Written by Vladimir Moss



     After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, writes Alexander Dvorkin, “it is interesting to note how long the peoples did not want to part with the myth of the Empire, to become the centre of which became the dream of practically every European state both in the East and in the West, from Bulgaria to Castilia. In the course of the 13th-14th centuries the canonists of many countries independently of each other developed the principle of the translatio imperii (translation of the empire). The process touched Russia a little later – in the 15th century, in the form of the theory of the Third Rome, which Moscow became...”[1]

     The idea of the universal empire survived into the modern period because it was necessary – necessary for each of the major religions and civilizations of the time – the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and the Muslim. It was necessary for Islam because the Muslims needed to hide their own disunities and proclaim their power and superiority over “the people of the Book”. As Sultan Mehmet II said to the Italian city-states: “You are 20. There must be only one empire, one faith, and one sovereignty in the world.”[2]  It was necessary for Roman Catholicism because it affirmed the existence of only one Church, the Roman Catholic, and only one empire, the Holy Roman Empire, which needed to protect themselves against the Ottomans and destroy the contagion of Protestantism. It was necessary for Orthodoxy because the quasi-universal empires of Islam in the East and the Papacy in the West were preparing to divide up the Orthodox lands between them, while the Orthodox themselves showed little unity amongst themselves. They had to learn the lesson that the Serbian Prince Lazar had taught his people: Samo Slogo Srbina Spasava, “Only Unity Saves the Serbs”; and while that unity had to be religious and spiritual first of all, it also needed a political dimension. 

     The idea of the translation of the empire was not new. St. Constantine’s moving the capital of the empire from Old Rome to New Rome had been a bold step - but that step, though radical and fraught with enormous consequences, had not involved going beyond the bounds of the existing empire, and had been undertaken by the legitimate emperor himself. The Serbs and Bulgarians had each in their time sought to capture New Rome and make it the capital of a Slavic-Greek kingdom – but this, again, had not involved moving the empire itself, as opposed to changing its dominant nation. The Frankish idea of the translatio imperii from New Rome to Aachen had involved both changing the dominant nation and taking the capital beyond the bounds of the existing empire – and had been rejected by the Greeks as heretical, largely on the grounds that it involved setting up a second, rival empire, where there could only be one true one.

     There was another important question that presented itself to the Orthodox after the fall of Byzantium: Did not the prophecies link the fall of Rome with the coming of the Antichrist? If so, then the only way to avoid his coming was to revive the empire.

     Or perhaps the empire was not yet dead… Perhaps, thought some, the Ottoman empire could be construed as a continuation of Rome. After all, there had been pagans and heretics and persecutors of the Church on the throne, so why not a Muslim? Unlikely as it may sound, some Greeks embraced the idea of Istanbul being Rome, and the Sultan – the Roman emperor. Thus in 1466 the Cretan historian George Trapezuntios said to the conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmet II: "Nobody doubts that you are the Roman emperor. He who is the lawful ruler in the capital of the empire and in Constantinople is the emperor, while Constantinople is the capital of the Roman empire. And he who remains as emperor of the Romans is also the emperor of the whole world."[3]

     Certainly, the Ottoman sultans were powerful enough to claim the title. “Their empire did not have the great eastward sweep of the Abbasid Caliphate, but it had succeeded in spreading Islam into hitherto Christian territory – not only the old Byzantine realms on either side of the Black Sea Straits, but also Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary. Belgrade had fallen to the Ottomans in 1521, Buda in 1541. Ottoman naval power had also brought Rhodes to its knees (1522). Vienna might have survived (as did Malta) but, having also extended Ottoman rule from Baghdad to Basra, from Van in the Caucasus to Aden at the mouth of the Red Sea, and along the Barbary coast from Algiers to Tripoli, Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-66) could… claim: ‘I am the Sultan of Sultans, the Sovereign of Sovereigns, the distributor of crowns to the monarchs of the globe, the shadow of God upon Earth…’… A law-maker and a gifted poet, Suleiman combined religious power, political power and economic power (including the setting of prices).”[4]

     However, it was precisely his combination of all political and religious power in one man – the definition of despotism - that prevented the Sultan from being a true Autocrat or Basileus. Besides, the Sultans made no pretense at being Orthodox (which even the heretical Byzantine emperors did), and consequently there could be no genuine “symphony of powers” with the Orthodox Church (even if they treated it better than some of the emperors). Therefore at most they could be considered analogous in authority to the pagan emperors of Old Rome, legitimate authorities to whom obedience was due as long as, and to the degree that, they did not compel Christians to commit impiety - but no more.

     So had the clock been turned back? Had the Christian Roman Empire returned to its pre-Christian, pre-Constantinian origins? No, the clock of Christian history never goes back. The world could never be the same again after Constantine and the Christian empire of New Rome, which had so profoundly changed the consciousness of all the peoples of Europe. So if the Antichrist had not yet come, there was only one alternative: the one, true empire had indeed been translated somewhere - but not unlawfully, to some heretical capital such as Aachen or Old Rome, but lawfully, to some Orthodox nation capable of bringing forth the fruits of the Kingdom.

     That nation had to be one that was independent of the Ottomans, or that could re-establish its independence. The last remaining Free Greeks showed little sign of being able to do this. The last Byzantine outpost of Morea in the Peloponnese fell in 1461, and in the same year the Comnenian “empire” of Trebizond on the south coast of the Black Sea also fell, after a siege of forty-two days.[5] Georgia, Serbia and Bulgaria were already under the Muslim yoke. 

