For Liturgy in Hagia Sophia (cecc4c) wrote,
For Liturgy in Hagia Sophia

Great schism: Yehoshua Ha-Notzri against Jesus Christ.

It is absolutely impossible to consider from a canonical point of view such an anti canonical event as the Great Schism, but when in 1054 the legate of Pope Cardinal Humbert entered Hagia Sophia during the celebration of the liturgy and placed on the altar the Bull of excommunication from the Roman Church to all Orthodox Christians who denied the supremacy of the Pope, he made the dichotomy between two substantially different subjects of history – the Orthodox Christian East and the Roman Catholic West obvious. This event signaled the beginning of the drifting away of Western European art from Orthodox Christian art, which simultaneously became the time of the West’s greatest artistic achievements, but also the one shouldn't forget that the top of the mountain is the place from which one can only go down.
In order to understand these somehow paradoxical achievements one should consider them in connection with the strategic union between the followers of Alcuin in Normandy and the Roman Pope, who recently had chosen the "broad road" of what we will call "Civilization Christianity." This union is connected with Richard I, the third Duke of Normandy, and his so called "dutch wife" (more danico) Gunnor de Crepon, who later became his Roman Catholic wife (more christiano).

Gunnor confirming a charter of the abbey of the Mount-Saint-Michel, XII century.
The history of the love between Richard I and Gunnor de Crepon is very important to understanding the history of Europe, as nine of their children went on to found most of the aristocratic families of Europe. Gunnor de Crepon lived together with her sister, Seinfreda, who was the wife of a local forester. One day the Duke of Normandy, Richard I the Fearless, who was hunting in the area, stopped at the forester’s house. He immediately fell in love with Seinfreda and ordered her to come to his bed. But being a virtuous woman and a devoted wife, Seinfreda refused this "honor" and suggested that Richard court her sister, Gunnor, who was just as beautiful. Richard I made her his dutch wife, meaning that they were officially living together but were not married in the Church. Gunnor de Crepon was not only beautiful but was also an extremely intelligent woman. She inspired Richard I to found the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel, which became one of the most important intellectual centers of western Christianity. The amazing effect of the "good news" on the Normans was that these champions of treachery and war suddenly decided the evil in their world - the still barbaric Europe - should be minimized by state-building and establishing law and order in their lives.

Following the death of Charlemagne, Civilization Christianity began to fall apart, and when in 905 A.D. the last of the Italian Carolingian dynasty died, followed in 911 by the German one, the Holy Roman Empire was conquered by the "Abomination of Desolation." This can be best illustrated by the fact that the Papacy was governed by a group of prostitutes for 60 years, so that practically the entire 10th century in Rome came to be known as the "Age of Pornocracy." During this period, most of the popes died shortly after being elected, but in spite of their short terms they still managed to leave behind them long trails of different crimes, including murder. This tradition was broken only in 963 at the interference of the founder of the Holy Roman Empire Otto I the Great, who forced the election to the Papal throne of a priest famous for his asceticism.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Reims, Adalberon, stopped supporting Louis V, the last representative of the Carolingian dynasty in the Western empire. He did so due to the influence of Gerbert d'Aurillac, the former Abbot of Bobbio and future Pope Sylvester II, who was also the most famous scientist of his time. After Louis V died in 987, Adalberon and Gerbert d'Aurillac addressed the electoral assembly at Senlis in favor of Hugh Capet to replace the Carolingian monarch:
"Crown the Duke. He is most illustrious by his exploits, his nobility, his forces. The throne is not acquired by hereditary right; no one should be raised to it unless distinguished not only for nobility of birth, but for the goodness of his soul."

Civilization Christianity was celebrating the arrival of the second millennium under the direction of Pope Sylvester II, also known as Gerbert d'Aurillac, who was the first architect of the first French state. Не was a Pope of great knowledge, which he had acquired in Barcelona, at the Caliphate of Cordoba and library of Bobbio. He introduced the astrolabe to Western Europe, as well as the Hindu–Arabic numerical system and the abacus based on it, the armillary sphere and the sighting tube. In combination with his furious prosecution of simony and concubinage among clergy, this knowledge fostered his reputation as a magician and an astrologer who communicated with the Devil. According to Michael Bulgakov's book "The Master and Margarita," Professor Woland came to Moscow in 1935 to study recently discovered manuscripts of Gerbert d'Aurillac and to consult the Soviet government about their political implications. So it was this discovery that prompted the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, William Bullitt, to host a ball on April 24, 1935 in Spaso House, the Embassy of the U.S. in the Soviet Union, a ball devoted to the spring full moon when Christ's fate was sealed by Pontius Pilate.

