Caesaropapism /ˌsiːzəroʊˈpeɪpɪzəm/ is the idea of combining the power of secular government with the religious power, or of making secular authority superior to the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. Justus Henning Böhmer (1674–1749) may have originally coined the term caesaropapism (Cäseropapismus).[1] Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote: "a secular, caesaropapist ruler... exercises supreme authority in ecclesiastic matters by virtue of his autonomous legitimacy".[2] According to Weber's political sociology, caesaropapism entails "the complete subordination of priests to secular power."[3]

In its extreme form, caesaropapism is a political theory in which the head of state, notably the emperor ("Caesar", by extension a "superior" king), is also the supreme head of the church (pope or analogous religious leader). In this form, caesaropapism inverts theocracy (or hierocracy in Weber) in which institutions of the church control the state. Both caesaropapism and theocracy are systems in which there is no separation of church and state and in which the two form parts of a single power-structure.

Crocetta d'oro longobarda con moneta di giustino II, da novara, VI-VIII sec.
A small cross of gold foil, with rubbings of coins of Justin II (Emperor: 565-574) and holes for nails or thread, Italian, 6th century

Caesaropapism in the Eastern Church

Caesaropapism's chief example is the authority that the Byzantine (East Roman) Emperors had over the Church of Constantinople and Eastern Christianity from the 330 consecration of Constantinople through the tenth century.[4][5] The Byzantine Emperor would typically protect the Eastern Church and manage its administration by presiding over Ecumenical Councils and appointing Patriarchs and setting territorial boundaries for their jurisdiction.[6] The Emperor exercised a strong control over the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and the Patriarch of Constantinople could not hold office if he did not have the Emperor's approval.[7] Such Emperors as Basiliscus, Zeno, Justinian I, Heraclius, and Constans II published several strictly ecclesiastical edicts either on their own without the mediation of church councils, or they exercised their own political influence on the councils to issue the edicts.[8] According to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the historical reality of caesaropapism stems from the confusion of the Byzantine Empire with the Kingdom of God and the zeal of the Byzantines "to establish here on earth a living icon of God's government in heaven."[9]

However, Caesaropapism "never became an accepted principle in Byzantium."[10] Several Eastern churchmen such as John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople[6] and Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, strongly opposed imperial control over the Church, as did Western theologians like Hilary of Poitiers and Hosius, Bishop of Córdoba.[11] Saints, such as Maximus the Confessor, resisted the imperial power as a consequence of their witness to orthodoxy. In addition, at several occasions imperial decrees had to be withdrawn as the people of the Church, both lay people, monks and priests, refused to accept inventions at variance with the Church's customs and beliefs. These events show that power over the Church really was in the hands of the Church itself – not solely with the emperor.[12]

Caesaropapism was most notorious in the Tsardom of Russia when Ivan IV the Terrible assumed the title Czar in 1547 and subordinated the Russian Orthodox Church to the state.[13] This level of caesaropapism far exceeded that of the Byzantine Empire[14] and was taken to a new level in 1721, when Peter the Great replaced the patriarchate with a Holy Synod, making the church a department of his government.

The patriarchate was restored on November 10 (October 28 O.S.), 1917, 3 days after the Bolshevik Revolution, by decision of the All-Russian Local Council.

Caesaropapism in the Western Church

San Vitale Ravenna
The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy combines Western and Byzantine elements.

Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna. The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii (liaisons from the pope to the emperor) or the inhabitants of Byzantine Greece, Byzantine Syria, or Byzantine Sicily.

Analogue in the Church of England

When Henry VIII of England declared the Church of England to exist as an entity separate from and independent of the Roman Church, he declared himself to be the "Supreme Head" of that church, to which declaration the English Parliament acceded by passing the Act of Supremacy 1534 at Henry's behest. When Elizabeth I restored royal supremacy, she replaced the title "Supreme Head" with that of "Supreme Governor", a change both conciliatory to English Catholics on a political level and reflecting a shift toward a more metaphysically and theologically modest stance involving only a claim to supreme authority over the Church of England's conduct in temporal matters. Since then, the monarchs of England, of Great Britain, and of the United Kingdom have claimed the "Supreme Governor" status as well as the title of Defender of the Faith (which was originally bestowed on Henry VIII by Pope Leo X but later revoked by Pope Paul III).