     Another possibility was the land we now call Romania, which then comprised the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. These lands, writes Sir Steven Runciman, “were inhabited by an indigenous race speaking a Latin language with Illyrian forms and Slavonic intrusions, with a Church that was Slavonic-speaking and had earlier been under the Serbian Church but now depended upon Constantinople. From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century the reigning princes of both Principalities, who succeeded one another with startling rapidity, had been connected by birth, often illegitimate, or by marriage to the family Bassarabia, which gave its name to Bessarabia.”[6]

     Wallachia had accepted Turkish overlordship in the fourteenth century, but after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Prince Vlad “the Impaler” of Wallachia conducted a courageous, albeit famously cruel, rearguard action against the Ottomans north of the Danube.[7]According to Catherine Curzon, during his reign Vlad impaled at least 20,000 people (Romanians as well as Turks), beheaded 5000, burned alive 10,000, nailed 10 turbans to their wearers’ head and boiled alive and cannibalized 1 person.[8]

     Stronger still was the resistance of the northern Romanian principality of Moldavia, under its great Prince Stephen (1457-1504), who was Prince Vlad’s cousin and conquered his Principality of Wallachia. On coming to the throne, Stephen had often visited St. Daniel the Hesychast, “confessed his sins, asked him for a profitable word, and did nothing without his prayer and blessing. The Saint encouraged him and exhorted him to defend the country and Christianity against the pagans. Saint Daniel assured him that if he would build a church to the glory of Christ after each battle, he would be victorious in all his wars.

     “Stephen the Great obeyed him and defended the Church of Christ and the Moldavian land with great courage for nearly half a century after the fall of Byzantium. He won forty-seven battles and built forty-eight churches. Thus Saint Daniel the Hesychast was shown to be a great defender of Romanian Orthodoxy and the spiritual founder of those monasteries that were built at his exhortation…

     “After Stephen the Great lost the battle of Razboieni in the summer of 1476, he went to the cell of his good spiritual father, Saint Daniel the Hesychast, at Voroneţ. Then, when ‘Stephen Voda knocked on the hesychast’s door for him to open it, the hesychast replied that Stephen Voda should wait outside until he had finished praying. And after the hesychast had finished praying, he called Stephen Voda into his cell. And Stephen Voda confessed to him. And Stephen Voda asked the hesychast what he should do now, since he was no longer able to fight the Turks. Should the country surrender to the Turks or not? And the hesychast told him not to surrender it, for he would win the war; but that after saving the country he should build a monastery there in the name of Saint George.’

     “Believing Saint Daniel’s prophecy that he would defeat the Turks, the Prince of Moldavia took his prayer and blessing and immediately assembled the army and drove the Turks from the country. Thus the Saint helped deliver Moldavia and the Christian countries from enslavement to the infidels by his ardent prayers to God.”[9]

     St. Stephen’s successors, however, were not able to continue his resistance to the Ottomans. “They submitted voluntarily to the Sultan and were permitted to reign on autonomously as his vassals. The two provinces were divided again, under princes of the dynasty who were nominally elected by the boyars, the heads of the local noble families, and whose elections were subject to the Sultan’s confirmation. Vassals though they were, the Princes of Wallachia and Moldavia were the only lay Christian rulers left within the sphere of the old Byzantine world. They saw themselves as being in some way the heirs of the Byzantine Caesars. Some of the more ambitious even took the title of Basileus; and all of them modeled their courts on the lines of the old Imperial court.”[10] 


     But it was not Romania that was destined to be the Third Rome: the honour - and cross - of being the protector and restorer of the fortunes of all the Orthodox Christians fell to a nation far to the north – Russia…

     It should be pointed out that the idea of Moscow the Third Rome was not explicitly developed until Elder Philotheus of Pskov in the early sixteenth century. Even then, as Nancy Shields Kollmann writes, it “was a minor theme encountered in only a few ecclesiastical writers; it was originally used only to exhort the tsars to be just and humble, not to justify overweening power.”[11] Nevertheless, the fall of Byzantium and speculation about what power, if any, could replace it, made the idea a real factor in the thought of the age, especially in the seventeenth century.

     As we have seen, the Russians retained their loyalty to the Byzantine Church and Empire until the very last moment – that is, until they betrayed the Orthodox faith at the Council of Florence in 1438-39. The Russian metropolitan occupied a lowly 61st place in the hierarchy of metropolias of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and even after the betrayal at Florence, the Russians did not immediately break their canonical dependence on the patriarch. And even after the election of St. Jonah to the metropolitanate without Constantinople’s blessing, the Great Prince’s letter to the patriarch shows great restraint and humility, speaking only of a “disagreement” between the two Churches. “We have done this,” he said, “from necessity, not from pride or insolence. Until the end of time we shall abide in the Orthodoxy that was given to us; our Church will always seek the blessing of the Church of Tsargrad and will be obedient in all things to the ancient piety.”

     Since the Russian Great Prince was now the only major independent Orthodox ruler[12], and was supported by an independent Church, he had a better claim than any other to inherit the throne of the Roman Emperors and therefore call himself “Tsar” (from “Caesar”, the equivalent of the Greek “Basileus”). The title had been floated already before the fall of Constantinople: in 1447-48. Simeon of Suzdal had called Great Prince Basil Vasilievich “faithful and Christ-loving and truly Orthodox… White Tsar”. And St. Jonah wrote to Prince Alexander of Kiev that Basil was imitating his “ancestors” – the holy Emperor Constantine and the Great-Prince Vladimir.[13]

     The Church, writes Sir Geoffrey Hosking, “was eager for the grand prince to use the titles samoderzhets (autocrat) and tsar (basileus, emperor) to signal his assumption of both the religious and imperial heritage of Byzantium, but the grand princes were hesitant about following this advice. They first claimed the title tsar… in documents guaranteeing safe passage across Rus territory... Thereafter they broadened their use of the term cautiously, and interspersed it with the title gosudar vseia Rusi (sovereign of all Rus), which implied parallelism with the metropolitan’s title and rejection of Lithuania’s claim to the heritage of Kiev.”[14]

     The Muscovite Great Princes’ claim was further strengthened by the marriage of Ivan III to the last surviving heir of the Palaeologan line, Sophia, in 1472. Sophia was born in 1455, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI. She was brought up in Rome as a Catholic under the guardianship of the Pope. Ekaterina Astafieva writes: “The negotiations [between Moscow and Rome] went on for three years, and finally in 1472 Sophia with her dowry were sent to Muscovy. On the way feasts were laid out in her honour in various towns. In front of the carriage there went a representative of the Pope with a big Catholic cross. The pontifex was hoping that the Greek princess would bring Catholicism with her to Rus’.