Gerbert of Aurillac, Isagoge Geometriae
(Introduction to geometry), XII century.

It is important to note that the stylistic coincidences between Moscow of 1935 and the time of Gerbert d'Aurillac noticed by the famous Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov indeed reveal the essence of the historical dramas that were taking place in Western Europe in the 11th century and those that were unfolding in the U.S.S.R. one year before Leon Trotsky left Europe and Adolf Hitler trashed the Treaty of Versailles. The 1935 ball, held in Moscow, which at that moment was the anti-Christian capital of the world, was attended by the heads of all the diplomatic missions to the Soviet Union, as well as leading representatives of the artistic and scientific intelligentsia, leaders of the Comintern and Communist Party, the commanding generals of the Red Army and Stalin's Brothers of the Sword. Thus it can be seen how Mikhail Bulgakov's "Gospel from the slanderer," which described this ball in Moscow in 1935, quite easily could have been written in the 11th century, fitting perfectly as it does to the setting of the Alcuin's library on Mont Saint Michele, if one ignores such words as "primus."

Woman of the Apocalypse, miniature Herrad of Landsberg, XII c.

The most interesting thing is that the first ambassador of the United States to the U.S.S.R., William Christian Bullitt, a descendant of George Washington, had an absolutely uncanny ability to see the future, and the application of this ability to international politics made a big impression not only on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt personally, but also on the United States government, particularly the State Department. His personality indeed stylistically blends into with the time of Gunnor de Crepon and the Normandic interpretation of the Revelation of John the Theologian, in Rev. 12:7-9, which describes a fight between an army of angels under the command of St. Michael with the seven-headed dragon who was chasing a woman dressed in the sun and hiding a child: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him," and he and his angels acquired a human image so that they couldn’t be found among men. And at the place where the dragon was thrown from heaven to earth appeared an island that was called Mont Saint-Michel, and there Archangel Michael came to St. Auber and told him to build a holy place in honor of this victory.

It should not be overlooked that William Bullitt, before the ball, and in spite of his ability to foresee the future, was absolutely infatuated with Lenin, whom he met while on an assignment from Colonel Hughes, an adviser of Woodrow Wilson. He wrote in his reports to Col. Hughes that Lenin was an “outstanding leader, straightforward, kind man with a good sense of humor.” He also reported to the U.S. government that the communist revolution in Russia was a continuation of the great American experiment in freedom, but most of all he was absolutely stunned by and full of admiration for Leon Trotsky, reporting that "Trotksy and his followers are way ahead of us (United States) on the way to liberalism."
After the 1935 ball, Bullitt, the great visionary, suddenly saw another nature of the Communist regime, and detailed analysis of his visions as they were reported to President Roosevelt shows that it was precisely at the time of the ball that the U.S. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., the admirer of Lenin and Trotsky, suddenly envisioned another future of Russia, and seemingly spontaneously became a rabid anti-Communist. He went as far as advising the United States to join the war against the Soviet Union together with fascist Germany. In addition, there is a very sound basis for believing that Mikhail Bulgakov wasn’t joking when he hinted that the papers of Gerbert d'Aurillac discovered in Moscow in 1935 are the same ones that convinced the Archbishop of Reims to crown Hugh Capet, thus bringing to ruin Charlemagne’s Empire, but also are the ones that prevented William Bullit from convincing somebody very powerful among those present at the 1935 ball in Spaso House that his vision of the future was the only one. As a result, the novel of another famous Russian writer, Ilya Ehrenburg - Trust D.E. (Trust Destruction of Europe) - became just a satire which, while it may have been extremely precise in its detail, failed to foresee the most important factor: the role of France and Normandy in the history of Europe and the role of Egorov and Kantaria in an attempt to restore and expand to the whole world the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne.