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Kenneth Pennington, "Caesaropapism," The New Catholic Encyclopedia: Supplement 2010 (2 Vols. Detroit: Gale Publishers 2010) 1.183-185 Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Swedberg, Richard; Agevall, Ola (2005). The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford Social Sciences Series. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 9780804750950. Retrieved 2017-02-02. Weber's formal definition of caesaropapism in Economy and Society reads as follows: 'a secular, caesaropapist ruler... exercises supreme authority in ecclesiastic matters by virtue of his autonomous legitimacy.
  3. ^ Swedberg, Richard; Agevall, Ola (2005). The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford Social Sciences Series. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 9780804750950. Retrieved 2017-02-02. Caesaropapism entails 'the complete subordination of priests to secular power,' and it essentially means that church matters have become part of political administration [...].
  4. ^ Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A. (1983), Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 218
  5. ^ Douglas, J.D. (1978), The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (revised ed.), Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 173
  6. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, II, 1985, pp. 718–719
  7. ^ Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1975), A History of Christianity to A.D. 1500, I (revised ed.), San Francisco: Harper & Row, pp. 283, 312
  8. ^ Schaff, Philip (1974), History of the Christian Church: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600, II (5th ed.), Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 135
  9. ^ Ware, Timothy (1980), The Orthodox Church (revised ed.), New York: Penguin Books, p. 50
  10. ^ Meyendorff, John (1983), Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (rev. 2nd ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, p. 6
  11. ^ Dawson, Christopher (1956), The Making of Europe (2nd ed.), New York: Meridian Books, pp. 109–110
  12. ^ Meyendorff, John (1983), Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (rev. 2nd ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, p. 5
  13. ^ Bainton, Roland H. (1966), Christendom: A Short History of Christianity, I, New York: Harper & Row, p. 119
  14. ^ Billington, James H. (1966), The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, New York: Random House, p. 67
British Emperor

Although in the past the style of British Emperor has been (retroactively) applied to a few mythical and historical rulers of Great Britain, Ireland or the United Kingdom, it is sometimes used as a colloquialism to designate either Plantagenet and Tudor caesaropapism or, more frequently, the British sovereign of the Empire of India.


Byzantinism, or Byzantism, is the political system and culture of the Byzantine Empire, and its spiritual successors, in particular, the Orthodox Christian Balkan countries (Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia) and Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe (Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia). The term byzantinism itself was coined in the 19th century. The term has primarily negative associations, implying complexity and autocracy.

This negative reputation stressed the confusing complexities of the Empire's ministries and the elaborateness of its court ceremonies. Likewise, the "Byzantine system" also suggests a penchant for intrigue, plots and assassinations and an overall unstable political state of affairs. The term has been criticized by modern scholars for being a generalization that is not very representative of the reality of the Byzantine aristocracy and bureaucracy.

Church reform of Peter the Great

The Church Reform of Peter I introduced what some believe was a period of Caesaropapism in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, when the church apparatus effectively became a department of state.


Clericalism is the application of the formal, church-based, leadership or opinion of ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import.


Constantinianism refers to those policies said to be enacted, encouraged, or personally favored by Constantine the Great, a 4th-century Roman Emperor. In particular, it may refer to any of the following:

Constantine's patronage of Christianity.

The practice of state control of or influence over the Church, sometimes called Erastianism.

The notion that Roman Emperors have authority over the Church, sometimes called Caesaropapism.

Identification of the Church with the Roman EmpireThe Church's willingness to use the state's coercive power structures to assist in the Church's mission

A tendency to exuberance due of the subsequent rise of Christianity, sometimes called Christian triumphalism.

The notion that Constantine received his mandate from God, as in the Divine Right of Kings.

The practice of Religious tolerance as mandated in the Edict of Milan.

The doctrines of the Council of Nicea, which Constantine organized and promoted.

The corruption of Christian doctrine that is alleged to have taken place during or because of the reign of Constantine, sometimes called the Great Apostasy or more particularly the Constantinian shift.

Certain Roman Catholic criticisms of Separation of Church and State found, for instance, in the Syllabus of Errors.

Certain Protestant doctrines such as Reconstructionism and Dominionism.

God the Son

God the Son (Greek: Θεός ὁ υἱός) is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus as the incarnation of God, united in essence (consubstantial) but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (the first and third persons of the Trinity).

