The Church of Antioch
I. ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE CITY.
Of the vast empire conquered by Alexander the Great many states were
formed, one of which comprised Syria and other countries to the east and west
of it. This realm fell to the lot of one of the conqueror's generals, Seleucus
Nicator, or Seleucus I, founder of the dynasty of the Seleucid?. About the year
300 B. C. he founded a city on the banks of the lower Orontes, some twenty miles
from the Syrian coast, and a short distance below Antigonia, the capital of his
defeated rival Antigonus. The city, which was named Antioch, from Antiochus, the
father of Seleucus, was meant to be the capital of the new realm. It was situated
on the northern slope of Mount Silpius, on an agreeable and well-chosen site,
and stretched as far as the Orontes, which there flows from east to west. It grew
soon to large proportions; new quarters or suburbs were added to it, so that ultimately
it consisted of four towns enclosed by as many distinct walls and by a common
rampart, which with the citadel reached to the summit of Mount Silpius. When Syria
was made a Roman province by Pompey (64 B. C.), Antioch continued to be the metropolis
of the East. It also became the residence of the legates, or governors, of Syria.
In fact, Antioch, after Rome and Alexandria, was the largest city of the empire,
with a population of over half a million. Whenever the emperors came to the East
they honoured it with their presence. The Seleucid? as well as the Roman rulers
vied with one another in adorning and enriching the city with statues, theatres,
temples, aqueducts, public baths, gardens, fountains, and cascades; a broad avenue
with four rows of columns, forming covered porticoes on each side, traversed the
city from east to west, to the length of several miles. Its most attractive pleasure
resort was the beautiful grove of laurels and cypresses called Daphne, some four
or five miles to the west of the city. It was renowned for its park-like appearance,
for its magnificent temple of Apollo, and for the pompous religious festival held
in the month of August. From it Antioch was sometimes surnamed Epidaphnes. The
population included a great variety of races. There were Macedonians and Greeks,
native Syrians and Ph?necians, Jews and Romans, besides a contingent from further
Asia; many flocked there because Seleucus had given to all the right of citizenship.
Nevertheless, it remained always predominantly a Greek city. The inhabitants did
not enjoy a great reputation for learning or virtue; they were excessively devoted
to pleasure, and universally kown for their witticisms and sarcasm. Not a few
of their peculiar traits have reached us through the sermons of St. John Chrysostom,
the letters of Libanius, the "Misopogon" of Julian, and other literary sources.
Their loyalty to imperial authority could not always be depended upon. In spite
of these defects there was at all times in Antioch a certain number of men, especially
in the Jewish colony, who were given to serious thoughts, even to thoughts of
religion. After the fifth century Antioch lost much of its size and importance.
It was visited by frequent earthquakes, by not less than ten from the second century
B. C. to the end of the sixth century of the Christian era. Twice it was captured
and sacked by the Persians, in A. D. 260 and 540. On the latter occasion it was
almost completely destroyed, but was rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian I (527-565)
on a much smaller scale, and called Theopolis. It is said that no small portion
of his walls remained until 1825, a specimen of the military architecture of the
sixth century. In 638 it was taken by the Mohammedans, was restored to the Byzantine
Empire in 969, and reconquered by the Seljuks in 1084. >From 1098 until 1268 it
was in the hands of the Crusaders and their descendants; the Sultan Bibars of
Egypt took it in 1268; and in 1517 it came with Syria under the Turkish Empire.
The former populous metropolis of the East is now the small town of Antakia with
about 20,000 inhabitants.
II. CHRISTIANITY OF ANTIOCH.
Since the city of Antioch was a great centre of government and civilization,
the Christian religion spread thither almost from the beginning. Nicolas, one
of the seven deacons in Jerusalem, was from Antioch (Acts, vi, 5). The seed of
Christ's teaching was carried to Antioch by some disciples from Cyprus and Cyrene,
who fled from Jerusalem during the persecution that followed upon the martyrdom
of St. Stephen (Acts, xi, 19, 20). They preached the teachings of Jesus, not only
to the Jewish colony but also to the Greeks or Gentiles, and soon large numbers
were converted. The mother-church of Jerusalem having heard of the occurrence
sent Barnabas thither, who called Saul from Tarsus to Antioch (ib., 22, 25). There
they laboured for a whole year with such success that the followers of Christ
were acknowledged as forming a distinct community, "so that at Antioch the disciples
were first named Christians" (ib., 26). Their charity was exhibited by the offerings
sent to the famine-stricken brethren in Judea. St. Peter himself came to Antioch
(Gal., ii, 11), probably about the year 44, and according to all appearances lived
there for some time. The community of Antioch, being composed in part of Greeks
or Gentiles, had views of its own on the character and conditions of the new religion.
