Reflections on Caesaropapism

This article concerns the Eastern Occidental notion of kingship as practiced by the Byzantine Empire, thus a mode of power ingrained in the metaphysical fabric of that part of the world. In some ways, this will be an advocacy piece, a defense if you will, of the caesaropapist mode of governance.

First of all, we must define what we mean. For those unfamiliar with the term, caesaropapism is often poorly defined as the supremacy of the ‘secular’ authority over the church, which is of course a function of the state. This definition, given the history of the practice, is incredibly dubious. For one thing, the sovereign’s authority in religious affairs immediately nullifies any notion of ‘secularism’. The notion of a ‘secular’ ruler is alien to the Traditional way of life. Whether it is the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt or the Tamil ko, rulers have been enthroned via spiritual justification, and this is completely incomparable to the ‘enthronement’ of secular leaders today who derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed (supposedly).

So, correctly defined and properly understood, caesaropapism is distinguished by the minimization of the authority relationship downstream from the ecclesiastic authority to the imperial authority, as must exist in Roman Catholicism where the Pope is vested with many special powers which ought to force the absolute subordination of the sovereign. However, the caesaropapist structure is not simply a relationship of dependence, which it is often caricatured as. It is instead an interdependence tilted in deference to the sovereign.

Liberals present a false dichotomy to the non-secularist. Either they wish for an ecclesiocracy where the sovereign power rests with the brahmins, or else an ecclesiastic body that is an arm of the sovereign. The former has of course existed, for example the earliest days of the post-Schism Catholic Church where the Pope wielded tremendous political power over sovereigns, something that would wane in time. The latter has also of course existed, great examples being Russia after 1721, and perhaps the Anglican Church under King Henry VIII. However, a true understanding of the Byzantine view of authority and how it was exercised proves this dichotomy to be a false one.

Historians are now more certain than ever that Constantinople saw an interdependence of church and state, rather than a simple dependence. The Emperor was recognized as the ‘head of the church’, but nothing in Byzantine literature points to a belief that he had any kind of infallibility, or even priestly powers (mediating the Divine Realm). His position was thus only a recognition of his divine right and the perennial essentialness of religion to the state over which he was enthroned, which Christianity was affirming. The Emperor was vested with a substantive administrative authority over the church’s so-called ‘external problems’, that is, they would mediate disputes between Church fathers at specially convened councils over which they would preside, they would set the territorial boundaries of religious jurisdictions, and they would appoint the highest religious authority, the Patriarch of Constantinople, usually but not always from a list of suitable candidates provided to them.

It is made clear however that the Emperor’s authority was not infinite. A particularly stark example of this is the very well-known confrontation between Emperor Theodosius I and St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan. After the emperor had ordered the mass killing of citizens in Thessalonica by Gothic troops in response to a minor revolt against some local magistrates, he was barred entry to the Milanese church by the bishop. Rebuking the emperor for his conduct was surely something that would have been quickly halted if misconceptions about caesaropapism were true, and yet the result was surprising. The emperor returned to his palace and spent eight months sighing and weeping because he could not attend mass. Why did he, the head of the Church, not shove Ambrose aside? Because he knew at that moment, in front of that sanctuary, Ambrose had legitimate authority over him.

Saint Ambrose confronts the emperor

Emperor Justinian I declared that the ideal relationship between imperium and sacerdotium was one of ‘symphony’. The Church and the sovereign, each with their vested organic spheres of authority were to attend to their roles to the best of their abilities, and when a ‘wrong note’ was played in this symphony, the response from the ‘audience’ was decisive. When the great and venerated St. John Chrysostom was deposed unjustly from his role as Archbishop of Constantinople by Emperor Arcadius, the city erupted in furious riots. The saint is often noted for his opposition to the power of the emperor, but this seems more to do with Arcadius’ viperous wife than anything, and during the previous reign of Theodosius I, St. John had enjoined the entire population of Antioch to repent for mutilating statues of the emperor, likely saving them from the fate suffered by the Thessalonicans.