William Bullett - the first ambassador of US to the USSR (1933-1936)

It is very interesting that even 1000 years ago, in the very first moments of their historic appearance, France and Normandy demonstrated their historic destiny as internal opponents to “Civilization Christianity.” For instance, even in the 11th century the crisis of “Civilization Christianity” was not as obvious in the Western Frank empire as it was in the Eastern one, to a large extent due to the influence of the Normans. Although they were formerly pirates, after they became vassals of the king they still were not afraid to look on the color of somebody else’s blood, and that cooled the ambitions of those who wanted to prove with a sword that their blood was blue. Even more important was the influence wielded by Normans in the life of the Church. For instance, the transformation, directed by Richard I of Normandy, of the morally ruined community of St. Aubert into the almost perfect Monastery of Mont Saint Michel, was definitely connected with the Cluniac reform that began around that same time. Cluniac reform created a unified system of more than 2000 monasteries all over Western Europe, which became the source of administrators for all nations of that time. These people became the founders of European bureaucracy that built up the European states and pulled Western Europe out of 500 years of barbarism.

The Clunaic reform of Catholic monasteries and the state building activities of the Normans complemented each other and in some sense were a realization of the ideas of Charlemagne and Alcuin. This gives credence to the hypothesis that the intellectual center of Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel, was a center for strategic planning for all of Europe that was capable of dramatic intellectual effort. From that point of view, it is of great interest that Abbot Odon of Cluny was the head of the library of the Abbey of Cluny at approximately the same time as Abbot Maynard was the head of the library of the Fontenelle Abbey or the Abbey of St. Wandrille, which was a part of the Cluny system at the time. Later on, Maynard became the abbot of Mont Saint-Michel appointed by Richard I of Normandy. It is a very well known fact that some time later, during the time of Abbot Odelone, Cluniac reform was proceeding in close cooperation with the dukes of Normandy. For instance, in the rest of Europe one of the main directions of the Cluniac reform was to free Cluniac monasteries from subjection to local authorities, but in Normandy and southern Italy Norman dukes, by special order of the Pope, became papal legates and thus Clunaic reform there was conducted under the supervision of local Norman barons, making Cluniac monasteries even more dependent on them. For instance, one of the architects of Cluniac reform, William de Volpiano, the abbot of the monastery of St. Benignusa in Dijon, was invited in 1001 by Richard II of Normandy, son of Richard I, to reform the abbey of Fekamp, which later on became the burial place for all Norman dukes. This architect of Cluniac reform proceeded to become a contractor and an architect in fact of the Cathedral of Mont Saint-Michel. He was the one who made the absolutely amazing decision to place the transept of the Cathedral right on the top of the mountain, a decision that made this Cathedral one of the wonders of the world. In later times Cluniac reform became the foundation for the Gregorian reform of the Roman Church that was instituted by one of the monks of Abbey of Cluny, Pope Gregory VII.

The Mass of Saint Michael the Musée Condé, Chantilly XV с.
The military and political engine of this reform were the grandchildren of Gunnor de Crepon and Richard I, who were born of the marriage of their daughter Fressenda with Tancred de Hautville, a Norman petty lord. The children of Tancred de Hautville and Fressenda of Normandy belonged to the first generation of Normans for whom the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel - which had been founded by their grandparents — and the legend of the battle of St. Michel with the dragon, became a way of self-identification. In 1016 the violent mood of their neighbors and friends Osmon and Rudolph Drengot, facilitated by legends and the genes of Norman pirates, came into collision with the plans of Richard II to establish law and order in his duchy. Obviously Richard II was not a man to mess with, and considering their way of self-identification it is not surprising that the Drengot brothers, at the head of 40 of their very pious but very well-armed friends, decided to make a pilgrimage to Mont Gargano in southern Italy where, according to the Norman legend, the battle of Archangel Michael with the Devil, which ended on Mont Saint-Michel, began. According to the writings of William of Apulia, on this pilgrimage they met Melus of Bari, who was fleeing from Byzantine soldiers as he was the leader of an anti-Byzantine uprising in southern Italy.
When the poetic imagination of Norman pilgrims came into contact with the passion for freedom of the Langobards, who had recently converted from Arianism, the legends about Rollo creating a duchy for himself with his battle axe obviously came to their minds. The seeds of this Norman dream fell on the fertile soil of anarchy in Italy, which had been facilitated by an attack on Rome by Saracens from Sicily. So when the young Normans arrived in Italy they first joined the uprising of the Langobards against Byzantium, but were defeated by their cousins from Russia who had been sent by St. Vladimir to help the Byzantine emperor, who then sent them to Italy to help Catapan Basil Argyros Mesardonites. Learning from these lessons, the Normans, who were constantly receiving the support of armed reinforcements from Normandy, decided to become dukes and barons as mercenaries without the burden of any religion or ideology. They were constantly switching sides in a pragmatic effort to find themselves on the winning side. In 1035 the first Hautvilles, William and Hamfry, arrived in Italy and very quickly they became quite popular among Normans because of their bravery and military skill, which they demonstrated during the expedition of Byzantine General George Maniac to Sicily. Unfortunately, William and Hamfry had a quarrel with General Maniac and they returned to Apulia to join a new uprising of the Langobards against Byzantium. They managed to be victorious, but the leaders of the Langobards were systematically joining their enemy, which stole the fruits of victory from the Normans, until in 1042 the joint council of Normans in Melfy elected William Hautville as their leader and gave him the title of Duke of Apulia. This election was supported by the promise of the Prince of Salerno, Gvemara, to legitimize the Normans’ rule in that area of Italy after they would free it from Byzantine rule. Later on this promise was approved by the German emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry III. The war with the “Byzantine heretics” didn’t prevent the Normans from fighting with the Roman Pope, until in 1053 the Norman army, under the command of Henry Hautville and his brother Robert Guiscard, defeated the army of Pope Leo IX and managed to capture him. Leo’s imprisonment lasted for nine months, during which time the leaders of the Normans and their greatly respected prisoner discussed the development of Civilization Christianity. Those talks resulted in a strategic union between the Papacy and the Normans that had unprecedented geopolitical consequences. This union not only created the foundation for the future reforms of Pope Gregory VIII, but also set the stage for the Great Schism.

