Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Church and Society in Byzantium under the Comneni, 1081-1261

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Church and Society in Byzantium under the Comneni, 1081-1261

Article excerpt

Church and Society in Byzantium under the Comneni, 1081-1261. By Michael Angold. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1995. Pp. svi, 604. $89.95.)

This massive work of over 600 pages is an ambitious overview of the inner history and development of the Greek-speaking Orthodox Church during a crucial century and a half in the Middle Ages: the period begins with the accession of the great emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081) and closes with the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins in 1261.The title "Church and Society indicates the parameters of the study: the Church is constantly viewed in relation to the civil society in which it flourished. Thus relations with the Emperor, with the government and leading families, and with the bulk of the population are recurring themes. Indeed the vital question that surfaces throughout the book is that of the Emperor's role in the Church, and students of the Anglican establishment will find much to ponder in this sustained attempt by the Byzantine Emperors to "harness the authority of the Church" by adopting the role of epistemonarkhes ("overseeing [supreme?] ruler"). Of particular interest are the studies of the writings of several key bishops, the survey of monasticism during this period, an original attempt to assess the influence of canon law on marriage and the role of women, and investigations of the manifestations of popular piety with their pagan overtones and of heretical movements, in particular of Bogomilism.

The methodology is synthetic, solidly based on the primary sources, often effectively summarized, and supported by a thorough and conscientious weighing-up of secondary sources. …

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