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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Ιnternal affairs under the Comneni and Angeli 

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Page 3

Disorders and moral decline among the clergy also alarmed Alexius Comnenus, who, in one of his novels, declared, The Christian faith is exposed to danger, for the clergy with every day becomes worse; he planned some measures for raising the moral standard of the clergy by ameliorating their life according to the canonic rules, by improving their education, by widely developing pastoral activity, and so on. But unfortunately because of the general conditions of that time he did not always succeed in carrying out his good beginnings.

Though they sometimes declared themselves against the excessive increase of church property, the Comneni, at the same time, were often the protectors and founders of monasteries. Under Alexius Mount Athos was declared by the Emperor exempt forever from taxes and other vexations; the civil officials had nothing to do with the Holy Mountain. As before, Athos was not dependent on any bishop; the protos, that is, the chairman of the council of the igumens (abbots, priors) of the monasteries of Athos, was ordained by the Emperor himself, so that Athos was directly dependent on him. Under Manuel the Russians who had formerly lived on Mount Athos and possessed there a small monastery received, by the order of the protaton (the council of the igumens), the convent of St. Panteleimon, which is widely known even today.

Alexius Comnenus also supported St. Christodulus in founding in the island of Patmos, where, according to tradition, the Apostle John wrote his Apocalypse, a monastery of that Saint, which still exists today. In the chrysobull published on that matter the Emperor granted this island to Christodulus as his permanent and inalienable property, exempted it from all taxes, and prohibited any officials from appearing in the island. The strictest regime was introduced into the life of the monastery. Chalandon says, the island of Patmos became a small ecclesiastical and almost independent republic where only monks could live. The attacks of the Seljuqs on the islands of the Archipelago forced Christodulus and the monks to leave Patmos and take refuge in Euboea, where Christodulus died at the end of the eleventh century. Christodulus' reforms did not survive him, and his attempt in Patmos completely failed.

John Comnenus built in Constantinople the monastery of the Pantokrator (Almighty) and instituted there a very well-organized hospital for the poor with fifty beds. The internal arrangement of this hospital is described in much detail in the statute (typicon) issued by the Emperor in this connection and is an example, perhaps the most touching that history has preserved, concerning humanitarian ideas in Byzantine society.

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