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Ignatius of Constantinople

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Our father among the saints Ignatius of Constantinople, in Greek: Ιγνάτιος, was the Patriarch of Constantiople in the nineth century during a period of imperial household conspiracies, iconocastic confrontations, and disputes with the Roman papacy over papal precedence in Constantinople. He is commemorated on October 23.


He was born Niketas about 797, the son of the Eastern Roman Emperor Michael I Rangabe and Prokopia. He was the grandson of Emperor Nikephoros I. While still a child, Niketas was appointed the nominal commander of the Hikanatoi, a new corps of imperial guards.

In 813, after Leo V the Armenian deposed Michael, Leo made Niketas a eunuch, to prevent him from becoming emperor, and imprisoned him in a monastery. At this time Niketas’ name was changed to Ignatius. While in the monastery, he embraced the monastic life and became its abbot. He also founded three monasteries on the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara near Constantinople, where Roman royalty were exiled. Ignatius was ordained by Basil, Bishop of Paros.

In 847, after the death of her husband the emperor Theophilus the Iconoclast, Empress Theodora, a staunch iconodule and regent for her son Michael III, appointed Ignatius Patriarch of Constantinople, succeeding the reposed Methodius I. As patriarch, Ignatius soon became involved is the dispute between the Stoudites and the defenders of former iconoclasts. Siding with the Stoudites, Ignatius deposed their leader Gregory Asbestas, the archbishop of Syracuse who then appealed to Pope Leo IV in Rome. This action set off a period of conflict in relations between Constantinople and Rome.

As Michael grew up under the regency of his mother, the empress Theodora, he came under the influence of his maternal uncle, Caesar Bardas, who was noted for his sinful life. To improve his position, Bardas undermined the authority of Theodora until, in 855, he convinced Michael to depose his mother and send her to a monastery with her daughters. Ignatius refused to bless their monastic clothing. Ignatius, who had been a strong critic of Bardas, soon lost the support of Michael. In 857,wanting to avoid a conflict between the Church and the government, his bishops advised him to resign. To replace Ignatius, The bishop’s council of both sides recommended to Michael as the new patriarch the layman Photius to avoid the election of bishops from rival parties. Over his protests, Photius ordained through the Holy Orders and consecrated as patriarch on December 24. 858 by Gregory Asbesta, who had been rehabilitated by the bishop’s council, and two Ignatian bishops. Photius was a scholar and strong opponent of the iconoclasts.

Several months after his exile, some supporters of Ignatius met and appealed to Pope Nicholas I in an attempt to discredit Photius’ appointment. This action further strained relations between Constantinople and Rome as Nicholas used the dispute in an attempt to increase his power over the Eastern church and assert jurisdiction over the newly converted Bulgaria. Councils, one in 859 convened by Photius and a second in 861, convened by Michael with Photius’ concurrence, affirmed that Photius was the lawful and canonical patriarch.

In 867, the rivalries for the emperor’s throne quickly changed the situation as Basil the Macedonian murdered Michael and Bardas and usurped the throne. Photius did not accept the murder of Michael and refused Basil communion. Having raised Basil’s ire Photius was removed from office on September 25, 867. Ignatius was reinstated on November 23.

Upon his return, Ignatius followed policies that did not differ much from those that Photius used. Ignatius refused to yield to the papacy and by 870 brought Bulgaria back into the sphere of influence of the Church of Constantinople. As the politics of Constantinople calmed, Photius was returned to Constantinople in 876 by Basil I and entrusted with the education of emperor Basil’s sons. With the repose of Ignatius on October 23, 877, Photius was restored to the patriarchal throne, having been so recommended by Ignatius.

Preceded by:
Methodius I
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by:
Photius I
Preceded by:
Photius I
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by:
Photius I

See also


ro:Ignatie de Constantinopol

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