Monothelitism or monotheletism (from Greek μονοθελητισμός "doctrine of one will") is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus. The Christological doctrine formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629.[1] Specifically, monothelitism is the view that Jesus Christ has two natures but only one will. That is contrary to the Christology that Jesus Christ has two wills (human and divine) that correspond to his two natures (dyothelitism). Monothelitism is a development of the Neo-Chalcedonian position in the Christological debates. Formulated in 638, it enjoyed considerable popularity, even garnering patriarchal support, before being rejected and denounced as heretical in 681, at the Third Council of Constantinople.


Christus Ravenna Mosaic
The ongoing debates about the nature of Christ caused controversy within the Christian Church for centuries.

During the 5th century, some regions of the Christian Church were thrown into confusion because of the debates that erupted over the nature of Jesus Christ. Although the Church had already determined that Christ is the son of God, just what his exact nature is remained open to debate. The Church had declared heretical the notion that Jesus is not fully divine in the 4th century (see First Council of Nicaea), during the debates over Arianism and had declared that he is God the Son become human. However, in arguing that he is both God and man, there now emerged a dispute over exactly how the human and divine natures of Christ actually exist within the person of Christ.

The Christological definition of Chalcedon, as accepted by the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed churches, is that Christ remains in two distinct natures, yet these two natures come together within his one hypostasis. More simply, Christ is known as "both fully human and fully Divine, one in being with the Father". This position was opposed by the Monophysites who held that Christ possesses one nature only. The term Monophysitism of which Eutychianism is one type, held that the human and divine natures of Christ were fused into one new single (mono-) nature. As described by Eutyches, his human nature was "dissolved like a drop of honey in the sea", and therefore his nature is really divine.[2] This is distinct from Miaphysitism, which holds that, after the union, Christ is in one theanthropic (human-divine) nature and is generated from the union of two natures. The two are thus united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration, and with each having a particularity. Miaphysitism is the christological doctrine of the Oriental Orthodox churches.[3]

Nevertheless, the resultant debates led the Chalcedonians to accuse the non-Chalcedonians of teaching Christ's humanity to be of a different kind from our own. Meanwhile, the non-Chalcedonians accused the Chalcedonians of espousing a form of Nestorianism, a rejected doctrine that held that Jesus Christ was two distinct subsistences.

This internal division was dangerous for the Byzantine Empire, which was under constant threat from external enemies, especially as many of the areas most likely to be lost to the empire were the regions that were in favour of Monophysitism, and who considered the religious hierarchy at Constantinople to be heretics only interested in crushing their faith.[4] In these provinces, the non-Chalcedonians were far more numerous than the Chalcedonians. In Egypt for instance, some 30,000 Greeks of Chalcedonian persuasion were ranged against some five million Coptic non-Chalcedonians.[5] Meanwhile, Syria and Mesopotamia were divided between Nestorianism and Jacobitism, while the religion of Armenia was wholly Cyrilline Non-Chalcedonian. Consequently, the Monothelite teaching emerged as a compromise position. The Byzantine emperor Heraclius tried to unite all of the various factions within the empire with this new formula that was more inclusive and more elastic.

This approach was needed to win over the non-Chalcedonians, since they, already believing Christ possesses a single nature, necessarily also believed that he holds a single will. But it was unclear whether the Chalcedonians should believe in Christ's human and divine energy and/or will as well as his human and divine nature, because the ecumenical councils had made no ruling on this subject. A ruling in favour of this new doctrine would provide common ground for the non-Chalcedonians and the Chalcedonians to come together, as the non-Chalcedonians could agree that Jesus has two natures if he only had one will, and some Chalcedonians could agree that Jesus has one will if he has two natures.[6]

First attempt: Doctrine of one energy

Cherub plaque Louvre MRR245 n2
The Emperor Heraclius defeating the Persian king Khosrau II (allegory). His desire to secure internal harmony within the empire saw him adopt the doctrine of Monothelitism.

Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople was the driving force behind this doctrine, with the full blessing of the Emperor Heraclius.[7] Coming to the imperial throne in 610, the patriarch had long since converted the emperor to the new doctrine, as by 622, Heraclius had communicated with Bishop Paul of Armenia where the emperor asserted that the energy, or the active force, of Christ was single. This doctrine of Monoenergism was the precursor of Monotheletism.[6]

Heraclius' interest at the time was focused on Armenia, and it was probably at this time that the emperor decided to use Monoenergism as a political weapon and reconcile the Non-Chalcedonian Church of Armenia with the Imperial Church.[6] To help bring this about, a synod was held in 622 at Theodosiopolis, called the Synod of Garin where Monoenergism was discussed. Over the next few years Heraclius was preoccupied with his prosecution of the war against the Sassanids, but by 626 he had issued a decree to Arcadius, Bishop of Cyprus, requesting that he teach the doctrine of "one hegumenic energy". By all accounts this was met with notable success, particularly as there was a large colony of Armenians on the island at that time,[1] and this encouraged Heraclius to attempt to seek a wider approval of his compromise. In 626, he asked Patriarch Sergius to approach Cyrus, Bishop of Phasis, to secure his cooperation.

With the successful conclusion to the Persian war, Heraclius could devote more time to promoting his compromise, which was now more urgent due to the administration of the recovered Monophysite (also referred to as "non-Chalcedonian" due to their rejection of that particular council) provinces of Syria and Egypt. So in 629, a meeting took place between the emperor and Athanasius the Jacobite at Hierapolis. An agreement was struck whereby the Jacobites were to return to the Imperial Church on the basis of the single energy doctrine, and Athanasius was to be made Patriarch of Antioch. Then in 630, Bishop Cyrus was made Patriarch of Alexandria, and he soon won over another Non-Chalcedonian group. Very soon three of the five Patriarchates – Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria – were teaching about Christ's "one theandric energy".[1]

Not everyone was convinced, in particular a monk of Palestine named Sophronius, who believed there was something unsound in the doctrine. Because of this, he became the champion of Dyothelitism – the doctrine of the two wills of Christ. He was concerned that for the sake of ecclesiastical unity, doctrinal expressions were being compromised.[8] For the first few years Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople managed to keep him silent, but when Sophronius was appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem in 634, he used his newfound position of authority to challenge the validity of the doctrine of Monoenergism.

Determined to prevent this formidable challenge to his Christological compromise, Sergius wrote to Pope Honorius I (625–638), at Rome, asking him to endorse a position that Church unity should not be endangered by having any discussions or disputes over Christ's possessing one energy or two. Sergius added that the doctrine of two energies could lead to the erroneous belief that Jesus has two conflicting wills.[9] Pope Honorius' reply in 635 endorsed this view that all discussions should cease, and agreed that Jesus does not have two conflicting wills, but one will, since Jesus did not assume the vitiated human nature tainted by Adam's fall, but human nature as it existed prior to Adam's fall.[10] In the meantime the epistola synodica of Sophronius appeared, the outcome of the Synod of Cyprus, and this attempted to show that the new doctrine was inconsistent with orthodoxy. He declared that it was nothing more than a bastardized form of Monophysitism, and consequently it went against the hard-fought achievements at Chalcedon. Suddenly, support for the doctrine began to subside and soon former supporters were busy finding flaws and inconsistencies in the proposal.[11] Soon, Sergius and Heraclius abandoned it as a doctrine.

Second attempt: Doctrine of one will

Yet Sergius and the emperor refused to give up. Three years later the patriarch came up with a slightly modified formula, which Heraclius released as the Ecthesis in 638. This edict was considered to be the official response to Sophronius' letter.[12] It forbade all mention of Christ possessing one or two energies; instead, it now proclaimed that Christ, while possessing two natures, had but a single will. This approach seemed to be a more acceptable compromise, and once again it secured widespread support throughout the East. Sophronius had died before the release of the new doctrine, and his replacement Bishop Sergius of Jaffa as Patriarch Abraham I of Jerusalem approved the modified formula. Patriarch Sergius died by the end of 638, and his replacement Pyrrhus was also a devoted Monothelite and a close friend of Heraclius. The two remaining patriarchs in the East also gave their approval to the doctrine now referred to as Monothelitism, and so it looked as if Heraclius would finally heal the divisions in the imperial church.[13]

Unfortunately he had not counted on the popes at Rome. During that same year of 638, Pope Honorius I too had died. His successor Pope Severinus (640) condemned the Ecthesis outright, and so was forbidden his seat until 640. His successor Pope John IV (640–42) also rejected the doctrine completely, leading to a major schism between the eastern and western halves of the Chalcedonian Church. When news reached Heraclius of the Pope's condemnation, he was already old and ill, and the news only hastened his death, declaring with his dying breath that the controversy was all due to Sergius, and that the patriarch had pressured him to give his unwilling approval to the Ecthesis.[14]

Conflict with Rome

Pope Martin I Illustration
Pope Martin I, who led opposition in the West to Monothelitism.