Until this moment the Papacy, shaken by "The Splendors and Miseries of Courtesans" during the Age of Pornocracy, was semi-conscious. The popes, after the death of Charlemagne, learned the hard way that the Lex Salica, does not allow creation of a lasting state even in the pure military sense of the word. Thus every 50 years they were forced to try to restore normal relations with the Orthodox Christians, but one of these attempts having taken place during his term notwithstanding, Pope Leo IX was constantly trying to bring under his rule the south of Italy that had been traditionally under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. When he realized he had not only the military but also the moral support of the followers of Alcuin from the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, his convictions in the historic decisions of Frankfurt council, including the supremacy of the Pope’s jurisdiction and infallibility of the Pope "ex cathedra," became unshakable. Besides, these convictions and their contradictions to the very essence of Orthodox Christianity appeared to be very much in harmony with the necessity of legitimizing the possessions of William d’Hautville in the south of Italy, which had been promised to him by Emperor Henry III. When these attempts of Pope Leo IX to bring the south of Italy under his control forced the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Keroularios, to take corresponding actions against the Roman Pope, the strategic union of Leo IX and the Italian Normans turned Catholicism into the only true religion. One day Pope Leo IX decided to turn the situation de facto into the situation de jure and sent to Byzantium Archbishop of Sicily Cardinal Humbert, who was famous for his diplomatic abilities. These diplomatic abilities were probably facilitated by special instructions from the Pope on how to manage the conflict with the Orthodox Christians. The mutual anathemas resulting from this management finalized the process of the spiritual and political establishment of the "global West" begun by Charlemagne and Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800.

Italy before Norman invasion.

Italy right before the death of Robert Guiscard.

South Italy in 1112 г, when Roger II became King of Sicily.

This new subject of history acquired a complementary organizational and political form very quickly and in 1059 Pope Nicholas II assembled the very famous synod also called "Zero" Lateran Council.
The first acts of this council were the bull legitimizing Norman conquests in Italy and In Nomine Domine — the basic canons of the Catholic Church:
1. Condemnation of the marriage of clergy as contradictory to the foundation of the faith.
2. Freedom of church authorities from the emperor and other secular rulers (except Norman barons).
3. Establishment of the college of cardinal-bishops as the only body empowered to elect the Roman Pope.

The emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry IV in Canossa

Of course, Civilization Christianity from the very beginning was pregnant with the ticking bomb of "investiture contest," and in 1067 "In Nomine Domine" appeared to be the detonator of this bomb, as it substituted the right of the emperor to nominate a pope for a very weak right to adopt the pope that was already elected. Surprise, surprise, these canons were articulated with some help of Cardinal Guildenbrand, the monk from Cluny Abbey who later became famous as Pope Gregory VII (the "Great"). He was also the one who "canonized" the Great Schism and was the victor at the Battle of Canossa, where the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry IV, excommunicated by Gregory VII, was made to stand barefoot in the snow for three days begging the Pope for forgiveness.