There was a faction among the disciples in Jerusalem which maintained that the
Gentile converts to Christianity should pass first through Judaism by submitting
to the observances of the Mosaic law, such as circumcision and the like. This
attitude seemed to close the gates to the Gentiles, and was strongly contested
by the Christians of Antioch. Their plea for Christian liberty was defended by
their leaders, Paul and Barnabas, and received full recognition in the Apostolic
Council of Jerusalem (Acts, xv, 22- 32). Later on St. Paul defends this principle
at Antioch even in the face of Peter (Gal., ii, 11). Antioch became soon a centre
of missionary propaganda. It was thence that St. Paul and his companions started
on their journey for the conversion of the nations. The Church of Antioch was
also fully organized almost from the beginning. It was one of the few original
churches which preserved complete the catalogue of its bishops. The first of these
bishops, Evodius, reaches back to the Apostolic age. At a very early date the
Christian community of Antioch became the central point of all the Christian interests
in the East. After the fall of Jerusalem (A. D. 70) it was the real metropolis
of Christianity in those countries. In the meantime the number of Christians grew
to such an extent, that in the first part of the fourth century Antioch was looked
upon as practically a Christian city. Many churches were erected there for the
accommodation of the worshippers of Christ. In the fourth century there was still
a basilica called "the ancient" and "apostolic". It was probably one of the oldest
architectural monuments of Christianity; an ancient tradition maintained that
it was originally the house of Theophilus, the friend of St. Luke (Acts, i, 1).
There were also sanctuaries dedicated to the memory of the great Apostles, Peter,
Paul, and John. Saint Augustine speaks (Sermo, ccc., n. 5) of a "basilica of the
holy Machabees" at Antioch, a famous shrine from the fourth to the sixth century
(Card. Rampolla, in "Bessarione", Rome, 1897-98, I-II). Among the pagan temples
dedicated to Christian uses was the celebrated Temple of Fortune (Tychaeion).
In it the Christians of Antioch enshrined the body of their great bishop and martyr
Ignatius. There was also a martyrium or memorial shrine of Babylas, a third-century
martyr and bishop of Antioch, who suffered death in the reign of Decius. For the
development of Christian domestic architecture in the vicinity of the great city
see De Vogue, "Architecture civile et religieuse de la Syrie Centrale" (Paris,
1867-77), and the similar work of Howard Crosby Butler (New York, 1903). The very
important monastic architecture of the vicinity will be described under SIMEON
STYLITES and BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE. The Emperor Constantine (306-337) built a
church there, which he adorned so richly that it was the admiration of all contemporaries
(St. John Chrys., "Hom. in Ep. ad Eph.", X, 2; Eus., "Vita Const.", III, 50, and
"De laud. Const.", c. 9). It was completely pillaged, but not destroyed, by Chosroes
in 540. the Church of Antioch showed itself worthy of being the metropolis of
Christianity in the east. In the ages of persecution it furnished a very large
quota of martyrs, the bishops setting the example. It may suffice to mention St.
Ignatius at the beginning of the second century; Asclepiades under Septimius Severus
(193-211); and Babylas under Decius (249-251). It produced also a number of great
men, who either in writing or otherwise distinguished themselves in the service
of Christianity. The letters of the afore-mentioned St. Ignatius are very famous.
Theophilus wrote in the latter part of the second century an elaborate defense
and explanation of the Christian religion. In later ages there were such men as
Flavian, who did much to reunite the Christians of Antioch divided by the Arian
disputes; St. John Chrysostom, afterwards Bishop of Constantinople, and Theodoret,
afterwards Bishop of Cyrus in Syria. Several heresies took their rise in Antioch.
In the third century Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, professed erroneous
doctrines. Arianism had its original root not in Alexandria but in the great Syrian
city, Antioch; Nestorianism sprang from it through Theodore of Mopsuestia and
Nestorius of Constantinople. A peculiar feature of Antiochene life was the frequency
of conflict between the Jews and the Christians; several grievous seditions and
massacres are noted by the historians from the end of the fourth to the beginning
of the seventh century (Leclercq, Dict. d'arch. et de liturg. chret., I, col 2396).
III. PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH.
When the early organization of the Church was developed, the Church
of Antioch, owing to its origin and influence, could not fail to become a centre
of special higher jurisdiction. Traces of this power were seen in the very first
ages. Towards the end of the second century Serapion, Bishop of Antioch gave instructions
on the Apocryphal Gospel of St. Peter to the Christians of Rhossus, a town not
of Syria but of Cilicia. Tradition has it that the same Serapion consecrated the
third Bishop of Edessa, which was then outside of the Roman Empire. The councils
held about the middle of the third century in Antioch called together bishops
from Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and the provinces of Eastern Asia Minor. Dionysius
of Alexandria spoke of these bishops as forming the episcopate of the Orient,
among whose members Demetrian of Antioch was mentioned in the first place. At
the Council of Ancyra (314) presided over by Bishop Vitalis of Antioch, about
the same countries were represented through the bishops of the principal cities.