This state of schism remained for the next few years. The death of Heraclius in 641 had thrown the political situation in Constantinople into chaos, and his young grandson Constans II (641–668) succeeded him. Meanwhile, in Africa, a monk named Maximus the Confessor carried on a furious campaign against Monothelitism, and in 646 he convinced the African councils to draw up a manifesto against the doctrine. This they forwarded to the new pope, Theodore I (642–649), who in turn wrote to Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople, outlining the heretical nature of the doctrine. Paul, another devoted Monothelite, replied in a letter directing the pope to adhere to the doctrine of one will. Theodore in turn excommunicated the patriarch in 649, declaring Paul a heretic.[15]

Constans II was a young man of seventeen, and he was supremely indifferent to the religious debates convulsing the Church.[16] However, he was certainly concerned about the effect all these arcane debates were having on the Roman Empire, and so he issued an imperial edict called the Type of Constans. This edict made it illegal to discuss in any manner the topic of Christ possessing either one or two wills, or one or two energies. He declared that the whole controversy was to be forgotten – "the scheme which existed before the strife arose shall be maintained, as it would have been if no such disputation had arisen".[16] He would soon discover that it was far too late to turn the clock back.

In Rome and the West, the opposition to Monothelitism was reaching fever pitch, and the Type of Constans did nothing to defuse the situation; indeed it made it worse by implying that either doctrine was as good as the other.[16] Theodore planned the Lateran Council of 649 to condemn the Ecthesis, but died before he could convene it, which his successor, Pope Martin I (649–653), did. Not only did the Council condemn the Ecthesis, it also condemned the Type as well. After the synod, Pope Martin wrote to Constans, informing the emperor of its conclusions and requiring him to condemn both the Monothelite doctrine and his own Type. Unfortunately, Constans was not the sort of emperor to take such a rebuke of imperial authority lightly.[17]

Even while the Lateran Synod was sitting, Olympius arrived as the new exarch of Ravenna, with instructions to ensure that the type was followed in Italy, and to use whatever means necessary to ensure that the Pope adhered to it.[18] He was unable to complete his mission and soon died, but his successor Theodore I Calliopas seized Pope Martin and abducted him to Constantinople. Here he was imprisoned and tortured before being condemned for breaking the imperial commands and was banished before dying from his treatment at the hands of the emperor.[19]

The emperor continued to persecute any who spoke out against Monothelitism, including Maximus the Confessor and a number of his disciples – Maximus lost his tongue and his right hand in an effort to have him recant.[20] Nevertheless, his brutality did have an effect, with the patriarchs, including the popes, remaining silent throughout the remainder of his reign.

Condemnation of Monothelitism

Constantine IV.jpeg
Emperor Constantine IV. He convened the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 678.

With Constans' death in 668, the throne passed to his son Constantine IV. Pope Vitalian (657–672), who had hosted the visit of Constans II to Rome in 663, almost immediately declared himself in favor of the doctrine of the two wills of Christ. In response Patriarch Theodore I of Constantinople and Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, both pressed Constantine to take some measures against the pope. Constantine, however, decided to let the Monothelite question be decided entirely by a church council.[21]

He asked if the pope (by this stage Pope Agatho, 678–681) would be willing to send delegates to an ecumenical council to be held at Constantinople to finally put an end to this question. Pope Agatho agreed, but first held a preliminary synod at Rome 680 in order to obtain the opinion of the western theologians. Other synods were also held at Milan and at the Council of Hatfield in 680, convoked by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury.[22] All the western synods condemned Monothelitism, and a report of the Roman synod's acts was sent to Constantinople, along with the western delegates to the council.

This council met from 680 to 681. Apart from the Roman representatives, it also hosted representatives from the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, while the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch were present in person. It almost unanimously, with the exception of two individuals, condemned the Monothelite doctrine as one that diminished the fullness of Christ's humanity, and asserted that Dyothelitism was the true doctrine, with Christ possessing "two natural wills and two natural energies, without division, alteration, separation or confusion".[23] It also anathematized the chief representatives of the discredited doctrine, including Pope Honorius. The churches condemned at Constantinople included the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Maronite church, although the Oriental Orthodox deny that they ever held the Monothelite view (describing their own Christology as Miaphysite), and the Maronites accept the Chalcedonian formula being in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This brought to an end the controversy over Monothelitism.