When emperors attempted changes to the church that were found wanting in their legitimacy, they were often ignored, or met with fierce opposition which forced concessions (Monotheletism a good example of an imperial doctrine which never got anywhere due to opposition within the Church).

The emperor may have had an administrative role which was used very positively on many occasions, but he did not have the same kind of authority over Orthodoxy that the Pope had over Roman Catholicism. This ‘shared power’ relationship between the two is, I think, a desirable way to structure authority. It neither reduces the emperor to a triviality in religious affairs and thus reduces him to a mere secular leader, but also does not subject the fundamentals of the Church to the wims of men with the temporal political concerns which pervade the kshatriya (warrior) caste.

In the Laws of Manu (the most respected ancient source of Hindu legal knowledge), it is made quite clear, “rulers do not prosper without priests and priests do not thrive without rulers”, as well as “the priest is said to be the root of the law, and the ruler is the peak”. All Reactionaries should agree with this sentiment, that the sovereign power and the official priesthood benefit from one another and exist in a kind of symbiosis. Where disagreement arises would be in the particulars of such a relationship.

Evola in Revolt Against the Modern World:

“If on the one hand the original synthesis of the two powers is reestablished in the person of the consecrated king, on the other hand, the nature of the hierarchical relationships existing in every normal social order between royalty and priestly caste (or church), which is merely the mediator of supernatural influences, is very clearly defined: regality enjoys primacy over the priesthood, just as, symbolically speaking, the sun has primacy over the moon and the man over the woman. In a certain sense this is the same primacy over Abraham’s priesthood that was traditionally attributed to the priestly regality of Melchizedek, who performed sacrifices in the name of the Almighty, the God of Victory (“God Most High who delivered your foes into your hand,” Gen. 14:20)”

In one of his fleeting substantive considerations of the Eastern Occident, Evola seems to praise the caesaropapist model, even though he exaggerates its practical power. We see once again the allusion to ‘Solar’ and ‘Lunar’ modes which describe dominant and subservient relations, akin to a husband and wife, Christ and the world, etc.

Now, Guénon in The Crisis of the Modern World:

If however the intellectual elite were effectually constituted and its supremacy recognized, this would be enough to  restore everything to order, for spiritual power is in no way based on numbers, whose law is that of matter; besides-and this is a point of great importance-in ancient times, and especially in the Middle Ages, the natural bent of Westerners for action did not prevent them from recognizing the superiority of contemplation, or in other words, of pure intelligence. […] Action, being merely a transitory and momentary modification of the being, cannot possibly carry its principle and sufficient reason in itself; if it does not depend on a principle outside its own contingent domain, it is but illusion; and this principle, from which it draws all the reality it is capable of possessing-its existence and its very possibility can be found only in contemplation, or, if one will, in knowledge, for these two terms are fundamentally synonymous, or at least coincide, since it is impossible in any way to separate knowledge from the process by which it is acquired.”

For Guénon, the sovereign has no power other than what the priest may bestow, he is almost like a statue that is given life only by the eternal maintenance of the contemplative principle by the brahmin caste. He does not place as much value on the transitory virtues of the kshatriya caste (embodied in moments) as Evola does, though by no means dismisses it. True caesaropapism then seems to tow some kind of line between the two scholars. prioritizing the warrior only on the grounds that the state is a temporal phenomena that has to contend with temporal issues on a day to day basis, but never fully subjecting the priesthood to an absolute authority apart from God. An organic balance of power ensues and we have the picture of a stable Reactionary system. As is typical with such things, there is a give and take within the flexible Christian model.

