Nicholas III Grammaticus of Constantinople

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Nicholas III Grammaticus was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 1084 to 1111. Patr. Nicholas was a theologian and liturgical scholar noted for combatting doctrinal heresy and composing sacramental prayer texts for the liturgy. He was noted as being conciliar in his approach as a leader.


Little is known of the early life of Nicholas. He was educated in Constantinople, but spent his early years in Antioch in the area of Pisidia, a region in the southwestern part of Asia Minor between Lycia in the north and Lydia on the south. He apparently took his monastic vows in Pisidia. In 1068, he left Antioch when the area was threatened by the Seljuk Turks and returned to Constantinople.

In Constantinople, he began a monastery dedicated to John the Forerunner. Nicholas was selected patriarch by emperor Alexius I Comnenus in 1084 after Patr. Eustratius Garidas was deposed by the emperor.

Nicholas supported the confiscation of church treasures by emperor Alexius who needed money to support his struggles against the Norman advance into the Balkans. The 1094 Council of Constantinople condemned and deposed Leo of Chalcedon and his supporters who had opposed the secular use of the treasures as a blasphemous disrespect for the image, and ultimately, the prototype.

Patr. Nicholas was active in the fight against heresy, especially against Bogomilism and its leader Basil the Physician, whom emperor Alexius eventually had burned at the stake, the only example of this penalty in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Nicholas was firm in maintaining ecclesiastical discipline. He cautiously approached the conflicts between the provincial metropolitans and the patriarchate as well as on the issue of the right of the emperor to elevate metropolitans, an issue on which he ended up supporting Niketas of Ankyra against the emperor. He also spent much effort in restraining the influence of the chartophylax, the office of the patriarchate that was responsible for the records and archives and which had been built a powerful position.

For the governance of Mount Athos, Patr. Nicholas wrote a monastic rule and directed the departure of the Vlachs from the Holy Mountain. He was also noted for enforcing rigorously the rules concerning fasting.

As emperor Alexius negotiated with Pope Urban II of Rome concerning the possibility of Western European help against the Turks, Nicholas was consulted about the state of ecclesiastical relations between Rome and Constantinople. He expressed himself in favor of a possible reunion, provided the Pope sent him an Orthodox confession of faith. He also rejected any departure from Orthodox doctrine and practice, including the issues of universal papal authority, the Latin concept of the Holy Spirit (Filioque question), and the use of unleavened bread in the Communion service.

Patr. Nicholas reposed in either April or May 1111 at Constantinople.


Succession box:
Nicholas III Grammaticus of Constantinople
Preceded by:
Cosmas I
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by:
John IX Agapetus
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