. But now, in heat of a Roman summer, they were poised to turn the tide, and had yet another trick up their robes.

While the Lombard forces waited on a hill outside the Roman walls, Toto, leader of the aristocratic party that had put Constantine on the throne, launched an attack on these forces of restoration (as he must have seen them), but he was killed in the fighting. Constantine, hearing the news of the death of his patron and protector, and brother, let us not forget, fled the Lateran palace to the sanctuary of a local church. The Roman militia arrived, however, and placed him in custody.

Waldipert, probably acting on standing orders from Desiderius, found a local priest named Philip and quickly had him voted and consecrated pope! His pontificate didn’t last long (it must be one of the shortest on record), but he got a good meal out of it.

And following custom they took him into the Savior’s basilica. There the prayer was said by a bishop in pursuance of ancient custom, and he gave the Peace to everyone and they brought him into the Lateran patriarchate. There too, sitting on the pontifical throne, he again gave the customer Peace; he went aloft and as pontiffs normally do he held a banquet, with some of the church’s chief men and the militia’s chief officers sitting with him.

Christopher, seeing defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory, took a bold and risky step, and publicly proclaimed that he would never again enter the gates of Rome unless Philip was removed. No doubt Christopher knew that Desiderius had some kind of plan in mind for Lombard aggrandizement, but counted on his popularity with the Roman people to seize control of the situation. Philip, probably an unwilling participant from the beginning, scurried back to his monastery, and was never heard from again.

As a side note, Christopher must rank with the greatest schemers of this era, if not all of history. He extracted a (later broken) promise from Toto not to interfere in the papal election, made his own promise (later broken) to the pope to retire to a monastery, evidently pledged some kind of quid pro quo (also broken later) to the Lombard king, made a daring public and undefended stand to force the withdrawal of yet another pope, until finally his party emerged triumphant. Well played, sir, well played.

In Rome the way forward was clear. Christopher gathered together everyone in Rome who mattered, and opened a conclave of sorts to select a new pope. “They deliberated and with absolute and total unanimity they all agreed on holy Stephen.” Stephen was solid member of the clerical party, and with his election the right order of things had been restored. Punishment and cleansing were the next tasks of the day. Unfortunately for Constantine and those who followed him, the mob ruled the streets. That, at least, is what the author of Stephen’s life would like history to believe. The author mentions “plague-ridden instigators of evil” who egged on those “perverted individuals” actually responsible for the violence.

The first victims were Theodore, one of Constantine’s leading counselors, and Passibus, Constantine’s other brother. Both had their eyes gouged out and tongues cut off. Theodore was thrown into a dungeon and later died of thirst. Constantine, however, required public humiliation. “[H]e was brought out into the open; they fixed a huge weight to his feet and made him sit on a horse in a saddle designed for a woman.” The day before Stephen’s consecration Constantine was officially deposed. “Maurianus the subdeacon came forward, removed the stole from his neck, threw it at his feet, and then cut off his papal shoes.”

The mob’s blood lust had not been sated. Forces from Rome, Tuscany, and Campania mustered and marched on the town of Alatri, where they extracted a follower of Toto named Gracilis, brought him to Rome, and then “gouged out his eyes and removed his tongue.” After that the force “went to the Cella Nova monastery where Constantine the intruder into the apostolic see was confined; they forced him out of the monastery, gouged out his eyes and then left him blind in the street.” One more victim remained. Waldipert, despite taking refuge in “God’s mother the ever-virgin St Mary’s church called ad martyres,” and while “he was holding the image of God’s mother,” was taken to “the foul prison called Ferrata.” A few days later they put out his eyes and cut out his tongue, and sent him to a monastery, where he soon died.

While the mob dispensed victor’s justice, Stephen worked to solidify his rule. He sent word to Pepin of his election, and also requested that the king send a dozen bishops to a synod in Rome to discuss the happenings of the last year. By this time Pepin had died, but Charles and Carloman received the papal envoy warmly, and nominated the bishops as requested.

Once everyone was in Rome the synod was convened, and it was time to enact the final, formal denouement to Constantine’s time as pope. The first act of the synod was to put him on trial. Somewhat surprisingly, given his position and physical state (“now eyeless”, as the vita notes), Constantine mounted a vigorous defense.

He professed in front of everyone that he had been pressurized by the people, elected by force and taken under compulsion into the Lateran Patriarchate, owing to those burdens and grievances that lord pope Paul had caused the Roman people. Falling to the ground, with his arms stretched out on the pavement, he wept that he was guilty and had sinned more times than there were sands in the sea, and implored pardon and mercy from that sacerdotal council. They had him lifted up from the ground and that day passed no sentence against him.

The next day, however, Constantine pushed his luck a little too far. The synod did not appreciate his references to previous examples of layman being consecrated to high clerical office, and “they had him buffeted on the neck and ejected him from that church.” Next the bishops turned their attention to reversing all of Constantine’s acts, and demoted all priests and bishops whom he had elevated. After that the council strengthened the canons to ensure that “no layman should ever presume to be promoted to the sacred honor of the pontificate, nor even anyone in orders, unless he had risen through the separate grades and had been made cardinal deacon or priests.” They really were determined to root out any and all evidence of Constantine’s time in office.

In all fairness, Stephen and the bishops did not excuse their own behavior during the past year. Everyone confessed “that all of them had sinned in that they had taken communion from Constantine’s hands. So as a result a penance was imposed on them all.” The nature of the penance is not documented, which is too bad. But we can probably be certain that they didn’t cut out the tongues that had received communion from the ‘intruder’.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Liber Pontificalis, n.96, ch.7, p.91. As I mentioned in the previous post, virtually the only source for these events is the vita of Stephen III from the Book of the Popes. I won’t cite this source every time, but you can go read chapters 1 – 22.