     “But the Papacy’s plans were not destined to be fulfilled: the news of this stirred up a veritable scandal in Moscow. Metropolitan Philip declared that he would immediately leave the city if the Catholic cross were brought into the capital. To avoid conflicts, Ivan III sent his ambassador to meet the carriage fifteen versts from Moscow. He, without hesitating long, forcibly removed the cross from the papal priest. Finally the foreign bride arrived in the city, accepted the Orthodox faith and on November 22 was married in the Dormition cathedral.[15]

     It was on the basis of this marriage that the Venetian Senate accorded Ivan the imperial title. This is ironic in view of Venice’s historic enmity towards the Orthodox Autocracy (we think of the Doge of Venice’s leading tole in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204). But since the Fall of the City in 1453 Venice had become the main centre of Greek learning, and the only place where the printing of Greek texts was undertaken on a large scale; and the Venetians even protected their valued Greek immigrants from the Inquisition.[16]

     Ivan himself indicated that in marrying Sophia he had united Muscovite Russia with Byzantium by uniting two coats of arms – the two-headed eagle of Byzantium with the image of St. George impaling the dragon. From now on the two-headed eagle became the Russian coat of arms with the image of St. George in the centre of it, as it were in its breast.[17] Ivan “established a sumptuous court, attended by magnificent ceremonial, on the Byzantine pattern. Ivan put about the story that Constantine Monomakh (Byzantine Emperor 1042-1055) had conferred the insignia and imperial crown on Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev, so that Kiev was retrospectively promoted to an imperial status, and through Kiev Moscow claimed itself the heir to an imperial succession which went right back to Augustus…”[18]

     Muscovy made another large step towards full independence and true autocracy in 1480, when, as Wil van den Bercken writes, the Great Prince “definitively rid Moscow of the Tatars, thus successfully completing what Dmitrij Donskoj had begun in 1380. He was urged on powerfully to settle things with the Tatars by archbishop Vassian of Rostov, who wrote a letter to the vacillating Ivan III. … Ivan must ‘liberate the new Israel, the people named after Christ, from the accursed, ostentatious new Pharaoh, the pagan Achmen.’ Twice the Russian people is referred to as novij Izrail, but it is also called on to do penance for its sins like the old Israel.

     “Victory over the Tatars was finally achieved without a struggle: the armies retreated, making Russia on balance master in its own land. But during the week-long confrontation at the river Ugra there was the same tension in Russia as there had been in 1380.”[19]


     In 1492, Metropolitan Zosimus wrote: “The Emperor Constantine built a New Rome, Tsarigrad; but the sovereign and autocrat (samoderzhets) of All the Russias, Ivan Vassilievich, the new Constantine, has laid the foundation for a new city of Constantine, Moscow.”[20]

     Then, in 1498 Ivan had himself crowned by Metropolitan Simon as “Tsar, Grand Prince and Autocrat of All the Russias”. “In the coronation ceremony, which was a rough copy of the Byzantine, the metropolitan charged the Tsar ‘to care for all souls and for all Orthodox Christendom’. The title of Tsar had now become the official title (it was used by Patriarch Theoleptus I in writing to Great Prince Basil in 1516), and brought with it the implication that the Russian monarch was, before God, the head of the Orthodox, that is, of the true Christian world.”[21]

     However, there were problems associated with the assumption of this title at this time – that is, in the fifteenth century. First, there were other Russian princes with claims to be “the new Constantine”, “the saviour of Orthodoxy” – “for instance,” writes Fr. John Meyendorff, “the prince Boris of Tver, who had also sent a representative to the council [of Florence] and now, after rejecting the Latin faith, was said by one polemicist to deserve an imperial diadem. Furthermore, in Novgorod, under Archbishop Gennadius (1484-1509), there appeared a curious Russian variation on the Donation of Constantine, the Legend of the White Cowl. According to the Legend, the white cowl (klobuk; Gr. epikalimaukon) was donated by Constantine the Great to pope Sylvester following his baptism; the last Orthodox pope, foreseeing Rome’s fall into heresy, sent the cowl for safe-keeping to patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople, who eventually (also foreseeing the betrayal of Florence), sent the precious relic to the archbishop of Novgorod. Thus, not only Moscow, but also Tver and Novgorod, were somehow claiming to be the heirs of ‘Rome’, the center of the true Christian faith…”[22]

     This problem would resolve itself as Moscow gradually absorbed the other Russian princedoms. More serious, however, was a second problem associated with the fact that the Muscovite Russian Church was now not the only Russian Church. For in 1451 the uniate Patriarch Gregory Mammas of Constantinople had fled to Rome, where in 1458 he consecrated Gregory Bolgarin as metropolitan of Kiev in opposition to St. Jonah. This was justified by the Latins and uniates not only on the grounds that there was no communion between themselves and the Orthodox of Muscovy, - the Pope had called St. Jonah “the schismatic monk Jonah, son of iniquity”, - but also because a large part of the Russian population was now living within the domain of King Casimir of Poland-Lithuania, who was a Roman Catholic. This division was to have important long-term consequences in the creation of a separate Ukrainian national identity…[23]

     Thus the fall of the Greek Church into uniatism led directly to a schism in the Orthodox Russian Church, which had the consequence that the Russian Great Prince could no longer count on the obedience even of all the Russian people – hardly a strong position from which to be proclaimed emperor of all the Orthodox Christians! This point can be better appreciated if it is remembered that when the Emperor Constantine transferred the capital of the empire from Old Rome to the New Rome of Constantinople, he was already the undisputed ruler of the whole of the Roman Empire, in which the great majority of Orthodox Christians lived. Ivan III, by contrast, while claiming by virtue of his descent from the Rurikids, to be the prince of “all Rus”, ruled none of the traditional territories of the Roman empire, and not even “the mother of Russian cities”, Kiev.

