Euphemius of Constantinople

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His All-Holiness Euphemius of Constantinople (according to Theophanes: Euthymius) was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 489 to 496. He was a strong supporter of the Council of Chalcedon who came to be patriarch in the aftermath of the schism created by patriarch Acacius. During his time as patriarch Euphemius attempted to reconcile the schism with the Church of Rome while defending the Church of Constantinople from the Eutychian policies of the new emperor Anastasius I. Eventually, his strong stand against Anastasius resulted in his deposition and exile.


His early life is unknown. Euphemius appeared on the scene as a presbyter in Constantinople. He was an administrator of a hospital for the poor in Neapolis who was described as learned, very virtuous, and not tinged with any suspicion of leanings toward Eutychianism.

Upon the death of Patriarch Fravitta in 489, Euphemius was elected his successor. Euphemius then began his attempts to restored communion with the Church of Rome, communion that had been broken over the publication of the "Henoticon" by emperor Zeno in 482. Among Euphemius' first actions was his announced recognition of the Council of Chalcedon, restoration of the name of the Bishop of Rome to the diptychs, and a break of communion with Peter Mongus, the Patriarch of Alexandria. However, Euphemius refused to remove the names of the Acacius and Fravitta from the diptychs where they appeared among the faithful departed. This refusal became the issue preventing restoration of communion with Rome while Euphemius was patriarch.

Before Anastasius became emperor, he had shown himself to have Eutychian views and had been a member of a group that had formed a sect that met in a church in Constantinople until it was disbursed by the patriarch. Knowing this, when Zeno's widow, the empress Ariadne, sought the election of Anastasius as emperor, and her future husband, Euphemius openly called him a heretic, unworthy of reigning over Christians. Euphemius refused to crown him until he signed a profession that he held the Orthodox faith. [1] The written profession of faith was placed in the charge of the chancellor and treasurer of the Church of Constantinople, Macedonius. [2]

After the death of Pope Felix II on February 25, 492, Euphemius again attempted to end the Acacian schism with Pope Gelasius I, but without success as Euphemius' defense of Patr. Acacius remained a stumbling block. Euphemius' position was that condemnation of Acacius was valid only if pronounced by a general council. not by just one prelate alone.

In 496, the dispute between Euphemius and emperor Anastasius came to a head when during the emperor's war against the Isaurians Anastasius accused Euphemius of treason for revealing Anastasius' war strategy to his enemies. In confronting Euphemius, Anastasius also demanded return of the profession of faith that he had given to Euphemius. [3] This Euphemius refused. In retaliation, Anastasius called a assembly of the bishops who were then in Constantinople and preferred charges against their patriarch. The bishops, obedient to the emperor, excommunicated and deposed Euphemius and elected the chancellor patriarch as Macedonius II.

Having earlier been saved by an attendant from an attack by a soldier, Euphemius feared for his life and took refuge in the baptistry. He refused to leave the baptistry until Macedonius promised on the word of the emperor that no violence would be done to him when he was conducted into exile. Initially, the people, being loyal to him, refused to surrender Euphemius to the emperor, but ultimately they yielded. As Macedonius met with Euphemius before his journey into exile, Macedonius had his deacon remove his newly-given pallium and dressed him as a simple priest, "not daring to wear" his insignia before their canonical owner. During their last conversation together, Macedonius gave Euphemius the proceeds of a loan he had raised for Euphemius' expenses into exile in Asia Minor.

In 511, Macedonius himself would also be conducted into exile in Asia Minor when he was deposed for refusing to compromise his faith under the demands of emperor Anastasius.

In 515, Euphemius died in Ancyra. Until his death, he was recognized by his peers in the East, including Elias, Patriarch of Jerusalem and Flavian II, Patriarch of Antioch, as the legal patriarch of Constantinople.

Succession box:
Euphemius of Constantinople
Preceded by:
Phrabitas or Fravitta
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by:
Macedonius II
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  1. Evagrius, H.E., III, xxxii
  2. Evagr. iii. 3z
  3. Theod. Lect. ii. 8, 572 seq. in Patr. Gk. lxxxvi.