Around the beginning of the fifth century the praetorian prefect for Gaul and
the governor of Viennensis relocated their headquarters from Trier and Vienne
respectively to Arles, which created a dispute between the bishops of Vienne
and Arles as to whom should be metropolitan of the province of Viennensis.
While the synod of Turin had proposed dividing the province in two ecclesiastically,
problems emerged in 417 when Zosimus, bishop of Rome, within the
first week of his election, asserted in his Epistula 1 (JK 328) that the bishop of
Arles was to be metropolitan not only of Viennensis but over several provinces
in the civil diocese of Septem Provinciae as well (depriving the bishops of
Marseille, Vienne, and Narbonne of their metropolitan status) and thereby
making him virtual papal vicar in the exercise of Roman prerogatives. This
new arrangement created enormous religious conflict, as a further seven letters
and synod in Rome in September 417 attest, including the efforts of Zosimus
to declare the synod of Turin invalid. Ralph Mathisen investigated this episode and concluded that Zosimus’s efforts to assert his own authority over Gaul
resulted only in uniting the Gallic churches against him. This paper seeks to
analyse Zosimus’s involvement in Gaul and argues that this was not really his
plan but rather that of the bishop of Arles. It also seeks to ask whether or not
Zosimus anticipated the resultant conflict, as well as the authority by which he
sought to make these changes.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual conference of the
Canadian Society of Patristic Studies, at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Waterloo,
Ontario in May 2012.