Photios I (Greek: Φώτιος, Phōtios; c. 810 – c. 893a[›]),
also spelled Photius or Fotios, was Patriarch of Constantinople from 858 to 867 and from 877 to 886.
He is recognized in the Eastern Orthodox churches as St. Photios the Great.Photios is widely regarded as the most powerful and influential Patriarch of Constantinople since John Chrysostom, and as the most important intellectual of his time, "the leading light of the ninth-century renaissance". He was a central figure in both the conversion of the Slavs to Christianity and the estrangement of the Eastern Orthodox churches from the Catholic Church.
Photios was a well-educated man from a noble Constantinopolitan family. Photius' Great uncle was previous Patriarch of Constantinople Tarasius. He intended to be a monk, but chose to be a scholar and statesman instead. In 858, Emperor Michael III deposed Ignatius Patriarch of Constantinople, and Photios, still a layman, was appointed in his place. Amid power struggles between the Pope and the Emperor, Ignatius was reinstated. Photios resumed the position when Ignatius died (877), by order of the Emperor. The new Pope John VIII approved Photios's reinstatement. Catholics regard an Fourth Council of Constantinople (Roman Catholic) anathematizing Photios as legitimate. Eastern Orthodox regard a second council named the Fourth Council of Constantinople (Eastern Orthodox), reversing the first, as legitimate. The contested Ecumenical Councils mark the end of unity represented by the first seven Ecumenical Councils.
For the Eastern Orthodox,
Photios was long the standard-bearer of their church in its disagreements with the pope of Rome; to Catholics, he was a proud and ambitious schismatic: the relevant work of scholars over the past generation has som...ewhat modified partisan judgments. All agree on the virtue of his personal life and his remarkable talents, even genius, and the wide range of his intellectual aptitudes. Pope Nicholas himself referred to his "great virtues and universal knowledge." Nonetheless, most scholars also grant that the vitriol of his words and severity of his actions certainly helped to precipitate the dissolution between East and West.
As a persona non grata Photios probably returned to his enforced monastic retirement.
It may be noted, however, that some anti-papal writings attributed to Photios were apparently composed by other writers about the time of the East-West Schism of 1054 and attributed to Photios as the champion of the independence of the Eastern Church.