Ca o lacrima de sange, a cazut o stea
Drum de foc si biruinta pentru Garda ta
Bate vantul peste ape trece timpul greu
Noi mereu te plangem frate iar tu dormi mereu

Finally, it is worth addressing the question of the special breed, the fusion of the two principles in the form of the warrior priest, the man of great contemplation and esoteric spirituality who is also called to action in its purest form. Whether we may speak of the Shaolin monks or the Knights Templar, the powerful energy marshaled by such enlightened souls, instruments of Divine will on earth, can never be dismissed in spite of its rarity. In my mind, what better use for such a caliber than the role of a particular judiciary, that in which the Sovereign and the Church both have vested interest. Men committed in service to God and nation, with reign over the civil society. Such would be a proud profession, inherited by blood and charged with the upkeep of the ordered society. To give an idea of what this might look like, a single cleric of this type ought to command the respect and deference given to ten of what we in the Modern World perceive to be an ‘officer of the law’, owed not only to their strict piety but their capabilities as well.

Rare as such men are, to make a caste of them is a pinnacle of true civil development. If caesar has temporal authority, and priest has eternal duty, then the men between are the armed guards of the state’s essence, that being Tradition itself, and in their sacred responsibilities they raise the population to the heights of human possibility in accordance with its ‘Imago Dei’. Vladimir Solovyov had interesting words that would seem to relate to this subject:

“As Priest, King and Prophet, He has given Christian society its absolute form in the trinitary monarchy. Having founded the Church upon His Priesthood and sanctioned the State by His Kingship, He has also provided for their unity and their unified progress by leaving to the world the free and living activity of His prophetic spirit. And as the Priesthood and the Kingship of the GodMan reveal His divine nature through the medium of human instruments, so it is with His prophetic office. A third principal ministry must therefore be admitted in the Christian world — the synthetic unity of the first two, offering to Church and State the perfect ideal of deified Humanity as the supreme goal of their common activity.”

To cap off this essay then, I have laid out the extent of my political thought on at least the portion of state organization concerning warrior and priest, taking from the Orthodox tradition of caesaropapism. Not set in stone as some shell to be slipped into, there is no reason it cannot be improved with current meta theory being developed by the Reactosphere. As a base however, it is a working model.

(Thanks to epicworldhistory for some useful info I had not been aware of previously)


Some house cleaning to go through:

In relation to the above essay, a lengthy discussion on this topic (church/state relations) hosted by Reactionary Ian, and also featuring Teleolojik Folkways, Michael Sebastian, Nick B. Steves, AntiDem, and from an opposing persuasion, anabaptist Todd Lewis. Was very interesting and enjoyed the interaction.

In addition, the final installment in Adam Wallace’s very important ‘Paganism, Christianity, and the European Soul’ series, entitled ‘What Is To Be Done?’. The usual suspects from previous installments make a return to discuss the future of Occidental spirituality and its relation to Modernity. Unfortunately, technical difficulties broke it into two parts. The earlier entries in this series can be found at Adam’s channel.


20 thoughts on “Reflections on Caesaropapism

  1. One thought I had very strongly here is that we need something that scales well. A small village is more easily obtained than an empire.

    Another, less direct thought, is that I've liked Montessori's idea that teenagers should work (and learn) on farms. And I think this would be especially true for members of the ruling class- whether the realm is big or small. In general, it is supposed to be good to do this instead of high school for all humans of that age, but for rulers particularly I think there would be a grounding.


  2. Interestingly, when the Seljuk Turks migrated/flooded and conquered Iran and Iraq (then Anatolia) under the leadership of Tughrul bey, they followed the same way. The Sunni Caliph had no real military power and dominated by Shia Arabs, by the other hand Seljuks lacked legitimacy in the eyes of Muslims (because many of them were just nominally Muslims).

    So, they made an implicit deal with the Abbasid Caliph. The Seljuk Turks saved the Caliph from Shias, recognized the Caliph as the spiritual leader of Islam, accepted to mention Caliph's name at the friday sermons (which is very important in Islam and it is a very explicit gesture of authority) and accepted to NOT raid lands of Islam. In return, the Caliph declared Seljuk Turks as the protectors of Islam, turned a blind eye to their shamanic practices, declared Tughrul bey as the Sultan of West and East.