The college of cardinals created by the third decree of In Nomine Domine as a structure parallel to the traditional church hierarchy but simultaneously standing above it due to the fact that they were electing the pope, became a precedent and template for the creation of all quasi-ideological esoteric societies in Western Europe, and not necessarily Roman Catholic ones. At precisely that time, when a spiritual and political abyss suddenly separated Western Christianity from the Eastern Orthodox Church and with amazing speed began to expand, threatening to destroy them both. This abyss was rending the fabric of the "one holy, catholic and apostolic church," and liturgical art appeared to be the only vehicle capable of bridging it. That alone proves that in spite of the Great Schism, the concept of the beauty of Christ continued to live in Western Europe, and due to this, Byzantium continued to be the source of state knowledge, administrative skills and style in liturgical art.

The Orthodox icons of that period, later on called the Second Golden Age of Byzantine Art, continued to cause admiration in Western Christians. The greatest admirer of Byzantine art was Roger II, the son of the younger brother of William d’Hautville, Roger I. The latter was a man of absolutely exceptional abilities, including military, as evidenced by his capture of Sicily from the Saracens in 1088. He was the champion of the Christian army, personally fighting against the champion of the Saracens, and his victories in these tournaments were crucial for the future outcome of the battles. Besides that, he was a military engineer who taught the Normans to use siege machines, a technical genius and a diplomat. But most important is that, unlike other Norman rulers, he was a religiously tolerant state builder. He consistently conducted a policy of freedom of faith towards Moslems and Orthodox Christian Greeks and in some sense the Papacy 200 years later conducted the same policy following the Florentine Union, carefully replacing Orthodox priests with Latin clerics without changing the liturgical order. Roger I’s son, Roger II, went even further in this direction, which enabled him to spread the duchy of his father to Apulia and Calabria, thus creating the Kingdom of Sicily, which became a superpower of the Mediterranean. Roger II also managed to build the most powerful fleet in the Mediterranean, and while the rest of Europe was forfeiting their humanity by participating in the meaningless Crusades, with this fleet he captured the ports on the coast of Sudan and Tunisia, which enriched his treasury as these ports were access points for the trade routes to central Africa. Roger II also ruined the policies of Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III in Italy, captured and imprisoned the Pope and looted Athens, Fev, and Corinth, thus unifying the Western Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire by forcing them to join their efforts to resist the Sicilian invaders. When the Papacy joined this anti-Sicilian unity, Roger II almost succeeded in the creation of the international ecumenical movement, and only the intervention of God Himself brought down this geopolitical but - considering the later history - somewhat unnatural union. Contributing in this way to ecumenism, Roger II, while refusing to participate in the Crusades but being a cousin of Baldwin of Antioch, demanded Baldwin’s kingdom after his death, and in support of his demands took the Latin archbishop of Antioch hostage. With these actions Roger II ruined the logic of the Crusades and excluded the possibility that his fleet would be used to carry Crusaders to the Holy Land.

But the most amazing thing about Roger II was that he managed to surpass the genius of his father by transforming his military and political victories into much more important cultural and civilization achievements. First of all, he was a polyglot who spoke twelve languages, including Greek and Arabic. He was a mathematician; his achievements in the natural sciences are amazing, and his writings in geography and philosophy surpass the best scientists of his time. He gathered at his court the best Arabic and Greek scientists, thus turning Palermo into the most important scientific and cultural center in Europe. It was in Palermo where Western Europeans finally learned about the achievements of the Byzantine and Arabic civilizations. His multicultural subjects enjoyed peace and cooperation in this setting, as opposed to the "cultural exchanges" that took place on the battlefields of Spain, the Balkans and the Middle East. It is apparent that such battlefield cultural interaction wasn’t very successful, except possibly the one that took place between the followers of Aga-khan and the followers of St. Bernard of Clairveaux. The latter also happened to be Roger II’s main opponent in the discussion of whether a Roman Pope could be of Jewish origin, which argument became a bifurcation point in Western European history.