Controversy over Pope Honorius I

Pope Honorius I - Apse mosaic - Sant'Agnese fuori le mura - Rome 2016
Pope Honorius I

A side issue over the statements of Pope Honorius I and his condemnation by the council arose in discussions concerning papal infallibility. In the view of historians such as John Bagnell Bury, Honorius, with a traditional Latin dislike for dialectics, did not fully comprehend the issues.[8] The question of Monoenergism, as presented by Patriarch Sergius, seemed to Honorius to be a matter of grammar rather than theology. Though he used the expression "one will", he was no Monothelite, for he placed "one energy" and "two energies" on exactly the same footing. Further, in his second letter to Sergius, what he wrote was by and large orthodox.[8] Maximus the Confessor, in his Disputation with Pyrrhus, interprets the statement "one will" as referring the integrity of Christ's human will, in contrast to the fallen human will which seeks diverse and contradictory goods.

The Third Council of Constantinople posthumously anathematized Honorius as a heretic: "And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines" (13th session) and "To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!" (16th session). However, Pope Leo II's letter of confirmation of the Council interprets the council as intending to criticize Honorius not for error of belief, but rather for "imprudent economy of silence".[8] Leo's letter states: "We anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Sergius, ... and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted."[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bury, pg 251
  2. ^ Norwich, pg 155
  3. ^ Matt Stefon (editor), Christianity (The Rosen Publishing Group 2011 ISBN 978-1-61530542-1), p. 275
  4. ^ Norwich, pg 156
  5. ^ Bury, pg 249
  6. ^ a b c Bury, pg 250
  7. ^ Westminster Dictionary of Church History. ed, J. C. Brauer. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971. pgs. 568–569
  8. ^ a b c d Bury, pg 252
  9. ^ Hefele, pg 25
  10. ^ Hefele, pg 29-30
  11. ^ Norwich, pg 306
  12. ^ Bury, pg 253
  13. ^ Norwich, pg 309
  14. ^ Norwich, pg 310
  15. ^ Bury, pg 292
  16. ^ a b c Bury, pg 293
  17. ^ Norwich, pg 318
  18. ^ Bury, pg 294
  19. ^ Bury, pg 296
  20. ^ Norwich, pg 319
  21. ^ Bury, pg 314
  22. ^ Bury, pg 315: see Venerable Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Book IV, Chapter XVII (XV), B. Colgrave & R. Mynors (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1969), pp. 384-387.Council of Hæthfeld
  23. ^ Bury, pg 317
  24. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Honorius I


External links

Byzantine Papacy

The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the Roman papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii (liaisons from the pope to the emperor) or the inhabitants of Byzantine-ruled Greece, Syria, or Sicily. Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna.

With the exception of Pope Martin I, no pope during this period questioned the authority of the Byzantine monarch to confirm the election of the bishop of Rome before consecration could occur; however, theological conflicts were common between pope and emperor in the areas such as monothelitism and iconoclasm.

Greek-speakers from Greece, Syria, and Sicily replaced members of the powerful Roman nobles in the papal chair during this period. Rome under the Greek popes constituted a "melting pot" of Western and Eastern Christian traditions, reflected in art as well as liturgy.

Constantine IV

Constantine IV (Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Δ', romanized: Kōnstantinos IV; Latin: Flavius Constantinus Augustus; c. 652 – 14 September 685), sometimes incorrectly called Pogonatos (Πωγωνάτος), "the Bearded", out of confusion with his father, was Byzantine Emperor from 668 to 685. His reign saw the first serious check to nearly 50 years of uninterrupted Islamic expansion, while his calling of the Sixth Ecumenical Council saw the end of the monothelitism controversy in the Byzantine Empire.

Council of Hatfield

The Council of Hatfield (Latin: Concilium Hatfeldiensis) was a Christian convocation held in 680 AD in Hatfield, Hertfordshire in Anglo-Saxon England to examine the English branch of the local Celtic Rite's stance on Monothelitism. John of St. Peter's, a colleague of Benedict Biscop's at Wearmouth Abbey, was Pope Agatho's delegate. Archbishop Theodore led the council, where Monothelitism was rejected in favor of the orthodox Christological view that Jesus Christ has two wills corresponding to his two natures (divine and human).


