Eutychius of Constantinople

Eutychius (Greek: Ευτύχιος, Eutychios; c. 512 – 5 April 582), considered a saint in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions, was the patriarch of Constantinople from 552 to 565, and from 577 to 582. His feast is kept by the Orthodox Church on 6 April, and he is mentioned in the Catholic Church's "Corpus Juris".[1] His terms of office, occurring during the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great, were marked by controversies with both imperial and papal authority.[2]

Eutychius of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
Eutychius of Constantinople.jpg
Icon of Eutychius, 16th century
Term ended565
Personal details
Bornc. 512
Theium, Phrygia, Byzantine Empire
Died5 April 582
Constantinople, Byzantine Empire
DenominationChalcedonian Christianity

Early lifeEdit

Eutychius' career is well documented: a full biography, composed by his chaplain Eustathius of Constantinople, was preserved intact.[3] Eutychius was born at Theium in Phrygia.[4] His father, Alexander, was a general under the famous Byzantine commander Belisarius. Eutychius became a monk at Amasea at the age of 30. As an archimandrite at Constantinople, Eutychius was well respected by Menas, the Patriarch of Constantinople. Eventually, on the day Menas died, Eutychius was nominated by Justinian the Great as Patriarch.[3]

First patriarchateEdit

Pope Vigilius was in Constantinople when Eutychius became patriarch.[5] Eutychius sent him the usual announcement of his own appointment and a completely orthodox profession of the then-united Church. At the same time, the Pope urged him to summon and preside over the Church Council summoned to deal with the Three-Chapter Controversy.[3] Vigilius first gave, and then withdrew, his consent to the Council.[5] In spite of the Pope's refusal, the council met on 5 May 553 at Constantinople, and Eutychius shared the first place in the assembly with Apollinarius of Alexandria and Domninus of Antioch (called "Domnus III", see List of Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch). At the second session, the pope excused himself again on the grounds of ill health. The subscription of Eutychius to the Acts of this synod, which was later recognized as the Fifth General Council and which concluded on 2 June 553, is a summary of the decrees against the Three Chapters.[3]

Eutychius had, so far, stood by the Emperor throughout. He composed the decree of the Council against The Chapters. In 562, he consecrated the new church of Hagia Sophia.[5] However, Eutychius came into violent collision with Justinian in 564, when the Emperor adopted the tenets of the Aphthartodocetae, a sect of Non-Chalcedonians who believed that Christ's body on earth was incorruptible (’aphthorá) and subject to no pain.[3]

Eutychius, in a long address, argued the incompatibility of the Aphthartodocetic beliefs with Scripture. Emperor Justinian insisted that he subscribe to it anyway. When Eutychius refused to compromise, Justinian ordered his arrest. On 22 January 565, Eutychius was celebrating the feast day of Saint Timothy in the church adjoining the Hormisdas Palace when soldiers broke into the patriarchal residence, entered the church, and carried him away.[6]

Arrest and exileEdit

Eutychius was first removed to a monastery called Choracudis, and the next day to the monastery of St. Osias near Chalcedon.[5] Eight days later Justinian called an assembly of princes and prelates, to which he summoned Eutychius. The charges against him were trivial: that he used ointments, ate "delicate meats", and prayed for long periods.[7] After being summoned three times, Eutychius replied that he would only come if he were to be judged canonically, in his own dignity, and in command of his clergy. Condemned by default, he was sent to an island in the Propontis named Principus ("Prince's Island"), and later to his old monastery at Amasea, where he spent 12 years and 5 months.[3]

Return and second patriarchateEdit

Upon the death of John Scholasticus, whom Justinian had put in the patriarchal chair, the people of Constantinople demanded the return of Eutychius. Justin II had succeeded Justinian in 565 and had associated with himself the young Tiberius, who was made Caesar in 574. In October 577 the two emperors sent a delegation to Amasea to bring Eutychius back to Constantinople.[3] Contemporary reports claim that as he entered the city, a large group of people met him, shouting aloud, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," and "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace".[3] In imitation of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (recorded in Matthew 21:1–11 and John 12:12–18), he entered the city on an ass's colt, over garments spread on the ground, the crowd carrying palms, dancing, and singing. The whole city was illuminated, public banquets were held, and new buildings were inaugurated.[3]

The next day he met with the two emperors and was given "conspicuous honor" at the Church of the Virgin in Blachernae. He then proceeded to Hagia Sophia, mounted the pulpit, and blessed the many people. It took him six hours to distribute the communion because all of the people wished to receive it from his own hands.[3]

Late beliefs and deathEdit

Toward the end of his life, Eutychius maintained an opinion that after the resurrection the body will be "more subtle than air" and no longer a tangible thing.[3] This was considered heretical, because it was taken as a denial of the doctrine of physical, corporeal resurrection. The future Pope Gregory the Great, then residing at Constantinople as Apocrisiarius, opposed this opinion, citing Luke 24:39. Emperor Tiberius talked to the disputants separately, and tried to reconcile them, but the breach was persistent.[3]

Eutychius died quietly on the Sunday after Easter, at the age of 70. Some of his friends later told Pope Gregory that a few minutes before his death he touched the skin of his hand and said, "I confess that in this flesh we shall rise again",[8] (a rough quote of Job 19:26).

Among his pupils was Eustratios of Constantinople who wrote a tract against soul sleep.[citation needed]

Extant works by EutychiusEdit

His literary remains are:[3]

  • Letter to Pope Vigilius (Migne, P. L., LXIX, 63, P.G. LXXXVI, 2401)
  • "Discourse on Easter" (fragment) (Mai: Class. Auct. X, 488, and Script. Vet. Nov Coll. IX, 623); and other fragments found in P.G., LXXXVI.


  1. ^ (Grat., I pars., Dist. XVI, Cap. x)
  2. ^ The chronology of his life followed by Sinclair (and this article) is that fixed by Henschen in his introductory argument to the Life by Eustathius (Sinclair 1911 citing Boll. Acta SS. 6 Ap. i. 550).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Sinclair 1911.
  4. ^ William Hazlitt, ed. The Classical Gazetteer: A Dictionary of Ancient Geography, Sacred and Profane, (1851) gives only "Theium, a fortress of Athamania, Ætolia, on Achelous fl[umen], n.w. of Cranon;" see also Livy, Book 38.
  5. ^ a b c d Fortescue 1909.
  6. ^ Sinclair 1911 cites cf. du Cange, Cpolis. Chr. lib. ii. p. 96, lib. iv. p. 93, ed. 1729)
  7. ^ Fortescue 1909 cirs Eustathius, Vita S. Eutych., 4, 5.
  8. ^ Sinclair 1911 cites Paul. Diac. Vit. Greg. Mag. lib. i. capp. 9, 27–30; Vit. Greg. ex ejus Script
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainFortescue, Adrian (1909). "Eutychius I". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinclair, W. M. (1911). "Eutychius". In Wace, Henry; Piercy, William C. (eds.). Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century (3rd ed.). London: John Murray.
Titles of Chalcedonian Christianity
Preceded by
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
John Scholasticus
Preceded by
John Scholasticus
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
John Nesteutes