    Ottomans followed the same way too. Despite they were the Caliphs of Islam, the ulema (Islamic clergy) and Sheikhulislam (Grand Mufti of Ottoman empire) were ruling the business. The Islamic clergy could give religious legal opinions, could overthrow (at least could contribute to overthrowing of Sultan) the Sultan, but at the same time Sultan could appoint or dismiss of every member of Islamic clergy.


  3. Good article. It is an unfortunate accident of history that the early capital-T Traditionalists were not generally very knowledgeable about Orthodoxy, because I agree with you there are answers to be found there to some of the problems that vexed Guénon and Evola. (Schuon, whose work I'm wading into at the moment, does have some favorable things to say about Orthodoxy, but issues of Emperors and Empire were at some remove from his main interests).


  4. Another thought-provoking post. I have to say that you have a way of making whatever you describe/write about seem so logical and so obvious.

    I'm new to this neoreaction stuff. I wouldn't even call myself a neoreactionary, but I am very intrigued by what I read here on your blog and others. Here in the U.S., pretty much from birth, we are inculcated with the idea that monarchy/kingly rule is, for the lack of a better word, bad. There is this sense that monarchy or rule by king/emperor is synonymous with the modern totalitarian dictatorships that we have become so familiar with. However, the more I think about it and look to history, the more erroneous such a sentiment seems.

    As I understand it, the rulers of Christendom have always had a sort of check on their power, though not in the sense that moderns envision. This check on their power is God or, more appropriately, God's agents as manifested in the Catholic and Orthodox priesthood. The average Joe may scoff at such a ridiculous idea but history bears it out. Your example of St. Ambrose standing up to Emperor Theodosius I is but one among many throughout history. I can't think of any off the top of my head (like I said, I'm new to this), but I know there are many other examples of bishops/priests confronting a ruler with their sin and the ruler actually seeking to repent and right himself with God.

    I'm currently reading C.R. Hallpike's “Do We Need God to be Good” and one of Hallpike's premises is the idea that God and/or religion mediates between the needs of the individual on one hand and the needs of the group/nation/tribe on the other hand. Without God or religion, we run into one of two extremes: hyper individualism or totalitarianism.

    It is with the French Revolution and its attempts to de-Christianize France that we begin to see the rise of the modern totalitarian state, paranoia and genocide included. The dupes that brought about the “Enlightenment” discarded the one thing that checks the totalitarian impulse. In their attempts to escape what they believed to be tyranny and absolute rule, they sowed the seeds for something even worse. As many have said before me, the equality and democratic movements of the last 2 or so centuries have claimed far more lives than anything else before them.


  5. This is of course macro-speculative. Forms of authoritarianism change depending on scale. Villages alone are governed in more primitive ways.

    I have said on many occasions, I want public education abolished. Boys should learn the trades of their fathers from an early age, and girls should learn womanly duties from their mothers. The universal classroom is cancer.


  6. Yes, sounds a lot like classic 'Byzantine diplomacy' at work there. I was not aware of Shia power during this period. When were Shi'ites at the height of their power, because I know they have suffered much persecution during their existence?


  7. I really need to read some full-length Schuon. Interesting guy for sure. I do always note Evola's affinity for the Romanian Iron Guard, which may have hinted at a possible form of Christianity he found 'viable' in view of his very exclusivist high-esotericism.


  8. I'm glad you enjoy my writing, Prince.

    The arguments for 'Enlightenment' virtues in order to keep the power of government in check (this was what the Founders had as their base ideological argument) is laughable. States have NEVER been bigger than during the post-Enlightenment era. The smallest functioning governments in history were absolute monarchies. Yes, the King could declare that sodomy and adultery were prohibited, but there certainly were not the mountain of laws that have actually made 'doing taxes' a lucrative industry for a whole new profession. There is more tyranny now than at any time in history, we have just been conveniently conditioned to not care about the autonomies curtailed by the Modern state.

    The Traditional World knew authoritarianism, never totalitarianism (not under normal circumstances at least), and authoritarianism is the organic mode of mankind, whether that makes Rousseau cry or not.