Dyothelitism or dythelitism (from Greek δυοθελητισμός "doctrine of two wills") is a particular Christological doctrine that teaches the existence of two wills (divine and human) in the person of Jesus Christ. Specifically, dyothelitism correlates the distinctiveness of two wills with the existence of two specific natures (divine and human) in the person of Jesus Christ (dyophysitism).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 475, states: "Similarly, at the Sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human. They are not opposed to each other, but co-operate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation. Christ's human will 'does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will.'"

This position is in opposition to the Monothelitism position in the Christological debates. The debate concerning the Monothelite churches and the Catholic Church came to a conclusion at the Third Council of Constantinople in 681. The Council declared that in line with the declarations of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which declared two natures in the one person of Jesus Christ, there are equally two "wills" or "modes of operation" in the one person of Jesus Christ as well.Dyothelitism was championed by Maximus the Confessor against monothelitism, the doctrine of one will.

Fourteenth Council of Toledo

The Fourteenth Council of Toledo first met on 14 November 684 under King Erwig. It was called in response to a letter from Pope Leo II directing the king, a Count Simplicius, and the recently deceased Quiricus, metropolitan of Toledo, to call a general council to confirm the decisions of the ecumenical Third Council of Constantinople against monothelitism. A regional synod held in Carthaginiensis with representatives of the metropolitans in attendance was not sufficient and Erwig subsequently called a general council, exactly a year and a day after the disbanding of the Thirteenth Council of Toledo (13 November 683). The council, due to bad weather and the recent travels to and from Toledo for the Thirteenth Council, was attended only by the bishops of Carthaginiensis, the metropolitans, and a bishop from each of the other provinces: Narbonensis, Tarraconensis, and Gallaecia. These provincial delegates would approve the decision of the Carthaginiensian synod and report it to their own provincial synods, for further approval.

The fourteenth council quickly approved the sixth ecumenical council and sent notice to the pope. It also issued a general warning to the people that such doctrinal matters were to be believed, not discussed. The bishops wrapped up their short business and closed the council on 20 November.

Gnomic will

The notion of gnomic will belongs to Eastern Christian, especially Byzantine Orthodox, ascetical theology, being developed particularly within the theology of St Maximus the Confessor. The term 'gnomic' derives from the Greek gnome, meaning 'inclination' or 'intention'. Within Orthodox theology, gnomic willing is contrasted with natural willing. Natural willing designates the movement of a creature in accordance with the principle (logos) of its nature towards the fulfilment (telos, stasis) of its being. Gnomic willing, on the other hand, designates that form of willing in which a person engages in a process of deliberation culminating in a decision.

Within the theology of St Maximus, which was endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in condemning monothelitism, Jesus Christ possessed no gnomic will. St Maximus developed this claim particularly in his Dialogue with Pyrrhus. According to St Maximus, the process of gnomic willing presupposes that a person does not know what they want, and so must deliberate and choose between a range of choices. However, Jesus Christ, as both man and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, possessed complete congruence of His two wills, the divine and the human. Therefore, St Maximus reasoned, Christ was never in a state of ignorance regarding what he wanted, and so never engaged in gnomic willing.

Aristotle, a major philosophical influence on Maximus, in comparing the works of Nature with those of a human worker, had also declared that any process of deliberation, far from indicating superior intellect, is a sign of our weakness.

Lateran Council of 649

The Lateran Council of 649 was a synod held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran to condemn Monothelitism, a Christology espoused by many Eastern Christians. The Council did not achieve ecumenical status in either East or West, but represented the first attempt of a pope to convene an ecumenical council independent of the Roman emperor.

According to Ekonomou, the irony of the Council was that the denunciation of the theology of Constantinople came from the "collaboration of a Greco-Palestinian pope and a Constantinopolitan monk employing a style of theological discourse whose tradition was purely Eastern." Although Pope Martin I and Maximus the Confessor were abducted by Constans II and tried in Constantinople for their role in the Council (Martin I being replaced as pope before dying in exile), their position was ultimately endorsed by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680.

Lebanese Maronite Christians

Lebanese Maronite Christians (المسيحية المارونية في لبنان) refers to Lebanese people who are adherents of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, which is the largest Christian denomination in the country.

The Lebanese Maronite Christians are believed to constitute about 25% of the total population of Lebanon. Lebanon's constitution was intended to guarantee political representation for each of the nation's ethno-religious groups.Under the terms of an unwritten agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, the president of the country must be a Maronite.

