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(fō`shəs), c.820–892?, Greek churchman and theologian, patriarch of Constantinople, b. Constantinople. He came of a noble Byzantine family. Photius was one of the most learned men of his time, a professor in the university at Constantinople and, under Byzantine Emperor Michael IIIMichael III
(Michael the Amorian or Phrygian), 836–67, Byzantine emperor (842–67), son and successor of Theophilus and grandson of Michael II. His minority saw the final overthrow of iconoclasm and a severe persecution of the Paulicians.
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, president of the imperial chancellery. When the head of the sterner orthodox faction, St. Ignatius of ConstantinopleIgnatius of Constantinople, Saint,
c.800–877, Greek churchman, patriarch of Constantinople. A son of Byzantine Emperor Michael I, he was castrated and shut up in a monastery (813) by the man who deposed his father, Emperor Leo V, to prevent his succession to the throne.
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 was deposed (858) from the patriarchate, Photius, a layman, was rushed through the stages of the holy orders and installed in the position. In 861 the legates of Pope St. Nicholas INicholas I, Saint,
c.825–867, pope (858–67), a Roman; successor of Benedict III. He was a vigorous and politically active pope who arbitrated both temporal and religious disputes.
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 approved the election of Photius, but the pope refused to recognize him. In 867, Photius called a synod that challenged the rights of the pope in Bulgaria, questioned certain Latin practices, and challenged the pope's right to judge the canonicity of the election of the patriarch. Nicholas died without learning of the synod's work. When Basil IBasil I
(Basil the Macedonian) , c.813–886, Byzantine emperor (867–86). His ancestors probably were Armenians or Slavs who settled in Macedonia. He became (c.856) the favorite of Emperor Michael III.
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 became Byzantine emperor (867), Photius was banished to Cyprus and St. Ignatius became patriarch again. Although Photius was condemned two years later (see Constantinople, Fourth Council ofConstantinople, Fourth Council of,
869–70, regarded as the eighth ecumenical council by the modern Roman Catholic Church. It has never been accepted by the Orthodox Church, which instead recognizes the council of 880 that supported Photius.
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), he reconciled with Basil and Ignatius, and on the death of Ignatius he again became patriarch (877). Pope John VIII recognized him as patriarch and sent legates to a synod, held in 879–80, which the Orthodox Eastern ChurchOrthodox Eastern Church,
community of Christian churches whose chief strength is in the Middle East and E Europe. Their members number some 300 million worldwide. The Orthodox agree doctrinally in accepting as ecumenical the first seven councils (see council, ecumenical) and in
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 regards as an ecumenical council. This synod affirmed that Photius had been legally elected, nullified those synods that had condemned him, ruled against the elevation of laymen to the episcopacy, and agreed that Constantinople would relinquish authority in Bulgaria. The acts of this council were apparently approved by Pope John VIII, but without any retraction of his predecessors' condemnations. Photius continued as patriarch until the accession of Byzantine Emperor Leo VILeo VI
(Leo the Wise or Leo the Philosopher), 862?–912, Byzantine emperor (886–912), son and successor of Basil I. He added to the work of his father by the publication (887–93) of the Basilica, a modernization of the law of Justinian I and of canon law.
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 in 886, when he was forced to resign under imperial pressure; he died in exile. Photius is a figure of controversy. In later years the deep cleavage between East and West was reckoned from the schism of Photius, even though the formal schism did not occur until the 11th cent. Certainly Photius encouraged the growing self-consciousness in the Greek church, not only through his exposition of the theological differences between the two churches, but also through his humanist and scholarly works. He is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Eastern Church. Many of his letters, homilies, and dogmatic and polemical works are extant. His writings include the Myriobyblion, or Bibliotheca, a collection of extracts from 280 volumes of classical authors, which contains many quotations from lost Greek writings; a Lexicon to assist in reading the works of older authors; and the Nomocanon, a collection of the acts and decrees of the councils and ecclesiastical laws of the emperors.


See J. H. Freese, The Library of Photius (1920); F. Dvornik, The Photian Schism (1948); A. Gerostergios, St. Photios the Great (1980).



Born between 810 and 827, in Constantinople; died between 891 and 897. Byzantine ecclesiastical and political figure, writer.

As patriarch of Constantinople from 858 to 867 and again from 877 to 886, Photius criticized the despotism of the emperor and asserted that the patriarch and the emperor were equal in authority. Photius did much to extend the influence of the Byzantine church to the Slavic lands of Bulgaria, Moravia, and Rus’. In so doing, however, he came into conflict with the papacy and thus helped precipitate the Great Eastern Schism. Of Photius’ many works, the most important was Myriobiblon (Bibliotheca), the first medieval bibliographical work to contain elements of literary criticism. He also wrote theological treatises on such subjects as the Paulician heresy; sermons, including two that mention the attack of Rus’ on Constantinople in 860; and letters, which are important sources on the domestic history and foreign policy of Byzantium. Photius was deposed in 886 by Emperor Leo VI and died in exile.


Kazhdan, A. P. “Sotsial’nye i politicheskie vzgliady Fotiia.” In the collection Ezhegodnik Muzeia istorii religii i ateizma, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958. Pages 107–36.
Dvornik, F. The Photian Schism. Cambridge, 1970.
Dvornik, F. Photian and Byzantine Ecclesiastical Studies. London, 1974.
Lemerle, P. Le Premier Humanisme byzantin. Paris, 1971. Pages 177–204.