The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

6
GREEKS AND SARACENS

i. The Situation in the Mediterranean World

The Cluniac monk Raoul Glaber had already before the middle of the eleventh century commented that the preaching of the Gospel in the north of Europe had enjoyed much greater success than in the south.1 The Roman Church recognized the need to assist in the organization of the new churches in Scandinavia and to send missions to the remoter regions, but its attention was more occupied by the Mediterranean. There the frontier between the Latin, Greek, and Moslem worlds lay close to Rome itself, and the popes were conscious of the Christian churches which were subject to Moslem rule in Sicily, Spain, and north Africa. The arrival at Rome of the reforming party, with its policy based on a new ideology and implemented by northerners who were unfamiliar with the attitudes of the south, would in any event have led to changes. The desire for a new policy is illustrated by Leo IX's appointment of Humbert as archbishop of Sicily in 1050. Perhaps he was chosen because he knew some Greek, but it was a paper appointment, significant only as a declaration of intent. As it happened, the new approach by Rome coincided with a new chapter in the centuries-old conflict of Islam and Christianity.

The most obvious feature in the new political situation was the expansion of the Byzantine empire under the Macedonian dynasty, a process which continued until the death of Basil II in 1025. Its frontiers were extended far into Syria, to the Danube, and into southern Italy, so that in 1050 they were wider than at any time since the rise of Islam. False modesty was never a Byzantine defect, and the consequence of this brilliant story of success was to confirm the impression that Constantinople was the centre of the civilized world. The contrast between the great eastern Christian empire and the Roman Church of the early part of the century, with its limited

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1
Raoul Glaber, Historiae, ii. 5 (PL 142.626C).

-134-

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