Lesson video

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Welcome back to the third lesson of our enquiry into the power of the Pope in mediaeval Europe.

As always, I just have two things you need to do before we start the lesson.

The first is to go and get a pen and some paper, because there'll be various things I want you to write down during the lesson.

The second is to make sure that you're in a reasonably quiet space so you can just do some really good focused history work.

If you haven't got a pen or paper, or you want to move to a different place to work, just pause the video and do that now.

Okay, you've un-paused.

You're ready to get going.

Let's make a stab.

So this is lesson three of an enquiry of four lessons, and the title for our lesson today is Constantinople.

And our enquiry question is still how powerful was the Pope? To begin with, I'd just like you to take a very good look at this picture of a very big church.

And this is a huge Christian church where a very powerful person once lived.

And it's full of Roman mosaics.

Here we can see Roman emperors presenting Jesus and his mother Mary with gifts of the church and the city that it's in.

So where do you think this huge church full of Roman mosaics is? Well, you'll find out the answer to that in a minute, because first we need to see how far we've got with our enquiry.

And to do that, we're just going to jump back and look at what we did in the previous two lessons.

Because in lesson one, we learned the story about Charlemagne and Leo III.

And we saw that Pope Leo III was a very weak pope.

He was attacked in 799, only to be rescued by Charlemagne's men.

And then in return, he chose to give away some of his power and crown Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in 800.

And in lesson two we learned a very different story.

In lesson two, we learned about Peter's Pence and the gifts that kings and ordinary people used to give the Pope in the Middle Ages.

We saw that kings like Edgar the Peaceful forced every household in England to pay the Pope one penny each year.

And we thought about how all this money and all these wealth flooding into Rome would have made the mediaeval popes very powerful.

But this lesson, we're going to learn a new level of complexity and add another layer that will help us answer our big question of how powerful was the Pope.

And to do that, we need to go back to this big church.

So, got a huge Christian church in a city where a very important person used to live, full of Roman mosaics.

I asked you to think where it was.

And if you guessed the city of Rome that we studied in the previous two lessons, you would be absolutely, oh, sorry, the arrow's gone red.

Now let's go on to the next slide.

Well, if you guessed the city of Rome, I'm afraid I've played a very cruel trick on you because even though this church may seem very Roman, it was actually located far away from Rome in the city of Constantinople.

And to understand why that was, to understand why this very Roman church full of Roman mosaics was not in Rome, we need to know a little bit about the history of the Roman Empire, because in the fourth century, when the Roman Empire was starting to fall apart, an emperor decided to split it into two halves to make it more manageable.

An Eastern Empire, with the capital of Constantinople, and a Western Empire with the capital of Rome.

And this huge church called the Hagia Sophia was located in the Eastern Empire, in the city of Constantinople.


Let's just try and see how much of that story we've understood.

So pause the video now and have a go at these questions.

Okay, let's see how you've done.

So it's false, A.

The Hagia Sophia was actually located in Constantinople.

B it's true.

The Roman Empire was split in two in 395 BC.

And C is false.

Constantinople was actually the capital of the Eastern Empire.

And D is true.

After a long period of time, the Hagia Sophia was actually used as a mosque and as a museum.

It's had a very complicated story in the thousand and a half years that it's existed.

Our lesson today though is going to revolve around the story of two different kinds of church.

And this was the Western Church run by the Pope in Rome, and the Eastern Church run by the patriarchs of Constantinople.

Because in the Middle Ages, the Pope was not all powerful.

In fact, there were five different people called patriarchs who ran different parts of the Christian world.

There was the patriarch of Rome, the Pope, the patriarch of Constantinople, the patriarch of Antioch, the patriarch of Jerusalem and the patriarch of Alexandria.

And they were all in control of different parts of the Christian world.

And these patriarchs made up a group called the Pentarchy, which means five, 'cause there were five patriarchs.

So let's see if you can do this true or false quiz about the Pentarchy.

Pause the video now and have a go at it.

Right, let's have the answers.

So the first one is true.

The Pentarchy did include patriarchs who ran the church.

It's also true that it included Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch.

But it's false that the Pentarchy had eight members.

It only had five, pent meaning five.

And it's also false that all the members had to obey the Pope.

In theory, they had equal power and responsibility.

And the main two groups in the mediaeval church where the Western Church and the Eastern Church.

And the problem was that these two sides of the church really struggled to get along and talk to each other because people in the Western Church mainly spoke a language called Latin, and people in the Eastern Church mainly spoke a language called Greek.

So it was very difficult for the two sides to talk to each other.

But both sides agreed on one thing.

And they agreed that innovation was wrong.

Now today an innovation might be something like a new phone that has a longer battery life or a car that's more efficient.

And today we see innovation as a good thing, but in the mediaeval church, innovation was seen as very bad because an innovation was someone who tried to change Christianity from what Jesus and God had originally laid down.

So both sides agreed that innovations, changes to the way the church did things, were wrong.

This word innovation is very important, so if you're not sure you can quite remember it, rewind the video, write yourself a little definition down, and pause the video now to do that.

Otherwise we'll move on.

And one of the things the popes and the Western Church did was they added a few words to something called the Nicene Creed.

Now the Nicene Creed was a statement that all Christians made that basically said we are Christians.

And people since 431 AD had said this: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the father." And everyone agreed and thought this was fine.

But then in the year 1000, the popes of the Western Church added three words to the Nicene Creed.

So it now read, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the father and the son." And in Latin, these three words meant filioque.

And this caused a huge problem because the Eastern Church turned round and said, this "filioque" is an innovation.

It must be removed.

This is the first major disagreement between the Eastern and the Western churches.

Okay, let's do a quick true or false quiz to see if you've understood what the filioque was.

So pause it now and do the answers.