In addition, Roger II began to assemble a library that later on became the famous library of the Abbey of Monte Casino. This was the library where St. Thomas of Aquinas found the "The Revival of Religious Sciences" by Al-Ghazali and the "The Guide for the Perplexed" by Maimonides, the books that caused St. Thomas Aquinas to write his "Summa Theologica." The Sicilian kingdom of Roger II was composed of such different communities as Norman Catholics, Orthodox Christian Greeks and Islamic Arabs, and when he abandoned the practice of replacing Orthodox priests with Latin clerics, he made the policy of his father concerning the equality of these communities even more consistent. Simultaneously, he made loyalty to the king a unifying factor, thus creating a precedent and template for all the later multi-national and multi-confessional absolute monarchies of Europe. His achievements in the area of state building were codified in the collection of laws called the "Aryan Assizes," which was recently discovered at the library of the Abbey of Monte Casino.

Abbey of Monte Cassino.

This collection of laws constituted a plan of empire-building based on the ideas of Julius Caesar, and their influence on later history is quite comparable to that of the Codex of Justinian. The tragic impossibility of making these plans real becomes clear when one compares Roger II’s empire-building strategy with the artistic program he executed while building the Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace in Palermo and the Orthodox Christian Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiragllo. The latter was also called Martorana or the Admiral Church in honor of its building sponsor, "Emir of Emirs" George of Antioch, commander of the Sicilian fleet.

Coronation of Roger II by Jesus Christ.
Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiragllio.
The most famous piece of art in Martorana is a mosaic depicting the coronation of Roger II by Jesus Christ himself. This mosaic appears to be absolutely Orthodox, not only by its artistic style but in concept as well. Its subject matter is Jesus Christ giving Roger II the power to rule as emperor, bypassing all possible intermediaries. This concept of power is characteristic of the Byzantine understanding of Christian empire, while the Catholic conception of investiture assumes the necessity of the Roman Pope as a broker between God and man, especially in the process of the emanation of authority from God Himself. But the Norman leaders of Italy were exempt from this investiture by Roman Popes due to the fact that they were given the heritable status of papal legates. However, this Papal contribution to "realpolitik" was never announced to be official policy. The fact is that the image of Roger II on the mosaic appears to be not only the symbolic image of a king, but also a portrait of Roger II as a person, for which he undoubtedly posed, and that proves that it is the artistic carrier of the most important, one might say even intimate, plans of Roger II.

If one compares the mosaic of Roger II with his intentions documented in the Aryan Assizes, one cannot avoid the conclusion that it depicts the coronation not of a king, but rather of an emperor. The fact that he placed such a depiction of his imperial ambitions in an Orthodox Christian church dedicated to the Mother of God, rather than in the Catholic Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace, encourages the hypothesis that this great-grandchild of the founders of the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel and heir to the promises given by Emperor Henry III to William d’Hautville, legitimized by Pope Nicholas II and the Zero Lateran Council, knew deep in his heart not only the source of all authority, but also the source of all truth.

This hypothesis receives additional support upon analysis of the most magnificent piece of Western European art: the Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace in Palermo. The sophisticated admirer of Byzantine art, a man definitely impressed by the beauty of Christ, the amazingly very well educated King of Sicily, Roger II, definitely was acquainted with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” as well as the Orthodox Christian tradition of using gold to symbolically represent the light of Mount Tabor. Thus, when one compares the impression made by the shimmering gold of the Palatine Chapel, which Roger II himself called the Golden Cave, with that made by the gold very carefully implemented into the first ambitious mosaic that decorated Hagia Sophia after the suppression of iconoclasm - the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos - the crypto-Orthodox Christianity of Roger II becomes something more than just a hypothesis. The gold in this mosaic in the apse of Hagia Sophia is so tastefully blended into the image of the Most Holy Theotokos that it makes the viewer practically feel the symbolism of light coming from the other world into the cave of this world. The comparison of this most famous mosaic depicting the Mother of God, which is historically associated with the "Triumph of Orthodoxy," and the mosaics of the Palatine Chapel, which appears to be the most Byzantine of all Roman Catholic churches, almost makes one see and hear Roger II standing in the Golden Cave cathedra, sometimes called the "Throne of the Carolingian", and declaring: "This world is a really a prison-cave for the soul, through the walls of which we are looked upon by Christ and his saints, but the gold in this cave represents its imprisoning walls."

Mosaic of the Mother of God
Apse of Hagia Sophia. 867 A.D.