  9. A Persian noble family (they claim that they were the Islamicized descendants of Sasanid dynasty) called Buyid dynasty, with the support of Shia Arabs and Persians, ruled Iraq and most of Iran.

    Actually, between the late 9th century and the advance of Seljuk Turks at late 11th century, Shias were quite powerful.

    An extreme (and syncretic) group of them was even attempted to form a religious egalitarian society which was ruled by a republic and succeeded for a while! (I am serious)


  10. I'll write about them. But I need to make a research about them.

    Still, an extreme sect of Shia Islam which was influenced by Platonism, Zoroastranism and Hinduism and which formed a republic with a council, attempted land reform, instituted a primitive version of state property and welfare. Also their members were vegetarians and included many black former slaves. Extremely interesting for us reactionaries. Porn for progressives.


  11. Mr. Citadel, your post is very informative about the Byzantine tradition, however with all due respect (and any just man would agree that you are due much respect), when you are somewhat mistaken as to the authentic tradition of Roman Christendom. James Viscount Bryce (a Protestant!) sums up very well the Western Sacrétemporal Tradition:
    “The realistic philosophy, and the needs of a time when the only notion of civil or religious order was submission to authority, required the World-State to be a monarchy; tradition, as well as the continuance of certain institutions, gave the monarch the name of Roman Emperor. A king could not be universal sovereign, for there were many kings: the Emperor must be, for there had never been but one Emperor; he had in older and brighter days been the actual lord of the civilized world; the seat of his power was placed beside that of the spiritual autocrat of Christendom. His functions will be seen most clearly if we deduce them from the leading principle of mediæval mythology, the exact correspondence of earth and heaven. As God, in the midst of the celestial hierarchy, ruled blessed spirits in paradise, so the Pope, His Vicar, raised above priests, bishops, metropolitans, reigned over the souls of mortal men below. But as God is Lord of earth as well as of heaven, so must He (the Imperator cœlestis) be represented by a second earthly viceroy, the Emperor (Imperator terrenus), whose authority shall be of and for this present life. And as in this present world the soul cannot act save through the body, while yet the body is no more than an instrument and means for the soul's manifestation, so must there be a rule and care of men's bodies as well as of their souls, yet subordinated always to the well-being of that which is the purer and the more enduring. It is under the emblem of soul and body that the relation of the papal and imperial power is presented to us throughout the Middle Ages[121]. The Pope, as God's vicar in matters spiritual, is to lead men to eternal life; the Emperor, as vicar in matters temporal, must so control them in their dealings with one another that they may be able to pursue undisturbed the spiritual life, and thereby attain the same supreme and common end of everlasting happiness. In the view of this object his chief duty is to maintain peace in the world, while towards the Church his position is that of Advocate… Thus the Holy Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire are one and the same thing, in two aspects; and Catholicism, the principle of the universal Christian society, is also Romanism; that is, rests upon Rome as the origin and type of its universality; manifesting itself in a mystic dualism which corresponds to the two natures of its Founder. As divine and eternal, its head is the Pope, to whom souls have been entrusted; as human and temporal, the Emperor, commissioned to rule men's bodies and acts.”

    Furthermore, the Holy Roman Emperor, unlike the Byzantine, had an actual sacerdotal character by virtue of his ordination by the Roman Pontiff into the diaconate. To the Roman Catholic mind, “the imperial office was conceived of as something different in kind from the regal, and as carrying with it not the immediate government of any particular kingdom, but a general suzerainty over and right of controlling all.”


  12. Yes, I remember listening to one of the Christian Hangouts hangouts hosted by Reactionary Ian and you made the same sort of point. You and Wife with a Purpose were talking about homeschooling and you said something that really struck a chord.

    The average monarch didn't give a flying fig about how or what you taught your kid, so long as it wasn't seditious and you paid your taxes. Yes, the taxes might go to building his palace, but is that really worse than paying taxes to support Child Protective Services who can take your children away at any moment. This was the point that really made me start taking Monarchy a lot more serious.

