Romanitas = Christianitas

If you’ve listened to Episode 5 of Positively Medieval!, or are going to, here are some supporting quotes for the content of the podcast:

…To [Charlemagne] “Romanitas” and “Christianitas” were tautological expressions. Romanism for Charlemagne was not a historical-political term, but had an exclusively religious connotation: it signified the contrast to “Grecism,” to that kind of faith which was not Roman-directed. Romanism simply meant Latin Christianity—that Christian faith which was directed and orientated by the Roman Church. The Bonifacian work, its concomitant close association with Roman-papal organization, the spreading of the characteristically Roman liturgies and their prayers, the religious orientation of the Frankish domains toward Rome, led to a complete amalgamation of Christian and Roman elements. This Roman ferment in that eighth-century Christianity of the Franks was of decisive importance, because “Christianitas” and “Romanitas” became virtually indistinguishable. It is assuredly no coincidence that Charlemagne requested Adrian I for an “authentic” copy of the sacramentary which the great Gregory had created. It is furthermore significant that at this time also the Benedictine Rule with its typically Roman features spread so rapidly through Frankish and newly conquered lands. Not less significant is it that a copy of the canonical collection of Dionysius Exiguus in the expanded and modified form given by Adrian I was personally handed to Charlemagne by the Pope in 774.

All these vehicles of Romanist transmission effected the imperceptible, though significant orientation towards Rome in all things that mattered most, namely, in those of religion and its cult. The old Roman formulae were repeated, the old Roman liturgical prayers were said and spoken by the Franks who might not always have fully grasped the intrinsic meaning of these prayers. The prayer that was originally in the Leonine Sacramentary went in its original form and with the entreaty for the Roman security into the Frankish sacramentaries. In other prayers the amalgamation of “Christianitas” and “Romanitas” went so far that the original term “Romanus” was exchanged for “Christianus.”…In short, the Romanization of the Western mind by virtue of these diverse channels, led to the ideological conflation of Romans and Christians.:”(Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages: A Study in the Ideological Relation of Clerical to Lay Power [New York: Barnes and Noble, 1953], pp. 88-90.)”:


The christianisation of Roman society—largely achieved by the middle of the fifth century—prompted the equation of the plebs romana with the plebs Dei. Pope Leo I in the middle years of the century could take this identification for granted. Echoing the old providential view of the Empire as God’s instrument for establishing a pax christiana in the world, Leo depicted the Empire as now reborn into a new, Christian society. The foundation of Romulus and Remus was renewed by the apostles Peter and Paul. Rome was reborn as a ‘holy nation, an elect people, a priestly and royal City’. The debates of this period over spiritual and secular authority spring from the assumption that what is at stake is the right distribution of authority within this Christian Roman society. It was in this context that a succession of popes—Innocent I, Boniface I, Celestine I, Leo himself, Simplicius and, finally, Gelasius I, put together the ideas of a Roman principatus and the distinction of functions within the Church. The unifying hierarchical principle was Ambrose’s distinction of functions: teaching and learning. [discere / docere, Ep. 21.4]. In matters of religion laymen are subject to clergy, bishops to their metropolitan, and these to the pope. It was Gelasius who rounded off this grand scheme of subordination, at much the same time as an unknown Greek monk [Pseudo-Dionysius] gave classic expression to a more mystical version of such a vision of hierarchical order. Gelasius’ more modest, though momentous, contribution was to define the role of the secular ruler in the Church. In his letter to the emperor Anastasius in 494 Gelasius spoke of the emperor’s duty to submit to the bishops in religious matters, while they must recognise the laws he makes for the maintenance of public order. These are the respective functions of the ‘sacred authority of bishops’ (auctoritas sacrata pontificum) and the ‘royal power’ (regalis potestas). Whatever the implications of this much-debated vocabulary, which Gelasius was anyway not consistent in using, the main thrust of his argument is clear: the sacral character of the imperial office, the idea of a priest-king, must be abjured by Christian rulers. Their role is confined to dealing with outward necessities and public order among the Christian people committed to their care. Gelasius’ language left much imprecise, and his views could be developed in either of two different directions: to assert the separateness of two co-ordinate and complementary powers, or, alternatively, to assert the ultimate supremacy of the clerical over the lay power, the latter being represented as its agent and servant in mundane matters.

The development of this line of thinking between Ambrose and Gelasius presupposed the equation of ‘Christian’ with ‘Roman’ and the consequent need to define the distinct functions and the mutual subordination of authorities in the single politico-religious structure. The only thinker to question this underlying assumption and to reject the implicit equation of ‘Roman’ with ‘Christian’ was Augustine of Hippo.:”(R.A. Markus, “The Latin Fathers”, in The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c. 350-c. 1450, ed. J.H. Burns [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988], pp. 102-103.)”:

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