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The Schism that never was: Old Norse views on Byzantium and Russia

Sverrir Jakobsson

Byzantinoslavica:­ Revue internationale des Etudes Byzantines (2008)

Introduction: In general works on European medieval history there frequently appears a grand narrative about the friction and polarisation within Christianity which reached a climax with ’the great schism’ of 1054. As of that time, it has often been reiterated, Christians split into a western branch which subscribed to Roman Catholic Christianity and an eastern branch which came under the Greek Orthodox Church. Recently, historians have developed an interest in the genesis of Europe as a medieval phenomenon but this Europe is usually equated with Roman Catholicism. The powerful East Roman Empire is not regarded as a fully-fledged European state, but as on a divergent path leading eventually to a dead-end.

In the Middle Ages, many of those writing about the situation within the Church have viewed it in terms of a split. It could take on a cultural meaning, e.g. the term latinitas was sometimes used about the Roman-Catholic world in the 12th century. This word is found in writings about the appointment of the German Emperor and the potential consequences of this for the Latin world. Furthermore, at the time of the Crusades, various scholars in Western Europe were hostile towards the Greeks and some went so far as to say that Constantinople had ’no part in Christianity except in name’.

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