Okay, let's find out how many you got right.

So the only true answer of these four was that the filioque was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western Church.

The filioque did not mean "the Father" in Latin.

It actually meant "and the son." So it didn't mean "the Holy Spirit" in Greek.

And it wasn't supported by the patriarch of Constantinople and the Eastern Church.

In fact, they thought that it was an innovation that must be stopped.

But there were other disagreements between the Pope of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople, between East and West.

And one of these disagreements was about a group of people who did extreme things to show their faith in God.

Now some of these people lived up trees and at the top of pillars.

The people who lived at the top of trees were called dendrites.

And the people that lived at the top of pillars were called stylites.

And they did this for years on end.

One person called Luke the Stylite lived on top of a pillar for 42 years without coming down.

And these people did this to punish themselves and to show how deep their faith in God was.

And the patriarch of Constantinople supported this and admired it.

But they weren't the only people doing extreme things for God, because there are a group of people called holy fools.

And what the holy fools would do is they would run through the market in Constantinople wearing chains and rags, stealing fish from the market stores, and screaming insults at people.

And they would do this because there was a phrase in the Bible that said it's better to be a fool for Christ than to have earthly wisdom.

So these people said, rather than try and be wise on earth, we will be foolish because it's better to be a fool who supports Jesus.

And again, the patriarch of Constantinople and the Eastern Church supported these people.

They even made some of them saints.

But the Pope and the Western Church looked at the dendrites and the stylites and the holy fools and said that these are innovations, and they must end now.

Again, let's just have a quick quiz to see if you've understood all that.

So pause the video now and sort these into true or false.

Now time for the answers.

Now it's false that holy fools ran through the city of Rome stealing fish and wearing chains, because they actually ran through the city of Constantinople.

It is true that dendrites lived up trees and stylites lived up pillars for years on ends.

And it's also true that someone called Luke the Stylite lived on top of a pillar 42 years.

It's false that holy fools were banned from ever entering Constantinople.

In fact, they were welcomed into the city because they were seen as very religious people.

Now the final disagreement between the Eastern and the Western church comes down to something called the communion, which is something most Christians do, where they drink wine to represent the blood of Jesus Christ and eat bread to represent the body of Jesus Christ.

And this had been going on for a very long time in the mediaeval church.

But for some reason, people in the Western Church, supported by the Pope, started using something called unleavened bread.

Now unleavened bread is bread that's made without any yeast in it, so it's very flat 'cause it doesn't rise.

And people in the West thought that this was fine, but people in the East were furious, because they said, unleavened bread? This is another innovation.

This must end now.

So they were disagreeing about the fact that people in the Western Church in Rome were eating bread in the communion that was flat and didn't have any yeast in it.

Finally, then a quick quiz about unleavened bread.

Pause the video now and sort these into true or false.

Okay, let's do the answers.

It is false that unleavened bread has yeast in it.

Unleavened bread means it hasn't risen.

So there's no rising agent like yeast in it.

It's flat.

It is true that bread was used to represent Jesus's body in the communion service.

And it's also true that the Eastern Church thought unleavened bread was an innovation.

But it's false that unleavened bread was Pope Leo III's favourite food, because I don't know what his favourite food was.

It's unlikely to have been very basic unleavened bread though.


So what we know then is we have these two sides of the Christian Church that really struggled to talk to each other because they speak different languages.

They don't understand the way the other side thinks about religion, and they just really struggled to get along.

So we come back to our big question.

How powerful was the Pope? Just pause the video now.

And based on everything we've looked at this lesson, write down a few thoughts about how powerful you think the Pope was.


So clearly the Pope didn't really have that much power to control what was going on in the Eastern half of the church.

And that's very interesting because you'd think that the Pope would have control of every single Christian, but it seemed that in the Middle Ages that wasn't the case.

Now pause the video and read the slides on the next page and then answer the comprehension questions, and resume the video once you've finished.

Okay, well done for completing the comprehension questions.

Let's go through the answers to those now.

Question one was how many patriarchs were there in the Pentarchy? And the correct answer would be five, but a better answer would be the Pentarchy was made up of five patriarchs.

They controlled Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.

Question two was who led the Eastern church? And the correct answer would be the patriarch of Constantinople, but a better answer would be the patriarch of Constantinople led the Eastern Church.

He claimed to be a "true Roman" and challenged the power of the Pope.

Question three was why did the Eastern and Western churches find it difficult to talk to each other? Now the correct answer would be that they spoke different languages, but a better answer would be that most people in the Eastern Church spoke Greek and most in the Western Church spoke Latin.

This made it difficult for them to communicate.

Question four asked what Western ideas and rituals did the Eastern Church claim were innovations? Now the correct answer would be the filioque and the use of unleavened bread in the communion.

But an even better answer would be the Eastern Church believed that the filioque and the use of unleavened bread in the communion were innovations that must be stopped.

Finally, question five asked what Eastern practises did the Western Church claim were innovations? Now the correct answer would be the dendrites, stylites and holy fools, but a better answer would be the Western Church believed that the dendrites and the stylites, people who lived in trees and on top of pillars, and holy fools were examples of innovation and must be stopped.

Well done on completing the comprehension questions.

Finally, we're going to jump back to our big enquiry question one more time, and based on everything you've read and learned and watched so far this lesson, write a few sentences about how powerful was the Pope, thinking in particular about people who could challenge his power, like the patriarch of Constantinople.

Okay, well done for writing those few sentences.

We've now finished the lesson.

Well done for all your hard work.

If you'd like to share your work with Oak National, if you'd like to, please ask your parent or carer to share your work on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, tagging @OakNational and #LearnwithOak.

Well done for your hard work today.

I can't wait to teach you the final lesson of our enquiry.

Bye for now.