Macarius I of Antioch

Macarius I of Antioch was Patriarch of Antioch in the 7th century, deposed in 681 for professing monothelitism.


The Mardaites (Greek: Μαρδαΐται) or al-Jarajima (Syriac: ܡܪ̈ܕܝܐ‎; Arabic: الجراجمة‎ / ALA-LC: al-Jarājimah), inhabited the highland regions of the Nur Mountains.

The Mardaites were early Christians following either Miaphysitism or Monothelitism and bear a possible, but unconfirmed, relation to the Maronites. Little is known about their ethnicity, it has been speculated that they might have been Persians or Armenians, yet other sources claim them to have been native to the Levant or possibly even from the Arabian peninsula. Their other Arabic name, al-Jarājimah, suggests that some were natives of the town Jurjum in Cilicia, however the name also exists in Arabic and translates to "Sick" or "Insane" as is the case with the word "Mareed", due to their fierce fighting style and retaliation against attacks. They were joined later by various escaped slaves and peasants during their insurgency and were said to have claimed territory from "the Holy City" to the "Black Mountain".

Maximus the Confessor

Maximus the Confessor (Greek: Μάξιμος ὁ Ὁμολογητής), also known as Maximus the Theologian and Maximus of Constantinople (c. 580 – 13 August 662), was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar.

In his early life, Maximus was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. However, he gave up this life in the political sphere to enter into the monastic life. Maximus had studied diverse schools of philosophy, and certainly what was common for his time, the Platonic dialogues, the works of Aristotle, and numerous later Platonic commentators on Aristotle and Plato, like Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus. When one of his friends began espousing the Christological position known as Monothelitism, Maximus was drawn into the controversy, in which he supported an interpretation of the Chalcedonian formula on the basis of which it was asserted that Jesus had both a human and a divine will. Maximus is venerated in both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. He was eventually persecuted for his Christological positions; following a trial, his tongue and right hand were mutilated.

He was then exiled and died on August 13, 662, in Tsageri in present-day Georgia. However, his theology was upheld by the Third Council of Constantinople and he was venerated as a saint soon after his death. It is highly uncommon among the saints that he has two feast days: 13 August and 21 January. His title of "Confessor" means that he suffered for the Christian faith, but was not directly martyred.


Monoenergism (Greek: μονοενεργητισμός) was a notion in early medieval Christian theology, representing the belief that Christ had only one "energy" (energeia). The teaching of one energy was propagated during the first half of the seventh century by Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople but opposition to Dyoenergism would persist until Dyoenergism was espoused as Orthodoxy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Ultimately, monoenergism was rejected as heresy, in favour of dyoenergism.

After the failure of Emperor Justinian I and the Second Council of Constantinople to mend the Chalcedonian schism and unify main Christian communities within the Byzantine Empire by a single Christology, similar efforts were renewed by Heraclius (610–641) who attempted to solve the schism between the Eastern Orthodox Chalcedonian party and the monophysite non-Chalcedonian party, suggesting the compromise of monoenergism. This compromise adopted the Chalcedonian dyophysite belief that Christ the Incarnate Logos of God is of and in two natures, but tried to address monophysite misgivings by the view that Christ had one "energy" (energeia), a term whose definition was left deliberately vague. Monoenergism was accepted by the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria, as well as by the Armenians and was not clearly criticized by Pope Honorius I of Rome in his 635 epistle. However, it was rejected by Athanasius I Gammolo and the strong opposition of Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem won wide support. This led Heraclius to abandon the teaching in 638 (though still condemning Dyoenergism) and to attempt to enforce instead the doctrine of monothelitism, opposed most notably by Maximus the Confessor. This too failed to heal the schism and theologically unite the empire.

Both monoenergism as well as monotheletism were condemned as heresies by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 680.

Plato (exarch)

Plato (Greek: Πλάτων, fl. 645–653) was the Exarch of Ravenna from 645 to 649. He is known primarily for his monothelitism and his opposition to the Pope Theodore I. He convinced the Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople to break with the Pope.

He is first attested as exarch in 645. By 649, when his successor Olympius is named as being at Ravenna, he was already back at the imperial court in Constantinople, functioning as the advisor of Emperor Constans II on the Italian situation regarding Pope Martin I's resistance to Monotheletism.

