Michael I Cerularius

Michael I Cerularius
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
See Patriarchate of Constantinople
Enthroned 1043
Reign ended 1059
Predecessor Alexius I Studites
Successor Constantine III Lichoudas
Personal details
Birth name Michael Keroularios
Born Constantinople, Byzantine Empire
Died Constantinople, Byzantine Empire
Nationality Byzantine
Denomination Eastern Orthodoxy
Residence Constantinople

Michael I Cerularius (c. 1000–1059), also known as Michael Keroularios or Patriarch Michael I, was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 1043 to 1059.


Born in Constantinople, Patriarch Michael I Cerularius is noted for disputing with Pope Leo IX over church practices in respect of which the Roman Church differed from Constantinople, especially the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist.[1]

Pope Leo IX sent a letter to the Patriarch in 1054, that cited a large portion of the Donation of Constantine believing it genuine.[2]

"The first pope who used it [the Donation] in an official act and relied upon it, was Leo IX; in a letter of 1054 to Michael Cærularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, he cites the "Donatio" to show that the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly imperium, the royal priesthood."

Leo IX assured the Patriarch that the donation was completely genuine, not a fable or old wives' tale, so only the apostolic successor to Peter possessed that primacy and was the rightful head of all the Church.

This letter of Pope Leo IX was addressed both to Michael Cærularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Leo of Ohrid, Archbishop of Bulgaria, and was in response to a letter sent by Leo, Metropolitan of Achrida to John, Bishop of Trani (in Apulia), that categorically attacked the customs of the Latin Church that differed from those of the Greeks. Especially criticized were the Roman traditions of fasting on the Saturday Sabbath and consecration of unleavened bread. Leo IX in his letter accused Constantinople of historically being the source of heresy and claimed in emphatic terms the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over even the Patriarch of Constantinople, who would have none of it.

It can be argued that in 1054 the Patriarch's letter to Pope Leo IX initiated the events which followed because it claimed the title "ecumenical patriarch" and addressed Pope Leo as "brother" rather than "father." Pope Leo IX sent Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida on a legatine mission to treat with the Patriarch. Cerularius refused to meet with Cardinal Humbert and kept him waiting with no audience for months.

Thus, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida delivered a notice of excommunication against Patriarch Michael on July 16, 1054, despite the death of Pope Leo three months prior and thus the invalidity of the excommunication. Michael in turn excommunicated the cardinal and the Pope and subsequently removed the pope's name from the diptychs starting the East-West Schism.

This schism led to the end of the alliance between the Emperor and the Papacy, and caused later Popes to ally with the Normans against the Empire. Patriarch Michael closed the Latin churches in his area which exacerbated the schism. In 1965, those excommunications were rescinded by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras when they met in the Second Vatican Council. Although the excommunication delivered by Cardinal Humbert was invalid, this gesture represented a significant step towards restoring communion between Rome and Constantinople.

The short reign of the Empress Theodora saw Michael intrigue against the throne. Michael Psellus notes that while their initial relations had been cordial, once Theodora took the Imperial throne they entered into open conflict as Michael "was vexed because the Roman Empire was being governed by a woman" and on this topic "he spoke his mind freely.".[3] The historian suggests that Theodora would have deposed Michael for his open effrontery and sedition had she lived longer.

Cerularius had a hand in negotiating the abdication of Michael VI Stratiotikos, convincing him to step down on 31 August 1057, in favour of the rebellious general Isaac, for whom the army declared on 8 June.[4] The emperor duly followed the patriarch's advice and became a monk. Having had a role in bringing him to the throne, Cerularius next quarrelled with Isaac I Komnenos over confiscation of church property. Michael went so far as to take the highly symbolic step of donning the purple shoes ceremonially reserved for the Emperor. Michael apparently planned a rebellion to overthrow the Emperor and claim the Imperial Throne for himself or for his relative Constantine Doukas. Isaac exiled Michael to Proconnesus in 1058 and, as Michael refused to step down, had Psellus drew up the Accusation of heresy and treason against him.[5] Cerularius died before coming to trial.



  • Michael Psellus, Fourteen Byzantine Rulers (The Chronographia), E.R.A. Sewter, trans. New York: Penguin, 1966.
  • Skylitzes, John (John Wortley, trans. and J-C. Cheynet, notes). Cambridge: University Press, 2010.


  1. ^ Michael Cærularius - Catholic Encyclopedia article
  2. ^ Migne's Patrologia Latina, Vol. 143 (cxliii), Col. 744-769. Also Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova Amplissima Collectio, Vol. 19 (xix) Col. 635-656.
  3. ^ PSellus, p. 269.
  4. ^ Norwich, pg. 332
  5. ^ Psellus, p. 315. Editor's n. I. See also Skylitzes, p. 464, note 56.
Preceded by
Alexios Stoudites
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Constantine III Leichoudes

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  • Michael Cerularius — born с 1000, Constantinople died Jan. 21, 1059, Madytus, near Constantinople Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople (1043–58). He thwarted Constantine IX s efforts to ally the Byzantine and Roman empires against the Normans, and he closed… …   Universalium

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  • Michael — /muy keuhl/, n. 1. a militant archangel. Dan. 10:13. 2. Rumanian, Mihai /mee huy /. born 1921, king of Rumania 1927 30, 1940 47 (son of Carol II). 3. (italics) a narrative poem (1800) by Wordsworth. 4. a male given name. * * * I In the Bible and… …   Universalium

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