In general, the Churches in the "East", as this complexus of Roman provinces was
known (cf. Oriens Christianus), gravitated towards the Church of Antioch, whose
bishop from remote antiquity exercised a certain jurisdiction over them. This
custom was sanctioned by the Council of Nic?a (325). The Fathers of this assembly
decreed in the sixth canon that the privileges of the Church of Antioch should
be maintained. According to the second canon of the Council of Constantinople
(381) the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Antioch comprised, and was restricted
to the civil diocese of the Orient which included all the eastern-most provinces
of the Roman Empire. In the Council of Ephesus (431) the Bishops of Cyprus were
declared independent of Antioch; and in that of Chalcedon (451) the three provinces
of Palestine were detached from Antioch and placed under the Bishop of Jerusalem.
From the foregoing it is evident that, while in the early ages the jurisdiction
of Antioch extended over the Christian communities in the countries outside the
Roman Empire, its proper limits were Syria, Palestine, and Eastern Asia Minor.
Gradually it was so restricted that by the middle of the fifth century it was
confined to the northern part of the civil diocese of the Orient and the countries
outside of the Roman Empire. The title given to the Bishop of Antioch on account
of this higher jurisdiction was that of "Partriarch", which he held in common
with other dignitaries of a similar rank. His jurisdiction could be exercised
not only with regard to the faithful within his territory, but also over the ordinary
and the metropolitan bishops of his patriarchate. It seems worthy of mention here
that early in the fourth century, the Roman Church possessed at Antioch both urban
and rural properties, both in the old and the "new" parts of the city, and even
in the Jewish quarter. (Liber Pontif. ed. Duchesne, I, 177, 195; cf. cxlix sq.)
The patriarchate of Antioch lost much of its importance after the middle of the
fifth century owing to many adverse circumstances. The Bishops of Constantinople,
who aspired to the first rank in the Eastern Church, acquired gradually, and long
maintained, a controlling influence over the Church of Antioch. In the latter
part of the fifth century the Monophisites, under Peter Fullo, endeavoured to
take possession of the patriarchal see. After the death of their leader Severus
(539) they elected their own patriarchs of Antioch. During the centuries that
followed the conquest of Antioch by the Saracens (638), the succession of orthodox
incumbents of the patriarchal see was irregular; and they had to suffer much from
the new conquerors of the city, who showed a marked preference for the Monophysite
patriarchs (see MOHAMMEDANISM). When the Greek schism was consummated in the eleventh
century, the orthodox patriarchate of Antioch, owing to traditional Byzantine
influence, was drawn into it, and remained schismatic despite repeated efforts
of the Apostolic See for a reunion. At present the Greek patriarch resides in
Damascus, the city of Antioch having long since lost all political importance.
It was not only the Monophysites who dismembered thus early the patriarchate of
Antioch. The Nestorians who emigrated into Persia after their condemnation at
Ephesus (431) soon became so strong that at the end of the fifth century their
bishop, Bab?us of Seleucia, made himself independent of Antioch, and established
a new patriarchate with its centre in Seleucia, afterwards in Bagdad. Those Syrians
who remained united with Rome (now known as the Chald?ans) continued to acknowledge
a patriarch of their own. He is called Patriarch of Babylonia and lives in Mosul.
Among the other oriental communities united with Rome there are three which have
all their patriarchs of Antioch, viz. the Maronites, the Melchites, and the Catholic
IV. LATIN PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH.
When the crusaders took possession of Antioch in 1098, they reinstated
at first the Greek patriarch, then John IV. About two years afterwards the said
dignitary found that he was unfitted to rule over Western Christians, and withdrew
to Constantinople. Thereupon the Latin Christians elected (1100) a patriarch of
their own, an ecclesiastic by the name of Bernard who had come to the Orient with
the crusaders. From that time Antioch had its Latin patriarchs, until in 1268
Christian, the last incumbent, was put to death by the Sultan Bibars, during the
conquest of the city. The Greeks also continued to choose their patriarchs of
Antioch, but these lived generally in Constantinople. The jurisdiction of the
Latin patriarchs in Antioch extended over the three feudal principalities of Antioch,
Edessa, and Tripolis. Towards the end of the twelfth century the island of Cyprus
was added. In practice they were far more dependent upon the popes than their
predecessors, the Greek patriarchs. After the fall of Antioch (1268) the popes
still appointed patriarchs, who, however, were unable to take possession of the
see. Since the middle of the fourteenth century they have been only titular dignitaries.
The title of Latin Patriarch of Antioch is yet conferred; but the recipient resides
in Rome and is a member of the chapter of the basilica of St. Mary Major.