     In 1487 Moscow conquered Novgorod. From now on Moscow had no real rival among the Russian principalities. But there were still large numbers of Russian speakers living beyond her boundaries.

     These developments also complicated relations with Constantinople. Thus after the death of St. Jonah (who still retained the title of metropolitan of Kiev) in 1461, the Muscovite metropolia was formally declared to be schismatic by Constantinople. The Muscovites’ old excuse for not returning into obedience to Constantinople – the latter’s departure from “the ancient piety” of Orthodoxy into uniatism, - no longer held water since the enthronement of St. Gennadius Scholarius, an anti-uniate disciple of St. Mark of Ephesus, to the see of the former imperial City and the patriarchate’s official renunciation of uniatism in 1484. Moreover, having returned to Orthodoxy in 1466, Gregory Bolgarin was officially recognized as the sole canonical Russian metropolitan by Constantinople.

     Now in the consciousness of the Russian people the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch was required for such a major step as the assumption of the role of Orthodox emperor by the Russian Great Prince. But this was out of the question so long as the Russians were in schism from the Greeks… At the same time, the Muscovites felt, with some reason, that it made no sense to subject their own free Russian Church living under a free, Orthodox and increasingly powerful sovereign to a metropolitan living under a hostile Roman Catholic king and a patriarch living under a hostile Muslim sultan!

     Thus it was the long reign of Great Prince Ivan III (1462-1505) that really laid the foundations both of the kingdom of Muscovy and of the empire of Moscow the Third Rome. By freeing himself from the suzerainty of the Tatars in the East, by bringing under his rule the principalities of Yaroslavl, Rostov, Tver and Riazan, and above all by annexing Novgorod and taking its veche bell to Moscow in 1478, Ivan had established the real independence of his kingdom and abolished aristocratic oligarchy in the Russian lands. “One option for the development of Rus, as a federation of self-governing oligarchies, had been closed off…”[24]

     But Kiev and Polotsk – in what is now Ukraine and Belarus – remained under the suzerainty of the Catholic Grand Duke of Lithuania. And this could not be allowed to continue, because it undermined Moscow’s claims to be the heirs of the Great Princes of Kiev and rulers of “all Rus’”, keeping many millions of Orthodox Russians under a heterodox yoke.

     So the kingdom was bound to continuing expanding…


     Great Prince Basil III completed the unification of the North Russian lands when he “humbled Pskov in the same way [as Novgorod], abolishing its traditional citizens’ assembly – again the veche bell was carted away – and exiling many of its leading citizens. He awarded their lands to his own servitors and brought in Moscow merchants to dominate the city’s trade.”[25]

     At this time it was not so much the great princes who pushed the idea of Moscow the Third Rome – they were conscious of the great obligations the concept involved and the inability of the state to fulfill them – as the holy elders. Thus in 1511 Elder Philotheus of Pskov wrote to Basil III: “I would like to say a few words about the existing Orthodox empire of our most illustrious, exalted ruler. He is the only emperor on all the earth over the Christians, the governor of the holy, divine throne of the holy, ecumenical, apostolic Church which in place of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople is in the city of Moscow, protected by God, in the holy and glorious Dormition church of the most pure Mother of God. It alone shines over the whole earth more radiantly than the sun. For know well, those who love Christ and those who love God, that all Christian empires will perish and give way to the one kingdom of our ruler, in accord with the books of the prophet [Daniel 7.14], which is the Russian empire. For two Romes have fallen, but the third stands, and there will never be a fourth…”[26]Again, in 1540 Elder Philotheus wrote to Tsar Ivan, who was not yet of age, that the “woman clothed with the sun” of Revelation chapter 12 was the Church, which fled from the Old Rome to the New Rome of Constantinople, and thence, after the fall of Constantinople, to the third Rome “in the new, great Russia”. And the master of the third Rome, in both its political and ecclesiastical spheres, was the tsar: “Alone on earth the Orthodox, great Russian tsar steers the Church of Christ as Noah in the ark was saved from the flood, and he establishes the Orthodox faith.”

      According to the eschatological idea on which the idea of the translatio imperii rested, Rome in its various reincarnations will exist to the end of the world – or at least, to the time of the Antichrist. As Michael Nazarov writes: “This conviction is often reflected in the patristic tradition (it was shared by Saints: Hippolytus of Rome, John Chrysostom, Blessed Theodoret, Blessed Jerome, Cyril of Jerusalem and others). On this basis Elder Philotheus wrote: ‘the Roman [Romejskoe] kingdom is indestructible, for the Lord was enrolled into the Roman [Rimskuiu] power’ (that is, he was enrolled among the inhabitants at the census in the time of the Emperor Augustus). Here Philotheus distinguishes between the indestructible ‘Roman kingdom’, whose successor was now Rus’, and Roman power, which had gone into the past.”[27]

     By the early sixteenth century it was becoming clear that the only real candidate for the role of leadership in the Orthodox world, the role of the Third Rome, was Muscovite Russia. Only the Russians could be that “third God-chosen people” of the prophecy.[28] Only they were able to re-express the Christian ideal of the symphony of powers on a stronger, more popular base – as a symphony, in effect, of three powers – Church, State and People - rather than two. For the Russians had the advantage over the Romans and the Greeks that they were converted to the faith as a single people, with their existing social organization intact, and not, as in Rome, as an amalgam of different peoples whose indigenous social structures had already been smashed by the pagan imperial power. Thus whereas in Rome, as Lev Tikhomirov writes, “the Christians did not constitute a social body”, and “their only organization was the Church”[29], in the sense that it was not whole peoples or classes but individuals from many different peoples and classes that joined the Church, in Russia the whole of the richly layered and variegated, but at the same time socially and politically coherent society came to the Church at one time and was baptized together. Moreover, Russia remained a nation-state with a predominantly Russian or Russian-Ukrainian-Belorussian population throughout its extraordinary expansion from the core principality of Muscovy, whose territory in 1462 was 24,000 square kilometres, to the multi-national empire of Petersburg Russia, whose territory in 1914 was 13.5 million square kilometres.[30]

