John XI Bekkos of Constantinople

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John XI Bekkos of Constantinople, also spelled variously: Beccus, Veccus, Vekkos, or Beccos, was Patriarch of Constantinople from 1275 to 1282. He was the chief advocate within the Church of Constantinople for the reunion of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches during the reign of emperor Michael III Palaeologus.


Little is known of the early life of John Bekkos. That which we know comes mainly from his own writings and a few Byzantine historians. He was born about the year 1225 in Nicea among the exiles from Constantinople during the time of occupation of the city by the Latins of the fourth crusade.

John was appointed chartophylax (document keeper) of the Great Church by Patriarch Arsenius during the time emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus was under excommunication for blinding the son of his predecessor, a time of tense relations between the patriarchate and the emperor. One of John's first duties was to suspend the palace priest for celebrating a marriage without having the previous consent of the chartophylax, an event that greatly aggravated the emperor.

John remained chartophylax through the terms of the Patrs. Arsenius, Germanus, and Joseph and gained the confidence of emperor Michael who used him for diplomatic missions, including missions to France to promote restraining attacks on the empire and to obtain immunity from attacks on Constantinople from the West. The emperor also suggested to Rome the possibility of Church union over the resistance of the Orthodox. About the year 1273, during ecclesiastical discussions before the emperor, John took a position not supporting union, a position that resulted in his being imprisoned by the emperor.

While in prison, John changed his position to being an advocate of union after studying writings provided to him. He returned to his office of chartophylax by February 1274 when he signed the decree of the synod of bishops that agreed with the emperor to send delegates to the Council of Lyons. After the council, Patr. Joseph, who would not accept the union, abdicated under pressure. Whereupon under a previous understanding, John was elected Joseph's successor on May 26, 1275. His consecration and enthronement were on June 2.

After his elevation to the patriarchal see, Patr. John began a campaign to convince those against the union of its lawfulness. At a synod in April 1277, the union was approved and a letter was sent to Pope John XXI acknowledging papal primacy and the orthodoxy of the Latin doctrine of the filioque. In 1279, Patr. John further assured the legates of Pope Nicholas III that the Church of Constantinople agreed entirely with Rome in matters of doctrine. At the same time relations between John and the emperor soured. John's access to the emperor was greatly curtailed. Tired of this treatment, Patr. John retired to a monastery in March 1279 before being recalled to treat with the arrival of papal legates, as before.

In spite of this sustained campaign by Patr. John Bekkos to defend the union intellectually, and the vigorous and brutal repression of opponents by emperor Michael III, the vast majority of the Christians in Constantinople remained implacably opposed to union with the Latin "heretics".

Michael's death on December 11, 1282 put an end to the union of Lyons as his son and successor emperor Andronicus II repudiated the union and requested that John Bekkos abdicate. This, he did on December 26, 1282. He was then exiled to the city of Prusa in Bithynia. He continued to stand firm in his defense of the doctrines of the Western Church at a synod in Constantinople in 1284. For this he was again exiled and imprisoned to the fortress of St. Gregory on the Black Sea, where he reposed in March 1297.

Succession box:
John XI Bekkos of Constantinople
Preceded by:
Joseph I Galesiotes
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by:
Gregory II Cyprus
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