He is last attested in 653. A brother, the presbyter Theocharistos, and a brother-in-law or son-in-law named Theodore Chilas, are also attested two years later.

Pope Agatho

Pope Agatho (died January 681) served as the Bishop of Rome from 27 June 678 until his death in 681. He heard the appeal of Wilfrid of York, who had been displaced from his See by the division of the Archdiocese ordered by Theodore of Canterbury. During Agatho's tenure, the Sixth Ecumenical Council was convened which dealt with the monothelitism controversy. He is venerated as a saint by both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Pope Eugene I

Pope Eugene I (died 2 June 657), also known as Eugenius I, was Bishop of Rome from 10 August 654 to his death in 657. He was a native of Rome, born to one Rufinianus.

In June 653, in the midst of a dispute with Byzantine Emperor Constans II over Monothelitism, Pope Martin I was seized and carried to Constantinople and subsequently exiled to Cherson in the Crimea. Initially, in the pontiff's absence, the church was probably governed by the archpriest, archdeacon and the primicerius of the notaries. Over a year later, and with no sign of Martin's return, Eugene was chosen to succeed. If the emperor expected Eugene to take a different approach from that of his predecessor, he was disappointed.

Pope Vitalian

Pope Vitalian (Latin: Vitalianus; died 27 January 672) reigned from 30 July 657 to his death in 672. He was born in Segni, Lazio, the son of Anastasius.

Pyrrhus of Constantinople

Pyrrhus (? – 1 June 654) was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 20 December 638 to 29 September 641, and again from 9 January to 1 June 654.

He was a supporter of Monotheletism, a christological doctrine propounded by the Emperor Heraclius. In 638, with the support of Heraclius, he was elected to the patriarchal throne. In the unrest following the death of Heraclius, he was accused of plotting against the life of Constantine III with Empress Martina to favor her son, Heraklonas. The army and the populace rose in revolt and the powerful Valentinus deposed and banished Pyrrhus to Africa. Soon after, Martina and Heraklonas were also deposed and exiled; Constans II, Constantine's son, was proclaimed the sole Emperor.

While in exile, in 645 he conducted with Maximus the Confessor a public discussion on faith (Disputatio cum Pyrrho), after which he rejected Monothelitism, and visited Rome in 647. From there he continued to Ravenna and returned to Constantinople, where he again reversed his position and re-embraced Monothelitism. He was excommunicated by Pope Theodore I as a consequence, but succeeded in becoming again Patriarch in early 654, holding the office until his death on 1 June of the same year.

He was posthumously cast out as heretical by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680/1.

Sergius I of Constantinople

Sergius I (Greek: Σέργιος Α΄, Sergios I ; d. 9 December 638 in Constantinople) was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 610 to 638. He is most famous for promoting Monothelite Christianity, especially through the Ecthesis.Sergius was born of Syrian Jacobite heritage. He first came to power as Patriarch of Constantinople in 610. He was also a known supporter of Emperor Heraclius, crowning Heraclius as Emperor himself in 610. Sergius also provided support to Heraclius throughout his campaign against the Persians. Sergius also played a prominent role in the defense of Constantinople against the combined Avar-Persian-Slavic forces during their invasion of Constantinople in 626. Sergius' connections to both political and religious authorities gave him to his influence in both the religious and political communities to further Monothelitism as the primary formula of Christ within the church. This was met with much opposition, especially from that of the Chalcedonian supporters, Maximus the Confessor and Sophronius. In response to their resistance to accept the ideas of Monothelitism, Sergius responded with the Ecthesis, a formula which forbade the idea that the Person of Christ had two energies in favour of the idea that the Person of Christ had two natures that were united by a single will. The Ecthesis was signed by Heraclius in 638, the same year that Sergius died.

The Ecthesis would only be seen as an accepted doctrine for two years; the death of Pope Honorius I resulted in a significant reduction in Monothelitism support. The Ecthesis was condemned in 640 by Pope John IV. Additionally, both Sergius and Pope Honorius I were condemned as heretics by the church in 680-681 by the Third Council of Constantinople.

Third Council of Constantinople

The Third Council of Constantinople, counted as the Sixth Ecumenical Council by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well by certain other Western Churches, met in 680/681 and condemned monoenergism and monothelitism as heretical and defined Jesus Christ as having two energies and two wills (divine and human).

By tradition
Early Church
Early Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
Mysticism and reforms
19th century
20th century
21st century
Middle Ages
Early modernity

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.