Third Council of Constantinople

Third Council of Constantinople
Miniature 45 from the Constantine Manasses Chronicle, 14 century: Sixth Ecumenical Council
Accepted by
Previous council
Second Council of Constantinople
Next council
Second Council of Nicaea
Convoked byEmperor Constantine IV
PresidentPatriarch George I of Constantinople
AttendancePerhaps 300; signatories to the documents ranged from 43 (first session) to 174 (last session)
TopicsMonothelitism, 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[1] by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well by certain other Western Churches, 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).[2]


The Council settled a set of theological controversies that go back to the sixth century but had intensified under the Emperors Heraclius (r. 610–641) and Constans II (r. 641–668). Heraclius had set out to recover much of the part of his Empire lost to the Persians and had attempted to bridge the controversy with Monophysitism, which was particularly strong in Syria and Egypt, by proposing a moderate theological position that had as good support in the tradition as any other. The result was first monoenergism, i.e. that Christ, though existing in two natures, had one energy (divine and human), the second was monothelitism, i.e. that Christ had one will (that is, that there was no opposition in Christ between his human and divine volition). This doctrine was accepted in most of the Byzantine world, but 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 silence discussion, by outlawing speaking either in favour or against the doctrine.[3] Pope Martin I and the monk Maximus, the foremost opponents of monothelitism (which they interpreted as denying a human faculty of will to Christ), held a synod in Rome in 649 that condemned monoenergism and monothelitism.[4] At Constantinople in around 653, some accused the Pope of supporting revolution, this was regarded as high treason, and Martin was accordingly arrested, tried, condemned and sent into exile, where he soon died. Maximus was tried and tortured to death.[5] Martin and Maximus's position was supported by others at the Council of Constantinople.[6][7]