Islamic monarchy

Islamic monarchies are a type of Islamic state which are monarchies. Historically known by various names, such as Mamlakah ("Kingdom"), Caliphate, Sultanate, or Emirate, contemporary Islamic monarchies include:

Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace

Monarchies of Malaysia

Kingdom of Morocco

Sultanate of Oman

State of Qatar

Kingdom of Bahrain

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

United Arab Emirates

Emirates of the United Arab Emirates

State of Kuwait

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe (; also spelled Wyclif, Wycliff, Wiclef, Wicliffe, Wickliffe; 1320s – 31 December 1384), was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, Biblical translator, reformer, English priest, and a seminary professor at the University of Oxford, became an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century and is considered an important predecessor to Protestantism.

Wycliffe attacked the privileged status of the clergy, which had bolstered their powerful role in England. He then attacked the luxury and pomp of local parishes and their ceremonies.Wycliffe also advocated translation of the Bible into the vernacular. In 1382 he completed a translation directly from the Vulgate into Middle English – a version now known as Wycliffe's Bible. It is probable that he personally translated the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and it is possible he translated the entire New Testament, while his associates translated the Old Testament. Wycliffe's Bible appears to have been completed by 1384, additional updated versions being done by Wycliffe's assistant John Purvey and others in 1388 and 1395.

Wycliffe's followers, known as Lollards, followed his lead in advocating predestination, iconoclasm, and the notion of caesaropapism, while attacking the veneration of saints, the sacraments, requiem masses, transubstantiation, monasticism, and the very existence of the Papacy.

Beginning in the 16th century, the Lollard movement was regarded as the precursor to the Protestant Reformation. Wycliffe was accordingly characterised as the evening star of scholasticism and as the morning star of the English Reformation. Wycliffe's writings in Latin greatly influenced the philosophy and teaching of the Czech reformer Jan Hus (c. 1369–1415), whose execution in 1415 sparked a revolt and led to the Hussite Wars

of 1419–1434.

Luke Chrysoberges

Luke Chrysoberges (Greek: Λουκάς Χρυσοβέργης), (? – November 1169) was Patriarch of Constantinople between 1156 and 1169.

During Luke's patriarchate several other major theological controversies occurred. In 1156–1157 the question was raised, whether Christ had offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world to the Father and to the Holy Spirit only, or also to the Logos (i.e., to himself). In the end a synod held at Constantinople in 1157 adopted a compromise formula, that the Word made flesh offered a double sacrifice to the Holy Trinity, despite the dissidence of Patriarch of Antioch-elect Soterichus Panteugenus. During his term the theological issue of the relation between the Son and the Father in the Holy Trinity first appeared. The issue was created due to the explanation that one Demetrius of Lampi (in Phrygia) gave to the phrase of the Gospel of John «ὁ Πατήρ μου μείζων μου ἐστίν», which means my Father is bigger than me (John, XIV.29). Chrysoberges, at the behest of the Emperor Manuel I, convened several meetings of the synod in 1166 to solve the problem, which condemned as heretical the explanations of Demetrius and the laity that followed him. Those who refused to submit to the synod's decisions had their property confiscated or were exiled. The political dimensions of this controversy are apparent from the fact that a leading dissenter from the Emperor's doctrine was his nephew Alexios Kontostephanos.Other heresies continued to flourish in Byzantine possessions in Europe, including Bogomils, Paulicians, and Monophysites which Luke and his successors had difficulty in suppressing.

Luke was also involved in a process of the Church trying to extract itself from too close an association with the secular life of the state. In 1115, the patriarch John IX Agapetos had sought to prevent clerics acting as advocates in lay courts. In December 1157, Chrysoberges extended this prohibition to all "worldly" occupations. In a still-extant cannon, he wrote: "we have observed that some of those enrolled in the clergy have uncanonically involved themselves in worldly affairs. Some have taken on posts as curators or overseers of aristocratic houses and estates; others have undertaken the collection of public taxes... others have accepted dignities and magistracies assigned to the civil establishment.... we enjoin such people to desist from now on from all the aforesaid occupations, and to devote themselves to ecclesiastical exigencies...." Such a separation of church and state was key to preserve the church from undue secular influence over matters it considered strictly clerical. This was especially key at the time as the rule of the Emperor Manuel I Comnenos was noted for its autocratic style and caesaropapism, and though idiosyncratic, generally made the patriarchate subservient directly to the needs of the state.

Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius of Padua (Italian: Marsilio or Marsiglio da Padova; born Marsilio dei Mainardini or Marsilio Mainardini; c. 1275 – c. 1342) was an Italian scholar, trained in medicine, who practiced a variety of professions. He was also an important 14th-century political figure. His political treatise Defensor pacis (The Defender of Peace), an attempt to refute papalist claims to a "plenitude of power" in affairs of both church and state, is seen by some authorities as the most revolutionary political treatise written in the later Middle Ages. It is one of the first examples of a reasoned defense of caesaropapism in Western Europe.