      However, the task facing the Russians in fulfilling their perceived destiny was enormous. It still remained to them, first of all, to reunify the Russian lands in the south and west – Kiev, Polotsk and Galicia. This could be said to have been accomplished only in 1915, when Tsar Nicholas II reconquered Galicia from the Catholic Austrians…

     As for reuniting all the other Orthodox lands, including the Balkans and the Greek and Semitic lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, this remained for the distant future. The Muscovite State first turned its attention seriously to this aim under the Grecophile Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich and Patriarch Nikon in the seventeenth century. At that moment, however, the Muscovite autocracy suffered its most severe crisis and was transformed into the “Orthodox absolutism” of Peter the Great, whose ideal was the First Rome of Italy rather than the Second or Third Romes of Constantinople and Moscow…


     It was in the reign of Ivan the Terrible that the closely related issues of the schism between the Russian and the Greek Churches, on the one hand, and the status – imperial or otherwise – of the Russian kingdom came to a head. The ecclesiastical issue was resolved within Ivan’s lifetime. However, the question of the status of his kingdom was not fully resolved until 1589…

     But there was a problem: the state was extremely vulnerable: from the Golden Horde in the east, from the Crimean Tatars supported by the Ottoman empire in the south, and from Lithuania, the Teutonic Knights, Denmark and Sweden in the west. Much of Ivan’s reign was taken up by wars against these powers that threatened him from all sides.

     Moreover, as we have seen, the title “the Third Rome” meant little if the Russian tsar was not in communion with the first see of Orthodoxy. Nor was it only the Greeks of Constantinople who felt this. St. Maximus the Greek and Metropolitan Joasaph of Moscow (1539-42), non-possessors both, had tried unsuccessfully to bridge the gap between Moscow and Constantinople, and were both imprisoned for their pains, dying in the same year.

     However, in 1546 the Ecumenical Patriarchate thought up a cunning stratagem that finally, some years later, achieved the desired effect…[31] In June of that year, a Council of over 50 bishops enthroned the new patriarch, Dionysius II, and sent an epistle to the tsar announcing the fact. In the same epistle they did two things that were meant to be seen together. On the one hand, an appeal was made to release St. Maximus the Greek. And on the other, the tsar himself was addressed as “tsar and great prince”. And this even before Ivan was formally anointed and crowned with the Cap of Monomakh by Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow on January 16, 1547![32] In diplomatic language the Ecumenical Patriarch was saying: we are willing to recognize you as tsar, if you return the Muscovite Church into submission to us. And as a sign of your good intent, release St. Maximus…[33]

     Now the word “tsar” in Russian was roughly equivalent to the word “basileus” in Greek, but it was not equivalent to “emperor of the Romans”. It was a term that had been accorded, grudgingly, to both Charlemagne and the tsar of Bulgaria, as indicating that they were independent and lawful Christian sovereigns; but it fell short of according its bearer the dignity of the ruler and protector of all Orthodox Christians. In his crowning by Metropolitan Macarius, the tsar’s genealogy had been read, going back (supposedly) to a brother of the Emperor Augustus, which implied that he was the successor of the Roman emperors.

     The patriarch did not respond to this hint, however; nor was it really fitting for him to do so. For the Ecumenical Patriarch was meant to be in “symphony” with the Roman emperor as his secular partner, whereas his real secular “partner” was not Ivan the Terrible, but the infidel Ottoman Sultan! Nevertheless, the limited recognition that the tsar was being offered constituted an important step forward in the Russian tsars’ campaign for recognition in the wider Orthodox world, and would be something that the tsar would not want to reject out of hand.

     The next step in the tsarist campaign was the Stoglav council of 1551, whose decisions were framed in the form of 100 answers to questions posed to the Russian tsar. In general, the council was concerned with uprooting corruption in various aspects of church life. Its Russocentric, even nationalist character was emphasized by its decision to the effect that, in all cases where Russian Church ritual differed from Greek, the Russian version was correct. “This unilateral decision shocked many of the Orthodox. The monks of Athos protested and the Russian monks there regarded the decisions of the synod as invalid.”[34]

      It is in the context of this Russocentrism that we must understand the Council’s citation of Canon 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which ascribed to the Ecumenical Patriarch the final instance in judging internal church quarrels, and of the Emperor Justinian’s Novella 6 on the “symphony” between Church and State. As Lourié has argued, these citations in no way implied that the Russian Church was not fully autocephalous. The implication was rather that while the Ecumenical Patriarch was accorded all the power granted him by the holy canons, his “partner”, with whom he should remain in harmony, was the Russian tsar…[35]

     In 1557 the tsar sent Archimandrite Theodorit to Constantinople with the purpose of receiving the patriarch’s blessing to crown Ivan with the full ceremonial accorded to the Byzantine emperors. The reply was not everything that the tsar was hoping for: the patriarch’s blessing was obtained – but only on the tsar’s earlier crowning by Metropolitan Macarius. This constituted, however, only a de facto rather than a de jure recognition; it could not be otherwise, since Macarius was still formally a schismatic in the Greeks’ eyes.

     In 1561 the tsar finally received a fuller, less ambiguous response to his request in the form of an account of a conciliar decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate dating to December, 1560. But the conciliar decision’s reasoning was unexpectedly roundabout, even devious. First, there was no mention of Ivan’s descent from Augustus, but only from Anna, the Byzantine princess who married St. Vladimir the Saint. In other words, Ivan’s pretensions to be “emperor of the Romans” were rejected: he was the lawful “God-crowned” ruler or emperor only of Russia. Secondly, Ivan is said to have sought to be crowned by the patriarch because his crowning by Macarius “has no validity, since not only does a Metropolitan not have the right to crown, but not even every Patriarch, but only the two Patriarchs: the Roman and Constantinopolitan”. In actual fact, Ivan had made no request for a repetition of the coronation. But the patriarch then proposes a way out of the impasse which he himself has created: he says that he himself, in the conciliar decision of December, 1560, has joined his own hand to the crowning carried out by Macarius in 1547, thereby making it valid “in hindsight”, as it were. And that is why Ivan’s coronation is in fact “God-crowned”.

