Encyclopedia Britannica – Saint Maximus

Saint Maximus the ConfessorArticle

(c.580-662) Abbot of Chrysopolis, known as “the Confessor” from his orthodox zeal in the Monothelite controversy, or as “the monk,” was born of noble parentage at Constantinople about the year 580. Educated with great care, he early became distinguished by his talents and acquirements, and some time after the accession of the emperor Heraclius in 610 was made his private secretary. In 630 he abandoned the secular life and entered the monastery of Chrysopolis (Scutari), actuated, it was believed, less by any longing for the life of a recluse than by the dissatisfaction he felt with the Monothelite leanings of his master. The date of his promotion to the abbacy is uncertain. In 633 he was one of the party of Sophronius of Jerusalem (the chief original opponent of the Monothelites) at the council of Alexandria; and in 645 he was again in Africa, when he held in presence of the governor and a number of bishops the disputation with Pyrrhus, the deposed and banished patriarch of Constantinople, which resulted in the (temporary) conversion of his interlocutor to the Dyothelite view. In the following year several African synods, held under the influence of Maximus, declared for orthodoxy. In 649, after the accession of Martin I, he went to Rome, and did much to fan the zeal of the new pope, who in October of that year held the (first) Lateran synod, by which not only the Monothelite doctrine but also the moderating ecthesis of Heraclius and typus of Constans II were anathematized. About 653 Maximus, for the part he had taken against the latter document especially, was apprehended (together with the pope) by order of Constans and carried a prisoner to Constantinople. In 655, after repeated examinations, in which he maintained his theological opinions with memorable constancy, he was banished to Byzia in Thrace, and afterwards to Perberis. In 662 he was again brought to Constantinople and was condemned by a synod to be scourged, to have his tongue cut out by the root, and to have his right hand chopped off. After this sentence had been carried out he was again banished to Lazica, where he died on the 13th of August 662. He is venerated as a saint both in the Greek and in the Latin Churches. Maximus was not only a leader in the Monothelite struggle but a mystic who zealously followed and advocated the system of Pseudo-Dionysius, while adding to it an ethical element in the conception of the freedom of the will. His works had considerable influence in shaping the system of John Scotus Erigena.

The most important of the works of Maximus will be found in Migne, Patrologia graeca, xc. xci., together with an anonymous life; an exhaustive list in Wagenmann’s article in vol. xii. (1903) of Hauck-Herzog’s Realencyklop├Ądie where the following classification is adopted: (a) exegetical, (b) scholia on the Fathers, (c) dogmatic and controversial, (d) ethical and ascetic, (e) miscellaneous. The details of the disputation with Pyrrhus and of the martyrdom are given very fully and clearly in Hefele’s Conciliengeschichte, iii. For further literature see H. Gelzer in C. Krumbacher’s Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897).

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Maximus”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 March 2015. Web. 23 February 2017. <>