Viale, Legal Elements in Papal-Imperial Communications

Legal Elements in Papal-Imperial Communications (6th-7th Centuries)

Adrian Viale (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

After the Reconquest of Italy by Justinian, Rome became a part of the Byzantine Empire. During the next two centuries, the political communication between the popes and the Imperial court of Constantinople was central to the development of the institutional identity of the Papacy. These interactions were conducted through different channels (letters, envoys, representatives, face-to-face encounters), and since the age of Justinian there were some efforts to institutionalize them. In some cases, these were attempted through laws that tried to regulate the exchange of information. In other cases, they were based on established practices which recognized not only the ways in which the processes of communication had to happen, but also the role that both the pope and the emperor should play in them. The aim of this paper is to analyse some aspects of this political communication. In the first place, we will focus on the role played by the apocrisiaries, the representatives of the popes in Constantinople, in the communication between both institutions. In the second place, we will study face-to-face encounters, as it happened between some popes and emperors. Finally, we would like to examine the protocol procedures of this communication: the established rules that guided the relationship between the pope (and his representatives) and the emperor, highlighting that in some cases this protocol could also be used to avoid the communication.