Patriarch Joachim of Moscow

Patriarch Joachim (Russian: Иоаким) (1620 – March 17, 1690) was the eleventh Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, an opponent of the Raskol (the Old Believer schism), and a founder of the Slavic Greek Latin Academy.

Born Ivan Petrovich Savelov (Иван Петрович Савелов), Joachim was of noble origin. When his family died in the 1654 epidemic, he became a monk and served in various monasteries, receiving the religious name Joachim upon his tonsure.

In 1664 Joachim was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and became hegumen (abbot) of the Chudov Monastery and in 1672 was consecrated as Metropolitan of Novgorod. He was elected a Patriarch on July 26, 1674, following the death of Patriarch Pitirim. Although Joachim had participated in the council which deposed Patriarch Nikon, he continued Nikon's policies with regard to the Old Believers, and defending church authorities against the encroachments of Caesaropapism by the Tsars.

In 1686, he made an agreement with Bulgarian Rostislav Stratimirovic to aid in a revolt against the Ottomans. In the same year, the Patriarch of Constantinople placed the patriarchate of Kiev under the ascendant patriarchal church of Moscow "henceforth and forever" until revoked until 2018.


Pneumatology in Christianity refers to a particular discipline within Christian theology that focuses on the study of the Holy Spirit. The term is essentially derived from the Greek word Pneuma (πνεῦμα), which designates "breath" or "spirit" and metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence. The English term pneumatology comes from two Greek words: πνεῦμα (pneuma, spirit) and λόγος (logos, teaching about). Pneumatology includes study of the person of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the Holy Spirit. This latter category also includes Christian teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts (charismata), Spirit-baptism, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity (which in itself covers many different aspects). Different Christian denominations have different theological approaches on various pneumatological questions.

Political science of religion

The political science of religion (also referred to as politicology of religion or politology of religion) is one of the youngest disciplines in the political sciences that deals with a study of influence that religion has on politics and vice versa with a focus on the relationship between the subjects (actors) in politics in the narrow sense: government, political parties, pressure groups, and religious communities. It was established in the last decades of the twentieth century.

Religious police

Religious police is the police force responsible for the enforcement of religious norms and associated religious laws.

While most police enforcing religious norms in the modern world are Islamic and found in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iran, some are not (for example in Vietnam, the religious security police monitor “extremist” religious groups, detaining and interrogating suspected Dega Protestants or Ha Mon Catholics).

Religious socialism

Religious socialism is any form of socialism based on religious values. Members of several major religions have found that their beliefs about human society fit with socialist principles and ideas. As a result, religious socialist movements have developed within these religions. Such movements include:

Buddhist socialism

Christian socialism

Hindu socialism

Islamic socialism

Jewish socialism

Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism

Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism is a political ideology which combines a focus upon Sinhalese culture and ethnicity with an emphasis upon Theravada Buddhism, which is the majority belief system of most of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. It mostly originated in reaction to the colonisation of Sri Lanka by the British Empire and became increasingly assertive in the years following the independence of the country.


Theocracy is a form of government in which a religious institution is the source from which all authority derives. The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition:

1. a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

1.1. the commonwealth of Israel from the time of Moses until the election of Saul as King.

An ecclesiocracy is a situation where the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation: for example, the prince-bishops of the European Middle Ages, where the bishop was also the temporal ruler. Such a state may use the administrative hierarchy of the religion for its own administration, or it may have two "arms"—administrators and clergy—but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy. Theocracy differs from theonomy, the latter of which is government based on divine law.The papacy in the Papal States occupied a middle ground between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, since the Pope did not claim he was a prophet who received revelation from God and translated it into civil law.

Religiously endorsed monarchies fall between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, according to the relative strengths of the religious and political organs.

Most forms of theocracy are oligarchic in nature, involving rule of the many by the few, some of whom so anointed under claim of divine commission.

Vicar of Christ

Vicar of Christ (from Latin Vicarius Christi) is a term used in different ways and with different theological connotations throughout history. The original notion of a vicar is as an "earthly representative of Christ", but it's also used in the sense of "person acting as parish priest in place of a real person." The title is now used in Catholicism to refer to the bishops and more specifically to the Bishop of Rome (the pope).

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