Palatina Chapel
"Golden cave". 1130

Palatina Chapel.
Mosaics of the Dome.1130

The most talented King of Sicily, Roger II, managed to surpass himself in the artistic idea of the Cathedral of Cefalu centered around the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator (Almighty Judge). This mosaic, located in the semi-dome of the apse of Cefalu cathedral is definitely a response of Roger II to the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator in the Monastery of Dafni, ten kilometers from Athens, which he saw in 1147 when his fleet, under the command of Orthodox Christian Admiral George of Antioch, ravaged the Orthodox Christian city of Athens. This mosaic was created 30 years before work on the Cathedral in Chefalu began, and it made a very big impression on the whole Orthodox world, as well as on Catholics and Muslims. Its dome was decorated by the image of Christ Pantocrator as Judge of the Last Judgment. This fearful image is in contrast with the soft colors and graceful lines and poses of the other mosaics of this cathedral depicting the family life of Christ. In the same manner, the joyful and bright colors of the Christ Pantocrator in the Cathedral of Chefalu are in contrast with the tragic expression of the eyes of Christ, which makes a big impression on the viewer as it evades him initially but acts on his subconscious until a more attentive look makes him aware of it.

The comparison of these two Christ Pantocrators makes one think about the personal tragedy of the crypto-Orthodox Christian King Roger II, who was the heir to the anti-Byzantine Treaty sealed by William d’Hautville, German Emperor Henry III and the Roman Pope. More than that, this comparison makes one think about the tragedy of all Civilization Christians, who for the sake the treasures of this world lost their ability to communicate with Christ and are doomed to find out sooner or later the abysmal failure of the idea of making Christ accept Catholicism by forcing everybody who could communicate with Christ to join the Church of Rome.

Jesus Christ Pantocrator
Mosaics of the dome
Daphni Cathedral. 1100 г.

Jesus Christ Pantocrator
Mosaics of semi-dome of apse.
Cathedral of Chefalu. 1150 A.D.
Mosaic Deesis
Hagia Sophia. 1261 A.D.

Of course, the image of the Last Judgment on the dome of the Cathedral in Dafni cannot co-exist with this plan to force the Good Shepherd to admit Civilization Christians as his flock. This becomes particularly clear when one compares the description of Joshua Ha-Notzri in the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov with the description of the Chefalu mosaics by the greatest expert on Norman Sicily, Sir John Norwich: ‘I am the Light of the World.’ It is written in Latin and Greek - and rightly so; for this mosaic, the glory of a Roman church, is itself the purest Byzantine style and workmanship .... [The artist has] produced the most sublime representation of the Pantocrator, perhaps of Christ in any form, in all Christian art. Only one other, at Daphni near Athens, can be said even to rival it, [but] the contrast between the two could hardly be greater. The Christ of Daphni is dark, heavy with menace; the Christ of Cefalu, for all his strength and majesty, has not forgotten that his mission is to redeem. There is nothing soft or syrupy about him; yet the sorrow in his eyes, the openness of his embrace, even the two stray locks blown gently across his forehead, bespeak his mercy and compassion. Byzantine theologians used to insist that religious artists, in their representations of Jesus Christ, should seek to reflect the image of God. It is no small demand; but here, for once, the task has been triumphantly accomplished."

While reading this text one cannot avoid the impression that Sir John Norwich officer of the Queen’s Fleet, British diplomat in Yugoslavia and Lebanon, member of the House of Lords and of the British delegation to the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Viscount of Norwich, descended from King William IV and prominent member of the Anglican Church, was identifying Roger II with himself, and this reverse self-identification merely confirms the analogy of this archetypal Englishman with Yeshua Ha-Notzri so magnificently described in the novel “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. Indeed, the Anglican Church followed the same path as Roger II - from St. Patrick to crypto-Orthodoxy through the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel - and this analogy unveils the hidden meaning of the mosaic of ideas and symbols that the universally talented King of Sicily encrypted into the mosaics of the Cathedral of Chefalu. But it becomes even more crystal clear when one compares the Christ Pantocrator from Chefalu, "the sorrow in his eyes, the openness of his embrace, even the two stray locks blown gently across his forehead” with the kindness of Christ from the mosaic of the Christ Pantocrator in Hagia Sophia, especially when one remembers that this mosaic was instituted by Michael Paleologos on the August 15, 1261 in order to commemorate the end of 57 years of slavery of Hagia Sophia to Civilization Christianity, and appears to be continuation of the tradition begun by Christ the Pantocrator from Dafni.

© 2010 Alexander Brodsky

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