    That's part of the problem I think. Modern thought thinks of authoritarianism and totalitarianism as the same thing. That could be why people have such a knee-jerk reaction to authoritarianism.

    Anyway, good thoughts all around, Mark.


  13. I was about to reply that the HRE (and specifically, in his person, Charlemagne) was properly if crudely described as the Western version of Caesaropapism, and, to my mind, a very virtuous ideal with some unfortunate historical mis-steps (as all empires have), but I see I've been beaten to the punch and well exceeded in capability.


  14. The Holy Roman Empire & the Church in the West did indeed maintain a form of ceasaropapism akin to the Byzantine order, but this was only upheld, historically speaking, until around the late 11th century CE. By the time of the Investiture conflicts and other miscellaneous skirmishes between state and church, the West had regrettably shifted toward subjection to the papacy.


  15. That is historically incorrect. As early as 868 you have Holy Roman Emperor Louis II's letter to the King of the Greeks, stating: “For the Frankish Princes were first Kings, then were truly declared Emperors, this to the extent that from the Roman Pontiff who for this purpose anointed them with holy oil, the title derived. Anointed in this manner by the Pontiff, Charlemagne, our great-grandfather, first of our House and lineage, abundant in piety, was rightly declared Emperor and made anointed Lord, especially when often such persons the Imperium received, who did not receive it by Divine will set forth through the Pontifical ministry, but only by the Senate and the people, these not being ordained to grant the Imperial Dignity.” The late Ottonian and Staufen attempts to usurp the sacral authority lead to the extinction of both houses, which had attacked the only authority that could rightly bestow the Imperial office upon them. That this was understood by the Carolingians (and their descendants the House of Austria, as well the early Ottonians is a well documented historical fact. In fact it predates them in the letter of Pope Gelasius [pontiff 492-496]: ” And if it is fitting that the hearts of the faithful should submit to all priests in general who properly administer divine affairs, how much more is obedience due to the bishop of that diocese [Rome] which the Most High ordained to be above all others, and subsequently what the general piety of the church appropriately celebrates. As your [the Roman Emperor's] piety is obviously aware, it is humanly impossible to elevate oneself either by privilege or confession over him whom the voice of Christ put above everyone, whom the Church has always held ought to be revered and enjoy primacy of devotion.”


  16. Iancu here. I'm sorry to have to say this but you are in error, in grave error in regards to something you've said in this article.

    You've said ” The Emperor was recognized as the 'head of the church' “. No. Sorry but wrong, an error. I can't simply say I dissent from your opinion here since this a matter of dogmatic theology and mystical theology. It's incorrect in more ways than one. Firstly, it is a Protestant practice, not Byzantine to recognise the Sovereign as Head of the Church. Secondly, we Orthodox recognise only Jesus Christ as Head of the Church. And the Church is mistically His body. Thirdly, the Emperor was only “episkopos ton ektos” (bishop for those issues which are external; which isn't quite a bishop in the sacramental sense, meaning the Holy Grace does not flow through him, but he does have sacramental functions).

    I want to stress the importance of the fact that only Our Lord Jesus Christ is head of the Church. We diasgree with the Catholics in their assertion that the Pope of Rome is Vicar of Christ because Christ can have no vicar, He is the Head of the Church. Also it is stated in many places that the Church is the Bride of Christ. I've seen the feminie nature of the church debated at some length. The Church is like a mother even to an Emperor, since many Holy Fathers state plainly that the Church is (mystically) the Bride of Christ. In fact marriage between man and woman is thought as an icon of the relationship between Christ and the Church. So Christ is the Head of the Church, the Church is the Body of Christ (mystically) and the Church is the Bride of Christ. Similarly the man is the head of the family. Now, we know that sovereigns are the head of their realm and thei realm is (symbolically) like their body. So if we want to think of a female correspondent for the Sovereign, it is the realm. It can't be the Church (which the Catholics rightly call “Holy Mother Church”), since the Church is mother even to Sovereigns. Sorry but this has to be pointed out.


