Third Council of Constantinople

Third Council of Constantinople
Third Council of Constantinople
Date 680-681
Accepted by Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Eastern Orthodox
Previous council Second Council of Constantinople
Next council (Roman Catholic) Second Council of Nicaea
(Orthodox) Council in Trullo
Convoked by Emperor Constantine IV
Presided by Patriarch George I of Constantinople, Pope Agatho
Attendance perhaps 300; signatories to the documents ranged from 43 (first session) to 174 (last session)
Topics of discussion Monothelitism, the human and divine wills of Jesus
Documents and statements condemnation of Monothelitism
Chronological list of Ecumenical councils

The Third Council of Constantinople, counted as the Sixth Ecumenical Council by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and other Christian groups, met in 680/681 and condemned monoenergism and monothelitism as heretical and defined Jesus Christ as having two energies and two wills (divine and human).[1]



The Council settled a set of theological controversies that had flared up under the Emperors Heraclius (610-641) and Constans II (641-668). Heraclius had set out to much of his Empire from the Persians and had attempted to bridge the controversy with Monophysitism, which was particularly strong in Syria and Egypt, by proposing a theological compromise. The result was first monoenergism, i.e. that Christ, though existing in two natures, had only one energy, the second was monothelitism, i.e. that Christ had only one will. The new doctrine did not achieve unity and was opposed at Jerusalem and at Rome and started a controversy that persisted even after the loss of the reconquered provinces and the death of Heraclius. When Heraclius' grandson Constans II took the throne, he saw the controversy as threatening the stability of the Empire and attempted to stifle all discussions, by outlawing speaking either in favour or against the new doctrine. Pope Martin I and the monk Maximus, the foremost opponents of monothelitism, were tortured, exiled and soon died. Though the theological debate has long failed its political aim - Syria and Egypt had been lost to the Muslims soon after their reconquest - only the death of Constans in 668 opened the door to a resolution of the conflict.

After Constans' son and successor, Constantine IV had overcome the Muslim siege of Constantinople in 678, he immediately set his sights on settled the theological conflict: he wrote to Pope Donus suggesting a conference on the matter. When the letter reached Rome, Donus had died, but his successor, Pope Agatho, agreed to the Emperor's suggestion and ordered councils held throughout the West so that legates could present the tradition of the Western Church. Then he sent a large delegation to meet the Easterners at Constantinople.[2] In the meantime, Constantine summoned Patriarch George I of Constantinople and all bishops of his jurisdiction of Constantinople to a council. He also informed Patriarch Macarius of Antioch, who was staying at the court due to the Muslim occupation of his city.


On 7 November 680, a little under 300 bishops convened in the imperial palace, in the domed hall called Trullo, from which the council also took the name Trullan Synod. The Patriarchs of Constantinople and of Antioch participated in person, whereas the Pope and the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem were represented by deputies. In its opening session, the council assumed the authority of an Ecumenical Council. The Emperor attended and presided over the first eleven sessions and returned for the closing session on 16 September 681, during which 174 signed the decisions reached.

During the council, a letter by Pope Agatho was read which explained the traditional belief of the Church that Christ was of two wills, divine and human. The Council agreed with the letter, proclaiming that Peter spoke through Agatho.[2] Macarius of Antioch defended monothelitism but was condemned and deposed, along with his partisans. The council, in keeping with Agatho's letter, defined that Jesus Christ possessed two energies and two wills but that those two wills did not conflict with each other. It also condemned both monoenergism and monothelitism as heretical[1] and included those who had helped this heresy, including Pope Honorius I. When the council had concluded, the decrees were sent to Rome where Agatho's successor, Pope Leo II also agreed with them.[2]


  1. ^ a b Ostrogorsky, p. 127.
  2. ^ a b c Joseph Brusher, S.J., Popes Through the Ages.


  • Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0813505992
  • Ekonomou, Andrew J. 2007. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590-752. Lexington Books.

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