     Another important feature of the conciliar decision is that Macarius is called “metropolitan of Moscow and the whole of Great Russia”, a much more precise designation than the previous “metropolitan of Russia”, and implying that Macarius was a fully canonical metropolitan having a territorial jurisdiction distinct from that of the metropolitan of Kiev.

     Moreover, in another (non-conciliar) gramota, the patriarch suggests that while it might be rational to carry out a second crowning of Ivan by the patriarch insofar as the first one was invalid, it would be “useful and salutary” to consider this as already done, insofar as Metropolitan Macarius is the “catholic patriarchal exarch” able to carry out all hierarchical acts without hindrance, and what he did in 1547 was mystically carried out also by the patriarch.

     “And so,” concludes V.M. Lourié, “the abolition of the Muscovite autocephaly was achieved, while no recognition of the Moscow tsar as emperor of the Romans was given in exchange. The Moscow authorities could not dispute this, since the rejection of the autocephaly was now bound up with the recognition of the tsar’s coronation.”[36] 


     “After the horrors of the reign of Ivan IV,” writes Lebedev, “a complete contrast is represented by the soft, kind rule of his son, Theodore Ivanovich. In Russia there suddenly came as it were complete silence… However, the silence of the reign of Theodore Ivanovich was external and deceptive; it could more accurately be called merely a lull before a new storm. For that which had taken place during the oprichnina could not simply disappear: it was bound to have the most terrible consequences.”[37]

     But this lull contained some very important events. One was the crowning of Theodore according to the full Byzantine rite, followed by his communion in both kinds in the altar. This further enhanced the status of the Russian State, which now, as in the reign of Ivan the Terrible, was closely linked to the status of the Church of Moscow… 

     As A.P. Dobroklonsky writes, “the Moscow metropolitan see stood very tall. Its riches and the riches of the Moscow State stimulated the Eastern Patriarchs – not excluding the Patriarch of Constantinople himself – to appeal to it for alms. The boundaries of the Moscow metropolitanate were broader than the restricted boundaries of any of the Eastern Patriarchates (if we exclude from the Constantinopolitan the Russian metropolitan see, which was part of it); the court of the Moscow metropolitan was just as great as that of the sovereign. The Moscow metropolitan was freer in the manifestation of his ecclesiastical rights than the Patriarchs of the East, who were restricted at every step. Under the protection of the Orthodox sovereigns the metropolitan see in Moscow stood more firmly and securely than the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, which had become a plaything in the hands of the sultan or vizier. The power of the Moscow metropolitan was in reality not a whit less than that of the patriarchate: he ruled the bishops, called himself their ‘father, pastor, comforter and head, under the power and in the will of whom they are the Vladykas of the whole Russian land’. Already in the 15th century, with the agreement of the Constantinopolitan Patriarch, he had been elected in Rus’ without the knowledge or blessing of the Patriarch; the Russian metropolia had already ceased hierarchical relations with the patriarchal see. If there remained any dependence of the Moscow metropolitan on the patriarch, it was only nominal, since the Russian metropolia was still counted as belonging to the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate…”[38]

     Not only was the Moscow metropolia a de facto patriarchate already: its exaltation would simultaneously raise the status of the Russian Autocracy, whose prosperity was vital for the survival, not only of Russian Orthodoxy, but of Greek, Balkan, Middle Eastern and Georgian Orthodoxy, too. For, as the patriarch of Alexandria said in 1592: “The four patriarchates of the Orthodox speak of your rule as that of another Constantine the Great… and say that if there were no help from your rule, then Orthodoxy would be in extreme danger.”

     In 1586 talks began with Patriarch Joachim of Antioch, who had arrived in Moscow. He promised to discuss the question of the status of the Russian Church with his fellow patriarchs. In 1588, the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II (Trallas) came to Moscow on an alms-raising trip.[39] Then he went on an important tour of the beleaguered Orthodox in the Western Russian lands, ordaining bishops and blessing the lay brotherhoods.

     It was the desperate situation of the Orthodox in Western Russia who were being persecuted by the Jesuits that made the exaltation of the Muscovite see particularly timely.

     In 1582 the Pope had introduced the Gregorian calendar, whose aim was to divide the Orthodox liturgically[40] and, more generally, to show the global power of the Pope. Thus Pavel Kuzenkov writes: “The calendar reform of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 was politically motivated. By the end of the sixteenth century, when Protestant sentiments had spread across Europe, the popes were trying to prove that they were still able to control global processes related to all of humanity. The Roman Catholic Church was in a deep crisis that was mainly triggered by criticism from scientists. Criticizing papism, the Protestants relied on scientific methods. But papism suddenly took over the initiative. Closer relations between the Church and the state were established in the Catholic world: Universities and academies were opened, and the status of scientists rose significantly. Natural sciences appeared in the foreground, though it was not to last. In the following century, according to tradition, Galileo Galilei tried to justify himself before the Inquisition, whispering: “And yet it moves.” And in the sixteenth century the popes were favourably disposed towards the Copernican heliocentric system (by the way, Copernicus was Doctor of Canon Law). And the calendar reform was based on the work of eminent astronomers. The invention of the new Gregorian calendar became an important symbol of the alliance between the Roman Catholic Church and science. And its adoption all over the world was visible evidence of the power of the papal authority.