  17. There is perhaps some disparity in what 'head of the church' has come to mean. I only mean it in the same sense that Joseph Cullen Ayer uses it in his 'A source book for ancient church history, from the Apostolic age to the close of the conciliar period', in which he writes the following:

    “the Emperor was the head of the Church in the sense that he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church”

    From this source: the same case is made as I have above, that in actual fact you had a dyarchy where emperor and patriarch both had a sphere of correct duty and authority, but it's hard to deny the emperor would often have the upper hand. Indeed there isn't really a problem with this.

    “The relations between state and church in Byzantium are often described in the West by the term caesaropapism, which implies that the emperor was acting as the head of the church. The official texts, however, describe the emperor and the patriarch as a dyarchy (government with dual authority) and compare their functions to that of the soul and the body in a single organism. In practice, the emperor had the upper hand over much of church administration, though strong patriarchs could occasionally play a decisive role in politics”

    Of course Christ is the spiritual head of the church, but in terms of the Church's metapolitical dimension, the emperor effectively acts as its head owing to his sacral authority. Christ does not literally direct the outward manifestation of the Church as in a theoretical theocracy. Christ was present at the Ecumenical Councils, overseeing them in a metaphysical sense, but in the physical sense it was the emperor who oversaw them and indeed commissioned them. It is correct to say however that neither Emperor nor Patriarch had a role that resembled the Pope in Rome.


  18. This is often said in the Anglosphere in comparison to Protestant and specifically Anglican practice, but it's generally incorrect. The highest authority in spiritual matters in any autocephalous Church is the Great and Holy Synod, chaired by the Patriarch, which is primus inter pares among his Bishops, like the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople is primus inter pares among other Patriarchs. But the Great and Holy Synod collectively is above any one bishop. So it could be said that the Synod, chared by the Patriarch, governs the autocephalous Church.

    The relationship with the Emperor was complicated and you have pointed out that “Symphonia” was the relationship and which is a model for Orthodox countries and was implemented even in Russia until Peter the Great. But there is a difference between matters spiritual (doctrine, morality, ritual) goverened by the Synod and matters “external” (organisation) governed by the Emperor. But note, it is neither a dogma nor a matter of Apostolic Tradition that the Emperor is “episkopos ton ektos”, it's just something generally accepted which became part of Church Tradition rather than Apostolic Tradition. Like for instance if an ecumenical Council decides some nomocanons that's almost as good as coming from the Apostles. But often in our canon law there are issued taken directly from Byzantine civil law which became Church Tradition by usage and are respected but do not have the same weight as what came from the Apostles or was decided by the Holy Fathers.


  19. (part 2) What you said in this article is essentially correct and spot on. What I find in the source from orthodoxinfo is essentially correct information. Note, though, they even say that it is not correct to think caesaropapism means the Emperor is head of the church. I have to stress that in my humble opinion it is a matter of respecting dogmas to avoid the words “head of the Church” when speaking about Imperial Authority.

    But this: “the Emperor was the head of the Church in the sense that he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church” This is entirely mistaken. It was not such particularly when it came to worship and theological opinion (some Emperors tried to, though, illegitimately). This is essentially Anglican practice which Peter the Great try to replicate by removing the Patriarch and subordinating the Synod to the Czarist Throne (but even Peter did not do this entirely – the quote beter describes the Anglican system than the Russian Petrine system and as you yourself noticed in the article, the Byzantine practice was entirely different).

    Symphonia indeed describes a dyarchy, between the Basileus, and the Synod, with no one having an upper hand. But because the Patriarch was only the chairman of the Holy and Great Synod in practice the Basileus had the upper hand over the person of the Patriarch. It was important though which matters were under discussion: matters spiritual or matters external (to the purview of the church). In matters external the Emperor would have last word (for instance in where to draw the borders of Chruch Dioceses; even in adjusting disciplinary measures for priests, etc. but not in doctrine or litury or such).


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