V. SYNODS OF ANTIOCH.
Owing to the special position of Antioch many synods were held there.
A belief, that some find expressed for the first time by Pope Innocent I (407-417;
Mansi, Conc., III, 1055) but that others locate about 787 (Herder, K. L., I, 112),
was current in the past that the Apostles held a council in Antioch. We are informed
by this text (Pitra, Jur. Eccl. Gr. Hist., I, 90-93) that the name of Christians
was formally assigned to the followers of the Saviour by the Apostles, and that
special instructions were given to the Apostolic missionaries and to their converts.
These canons, according to Cardinal Hergenrother (Herder, K. L., l. c.), are apocryphal,
"a mere compilation from the data of the (canonical) Acts and from other writers".
About the year 251 a council was held, or planned to be held, at Antioch, on the
subject of Novatianism to which Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, was inclined. The bishops
chiefly interested in it, apart from Fabius, were Helenus of Tarsus, Firmilian
of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Theocritus of Caesarea in Palestine, who invited
also Dionysius of Alexandria. The matter had no further consequence, since Fabius
died shortly afterwards and was succeeded by Demetrian, whose views on the reconciliation
of the apostates were less extreme. Between the years 264 and 268 three different
synods were held on account of erroneous doctrines on the nature of Jesus Christ
and His relation to God, attributed to Paul, Bishop of Antioch, and a native of
Samosata. Bishops from Syria, Palestine, Arabia, Cilicia, Cappadocia, Pontus,
and Lycaonia took part in these deliberations. Finally, in the third synod, they
deposed Paul, convicted him of heresy, and elected Domnus in his place. Under
the protection of the Princess Zenobia of Palmyra, Paul was able to maintain himself
for some time. He was expelled in the end (272) by a decree of the Emperor Aurelian
Most of the synods held during the fourth century reflected the struggles
that followed upon the Arian controversy. The council of 330 deposed the orthodox
Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch; and for a long time the see was in possession of
the Arians. In the council held in 340 Athanasius of Alexandria was deposed, and
a certain Gregory, from Cappadocia, was consecrated in his stead. The intruder
could take possession of his see only under a military escort. The deposition
of Athanasius was ratified in the synod of the following year (341), which was
held on the occasion of the dedication of the "great", or "golden" church mentioned
above as built by Constantine. The twenty-five disciplinary canons passed by this
council were afterwards received by the universal Church. The four creeds adopted,
though not heretical, still depart from the symbol of faith made at Nicaea. Several
other synods were held in quick succession. In that of 344 the Arian bishop, Stephen
of Antioch, was deposed for misconduct. In the symbol of faith adopted by this
council the Semi-Arian views found expression; at the same time it was directed
against the Arians, the Sabellians, but also against St. Athanasius. The synods
of 358, 361, and 362 revealed and asserted the predominance of the Arians. The
Bishop Eudoxius condemned both the orthodox and the Semi-Arian views. A new bishop
was elected in the person of Meletius, who was thought by many to be on the side
of Arianism, and the Arians proclaimed their loyalty to the party in spite of
defections. At the accession of the Emperor Jovian (363) a council was held in
Antioch, at which the bishops agreed to the Nicene faith, though they added at
the end a Semi-Arian declaration. At last, in 368, a large number of Oriental
bishops, assembled in Antioch, broke with Arianism altogether. They gave their
assent to the Nicene faith as it had been expressed by Pope Damasus and a Roman
synod in 369; viz., that the Father and Son, and Holy Ghost were one substance.
The synod held in 388 forbade any revenge for the death of a bishop killed by
the heathens; another synod held in 390 condemned the sect of the Messalians.
The synods of the fifth and sixth centuries were usually concerned with the theological
controversies of the time. Thus the council of 424 decreed the expulsion of Pelagius
from the city. Phases of the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies were dealt
with in the synods of 432, 447, 451, 471, 478, 481, 482, 508, 512, 565. A synod
of the year 445 rendered a decision in the matter of Athanasius, Bishop of Perrha,
accused of misconduct and brought before the patriarch of Antioch. Finally, a
synod held about the year 542 was caused by the Origenistic controversies in Palestine.
During the period of Latin domination two synods were held at Antioch. In 1139
Radulf, the second Latin Patriarch of Antioch, was deposed for having aspired
to complete independence from Rome, and for cruel treatment inflicted on some
ecclesiastics. In 1204 the Cardinal-Legate Peter decided certain claims on the
principality of Antioch in favour of the Count of Tripolis, against Armenia, which
was placed under interdict. Ecclesiastical life in Antioch became all but extinct
from the time that the city was permanently taken by the Mohammedans.
Francis Schaefer, ed.
Transcribed by: WGKofron
This text is cited July 2004 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908)