The charistikion was a feudal institution of the Middle Byzantine Period of the Eastern Roman empire that involved the charistike dorea (donation) of monasteries to private individuals unrelated to the monasteries' founders for a limited period of time and under which income was received from a monastery by a layman who had been granted the right to manage the monastery’s property and control its revenue.
The charistikion could be granted only by the emperor or the patriarch. A layman, charistikarioi, received the charistikion for a period of time, that is for either life or for two or three generations. The practice of granting charistikia appears to have existed as early in the late ninth century. It became widespread in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but had nearly disappeared by the thirteenth century.
The institution came into existence as an approach by founders of monasteries for balancing the frequently conflicting needs for institutional autonomy and financial security for the monasteries. The charistikion was intended to re-develop abandoned monasteries so that the facilities of a monastery could be repaired and its immovable property fully exploited while protecting and preserving its spiritual functions and putting monastic property to good use. Actually, the practice was widely abused by the landed gentry which became a source of abused patronage by high church officials and a tool against the powerful monastic establishment..
However, the charistike was not popular among the ecclesiastics. It was challenged by Patr. Sisinnius II of Constantinople as early as the late tenth century. At that time he terminated patriarchal participation in the program and directed the return of all patriarchal monasteries. Patr. |Sergius II, after he came to the see of Constantinople in 999, continued to resist the use of charistike dorea. Emperor Basil, however, refused to repeal his Peri ton dynaton law, causing Patr. Sergius II, in 1016, to resume use of the charistike.
During his patriarchate, from 1025 to 1043, Patriarch Alexius I of Constantinople attempted to temper the worst abused of the charistike by appointing, through Synodal legislation, the patriarch's chancellor, the chartophylax, as the official serving as the final point of approval for all grants under the system. Patr. Alexius also restricted the granting of charistike to non-diocesesan monasteries. That Patr. Alexius sought reform of the system over its abolishment likely showed the inability of the Church to claim back many of the donated properties from the land-owning elite who held them.
By the thirteenth century the institution of charistikion had nearly disappeared.
- Thomas and Constantinides, eds., pp. 49, 305
- Thomas and Constantinides, eds., p. 204.
- Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents
- Wikipedia: Patriarch_Alexius_I_of_Constantinople
- The Concession of State Lands