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The Merovingian Kingdoms and the Monothelete Controversy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2020

University CollegeDublin
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The Monothelete controversy, a Christological dispute that seemingly consumed the Eastern Roman Empire in the seventh century, also left its mark in Latin texts composed in Merovingian Gaul. By integrating the western evidence and recent revisions to the controversy's history, this study presents a new overview of how Frankish observers viewed the eastern ‘heresy’ and papal efforts to condemn the doctrine in 649. Though negative on the surface, western attitudes towards this Christological debate in the 650s are much more mixed and new evidence can be adduced for the continuation of positive exchanges between the empire and the Franks.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020

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I would like to thank Paul Fouracre, Chris Wickham and Laury Sarti for their helpful comments, as well as Katy Cubitt for sending me her work prior to publication.


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6 Ibid. 128–60; Booth, Crisis of empire, 240–1.


7 Booth, Crisis of empire, 259–300.

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21 CG, 148–9.

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27 Acts of the Lateran synod, 157‒63, 207‒11; Martin, Letter to Amandus, 423‒4.

28 Acts of the Lateran synod, 208‒9; Booth, Crisis of empire, 291.

29 CG, 303.

30 PL lxxxvii.127, 141, 178, 191.

31 Spudaeus, Theodore, Narrations concerning the exile of the holy Pope Martin, 17, ed. Neil, B., in Seventh-century popes and martyrs: the political hagiography of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, Turnhout 2006Google Scholar; Record of the trial of Maximus the Confessor, 135–53, ed. P. Allen and B. Neil, CCSG xxxix, Turnhout 1999.

32 Dispute at Bizya, 221–5, 629–45, CCSG xxxix.

33 Martin, Letter to Amandus, 423‒4.

34 Bede, Ecclesiastical history, iv.15, ed. M. Lapidge, in Beda: Storia degli inglesi, Milan 2008–10; CG, 148–9. Note also the Council of Clichy (626/7), which condemned the Bonosians (CG, 292), if Fischer is correct to link it to Christological debate: ‘Orthodoxy and authority’, 155; cf. Fox, Y., ‘“Sent from the confines of Hell”: Bonosiacs in early medieval Gaul’, Studies in Late Antiquity ii (2018), 336–9Google Scholar.

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36 VE i.33. The suggestion in Borias (‘Saint Wandrille’, 61) that Wandregisel of Fontanelle was delegated to take Eligius’ place by the council remains entirely speculative, as noted also by Mériaux, ‘One-way ticket to Francia’, 146.

37 Borias, ‘Saint Wandrille’, 61.

38 CG, 308‒9.

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43 Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 294; Booth, Crisis of empire, 320; Moorhead, Popes and the Church of Rome, 196.

44 LP lxxvii.2; Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 305.

45 Anton, Studien zu den Klosterprivilegien, 22.

46 Cf. C. Cubitt, ‘The impact of the Lateran council of 649 in Francia: the martyrdom of Pope Martin and the Life of St Eligius’, in S. DeGregorio and P. J. E. Kershaw (eds), Cities, saints, and scholars in early medieval Europe: essays in honour of Alan Thacker, Turnhout forthcoming.

47 Life of Amandus, 18; Price, Lateran synod, 392.

48 S. Esders, ‘“Great security prevailed in both East and West”: the Merovingian kingdoms and the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680/1)’, in Esders and others, East and West, 249‒50.

49 Ildefonsus of Toledo, On illustrious men, 13, ed. C. Codoñer Merino, CCSL cxivA, Turnhout 2007; cf. Collins, R., Visigothic Spain, 409–711, Oxford 2004, 168CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Moreno, L. A. García, ‘Una desconocida embajada de Quindasvinto al Africa bizantina’, Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia ccvi (2009), 461Google Scholar.

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51 VE i.35.

52 Life of Sigiramn of Longoret, 9‒10, ed. B. Krusch, MGH, SRM, iv. On Falvius as a ‘convenient literary solution’ see Fox, Y., ‘The political context of Irish monasticism in seventh-century Francia: another look at the sources’, in Flechner, R. and Meeder, S. (eds), The Irish in early medieval Europe, London 2016, 55‒6Google Scholar,

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55 Booth, Crisis of empire, 200–2; Acts of the Council in Trullo, 39, ed. H. Ohme, ACO ii.4; P. Sarris, Empires of faith: the fall of Rome to the rise of Islam, 500–700, Oxford 2011, 297.

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61 Mériaux highlights the possible connections provided by Amandus’ missionary work: ‘One-way ticket to Francia’, 145‒6.

62 Life of Amandus, 6‒7, 10.

63 LP lxxvi.4.

64 Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 243; Booth, Crisis of empire, 300 n. 101.

65 Duchesne, Liber pontificalis, i.339 n. 6; Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 243 n. 300.

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69 LP lxxvi.6‒7; Theodore Spudaeus, Narrations, 16‒17.

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75 Sarris, Empires of faith, 279‒93.

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77 S. Esders, ‘When contemporary history is caught up by the immediate present: Fredegar's proleptic depiction of Emperor Constans ii’, in Esders and others, Merovingian kingdoms, 144, 146.

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81 Anastasius the Monk, Letter to the monks of Cagliari, 10–12, ed. P. Allen and B. Neil, CCSG xxxix; Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 331–5.

82 R. Whelan, Being Christian in Vandal Africa: the politics of orthodoxy in the post-imperial West, Oakland, Ca 2018, 217.

83 Maximus the Confessor, Letter to Anastasius the Monk, 4–5; Acts of the Third Council of Constantinople, ed. R. Riedinger, ACO ii/2, Berlin 1990–2, 610; Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 328–31; Booth, Crisis of empire, 320–2.

84 Jankowiak, ‘Essai d'histoire’, 334.

85 Stüber, ‘The Fifth Council of Orléans’, 99–101; S. Esders, ‘“Avenger of all perjury” in Constantinople, Ravenna and Metz: St Polyeuctus, Sigibert i, and the division of Charibert's kingdom in 568’, in Fischer and Wood, Western perspectives, 31–2.

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