     “And if the new calendar had been adopted in the Protestant countries during the reign of Peter I, then Russia would surely have changed over to it as well. But Great Britain didn’t adopt it until 1752, and Sweden not until 1753. And the calendar issue seemed to have been forgotten in Russia after that. Though there is evidence that Catherine II decided to adopt ‘the new style’, the turbulent French Revolution and the burning of Moscow by Napoleon slowed down the process of rapprochement between Russia and the West for a long time. The question of the unification of the calendar was raised again under Nicholas II.”[41]

     The papist intrigues had their effect: in 1596 the Orthodox hierarchs in the West Russian land signed the unia of Brest-Litovsk with the Roman Catholics. It was now obvious that Divine Providence had singled out the Church and State in Muscovy, which remained faithful to Orthodoxy, rather than the Church and State in Poland-Lithuania, which had apostasized to Catholicism, as the centre and stronghold of Russian Orthodoxy as a whole, and this needed to be emphasized in the eyes of all the Orthodox.

     Patriarch Jeremiah, a strong warrior for Ecumenical Orthodoxy, understood this well. So first, in 1583, he convened a Pan-Orthodox Council of the Eastern Patriarchs that anathematized the Gregorian calendar. The seventh point of the Council declared:  “That whosoever does not follow the customs of the Church as the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils decreed, and the Menologion which they well decreed that we should follow, but in opposition to all this wishes to follow the new Paschalion and Menologion of the atheist astronomers of the Pope, and wishes to overturn and destroy the dogmas and customs of the Church which have been handed down by the Fathers, let him be anathema and outside the Church of Christ and the assembly of the faithful…”

     Then, in January, 1589 Patriarch Jeremiah and Tsar Theodore Ivanovich presided over a “Holy Synod of the Great Russian Empire and of the Greek Empire” (the combination of the two was significant) which sanctioned the creation of an autocephalous Russian patriarchate, a decision published in a gramota by the tsar in May of the same year. The act was confirmed in a highly unusual manner: the new Russian patriarch, Job, was given a second (or even a third) consecration by Patriarch Jeremiah.[42] Since Tsar Theodore had the title “King of Moscow and all Russia and of the territories of the extreme north”, the new patriarchate was given the same boundaries, excluding the Metropolia of Kiev which remained under the Ecumenical Patriarchae. 

     The decision was confirmed by two Pan-Orthodox Councils in Constantinople in 1590 and 1593, which also confirmed the anathema on the Gregorian calendar.[43]

     In the 1593 Council the Russian Church was also assigned the fifth place among the patriarchates. As Dan Mureşan has argued, these two last acts were closely linked. Up to this period, Rome, though in heresy, was considered still belong to the pentarchy of patriarchs, without whose combined presence no Ecumenical Council could be convened. But the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 had so appalled the Orthodox that the pretense of a pentarchy including Rome was finally abandoned. So the Council of 1590 was called “ecumenical”, although it was convened without Rome, and the Russian Church took the place of Rome, thereby recreating the pentarchy to reflect present realities.

     In agreeing to the tsar’s request for a patriarchate of Moscow, Patriarch Jeremiah showed that he understood that in having a Patriarch at his side, the status of the Tsar, too, would be exalted: “In truth, pious tsar, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and this thought is from God, and will be realized by you. For the Old Rome fell to the Apollinarian heresy, and the Second Rome, Constantinople, is in the possession of the grandsons of the Hagarenes, the godless Turks: but your great Russian kingdom, the Third Rome, has exceeded all in piety. And all the pious kingdoms have been gathered into your kingdom, and you alone under the heavens are named the Christian tsar throughout the inhabited earth for all Christians.”[44]

     The Patriarch’s language here is reminiscent of that of the famous prophecy of Elder Philotheus of Pskov in 1511. In particular, the Patriarch follows the elder in ascribing the fall of Old Rome to “the Apollinarian heresy”. Now the Apollinarian heresy rarely, if ever, figures in lists of the western heresies. And yet the patriarch here indicates that it is the heresy as a result of which the First Rome fell. Some have understood it to mean the Latin practice of using wafers (unleavened bread) in the Eucharist. For the Orthodox criticised this practice as seeming to imply that Christian had no human soul (symbolized by leaven), as was the teaching of Apollinarius. As Patriarch Peter of Antioch said at the time of the schism between Rome and the East in the eleventh century: “Whoever partakes of wafers unwittingly runs the risk of falling into the heresy of Apollinarius. For the latter dared to say that the Son and Word of God received only a soul-less and mindless Body from the Holy Virgin, saying that the Godhead took the place of the mind and soul.”[45]

     Another interpretation suggests another parallel between Papism and Apollinarianism: just as the Divine Logos replaces the human mind in the heretical Apollinarian Christology, so a quasi-Divine, infallible Pope replaces the fully human, and therefore at all times fallible episcopate in the heretical papist ecclesiology. The root heresy of the West therefore consists in the unlawful exaltation of the mind of the Pope over the other minds of the Church, both clerical and lay, and its quasi-deification to a level equal to that of Christ Himself. From this root heresy proceed all the heresies of the West.

     Thus the Filioque with its implicit demotion of the Holy Spirit to a level below that of the Father and the Son becomes necessary insofar as the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth Who constantly leads the Church into all truth has now become unnecessary - the Divine Mind of the Pope is quite capable of fulfilling His function. Similarly, the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Gifts, is also unnecessary - if Christ, the Great High Priest, sanctified the Holy Gifts by His word alone, then His Divine Vicar on earth is surely able to do the same without invoking any other Divinity, especially a merely subordinate one such as the Holy Spirit.

     The exaltation of the Russian Church and State to patriarchal and “Third Rome” status respectively shows that, not only in her own eyes, but in the eyes of the whole Orthodox world, Russia was now the chief bastion of the Truth of Christ against the heresies of the West. Russia had been born as a Christian state just as the West was falling away from grace into papism in the eleventh century. Now, in the sixteenth century, as Western papism received a bastard child in the Protestant Reformation, and a second wind in the Counter-Reformation, Russia was ready to take up leadership of the struggle against both heresies as a fully mature Orthodox nation.

     However, as we have seen, at the Pan-Orthodox Council convened by Jeremiah on his return to Constantinople, the Eastern Patriarchs, while confirming the establishment of the Moscow Patriarchate, made it only the fifth in seniority, after the four Greek patriarchates. This meant that the relationship between Church and State in the Third Rome still did not quite correspond to that between Church and State in the Second Rome. For whereas in the latter the Emperor’s partner was the first see in Orthodoxy (at least after the fall of the papacy), the Emperor’s partner in the Third Rome was only number five in the list of patriarchs. Nevertheless, this was probably in accordance with Divine Providence; for in the decades that immediately followed the prestige of the “Third Rome” was severely dented when the Poles briefly conquered Moscow during the “Time of Troubles”, necessitating the continued supervision of the Western and Southern Russian Orthodox by Constantinople. And by the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Russian patriarchate was abolished by Peter the Great and replaced – with the blessing of the Eastern Patriarchs – by a “Holy Governing Synod”. 

     On the other hand, the elevation of the head of the Russian Church to the rank of patriarchate was to prove beneficial now, in the early seventeenth century, when the Autocracy in Russia was shaken to its foundations and the patriarchs took the place of the tsars as the leaders of the Russian nation. We witness a similar phenomenon in 1917, when the restoration of the Russian patriarchate to some degree compensated for the fall of the tsardom. In both cases, the patriarchate both filled the gap left by the fall of the state (up to a point), and kept alive the ideals of true Orthodox statehood, waiting for the time when it could restore political power into the hands of the anointed tsars.



     The project of Moscow the Third Rome was endangered, in the middle of the seventeenth century, by the schism of the Old Ritualists, who tried create a nationalist schism between the two leading Orthodox nations, the Greeks and the Russians. 

      For, as Lebedev writes, the differences between the Orthodox and the Old Ritualists were not only “with regard to the correction of books and rites. The point was the deep differences in perception of the ideas forming the basis of the conception of ‘the third Rome’, and in the contradictions of the Russian Church’s self-consciousness at the time…”[46]

     The differences over the concept of the Third Rome, on the one hand, and over books and rites, on the other hand, were linked in the following way…  After consolidating itself in the first half of the seventeenth century, the Russian State was now ready to go on the offensive against Catholic Poland, and rescue the Orthodox Christians who were being persecuted by the Polish and uniate authorities. In 1654 Eastern Ukraine was wrested from Poland and came within the bounds of Russia again. But the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine had been under the jurisdiction of Constantinople and employed Greek practices, which, as we have seen, differed somewhat from those in the Muscovite Russian Church. So if Moscow was to be the Third Rome in the sense of the protector of all Orthodox Christians, it was necessary that the faith and practice of the Moscow Patriarchate should be in harmony with the faith and practice of the Orthodox Church as a whole. That is why Patriarch Nikon, supported by the Grecophile Tsar Alexis, encouraged the reform of the service-books to bring them into line with the practices of the Greek Church.

     In pursuing this policy the Tsar and the Patriarch were continuing the work of St. Maximus the Greek, who both worked hard to carry out translations from Greek into Russian and correct the Russian service books against the Greek originals, and spoke in favour of the healing of the schism between the Greek and Russian Churches. For this, as we have seen, he was persecuted by Metropolitan Daniel. And yet “the mistakes in the Russian Divine service books were so great,” writes Professor N.N. Pokrovsky, “that the Russian Church finally had to agree with Maximus’ corrections – true, some 120 years after his trial, under Patriarch Nikon (for example, in the Symbol of the faith).”[47] Paradoxically, the Old Ritualists cited St. Maximus the Greek in their support because he made no objection to the two-fingered sign. However, Professor Pokrovsky has shown that he probably passed over this as being of secondary importance by comparison with his main task, which was to broaden the horizons of the Russian Church and State, making it less nationalist in spirit – and more sympathetic to the pleas for help of the Orthodox Christians of the Balkans. On more important issues – for example, the text of the Symbol of faith, the canonical subjection of the Russian metropolitan to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and a more balanced relationship between Church and State – he made no concessions.

     Like their opponents, the Old Ritualists believed in the ideology of the Third Rome, but understood it differently. First, they resented the lead that the patriarch was taking in this affair. In their opinion, the initiative in such matters should come from the tsar insofar as it was the tsar, rather than the hierarchs, who had defended the Church from heresies in the fifteenth century. Here they were thinking of the Russian Church’s struggle against the false council of Florence and the Judaizing heresy, when the great prince did indeed take a leading role in the defence of Orthodoxy while some of the hierarchs fell away from the truth. However, they ignored the no less frequent cases – most recently, in the Time of Troubles – when it had been the Orthodox hierarchs who had defended the Church against apostate tsars.

     Secondly, whereas for the Grecophiles of the “Greco-Russian Church” Moscow the Third Rome was the continuation of Christian Rome, which implied no break with Greek Orthodoxy, for the Old Ritualists the influence of the Greeks, who had betrayed Orthodoxy at the council of Florence, could only be harmful. They believed that the Russian Church did not need help from, or agreement with, the Greeks; she was self-sufficient. Moreover, the Greeks could not be Orthodox, according to the Old Ritualists, not only because they had apostasized at the council of Florence, but also because they were “powerless”, that is, without an emperor. And when Russia, too, in their view, became “powerless” through the tsar’s “apostasy”, they prepared for the end of the world. For, as V.M. Lourié writes, “the Nikonite reforms were perceived by Old Ritualism as apostasy from Orthodoxy, and consequently… as the end of the last (Roman) Empire, which was to come immediately before the end of the world.”[48]

     This anti-Greek attitude of the Old Ritualists represented a serious threat to the ideal of Ecumenical Orthodoxy. It was exemplified especially by Archpriest Avvakum, who wrote from his prison cell to Tsar Alexis: "Say in good Russian 'Lord have mercy on me'. Leave all those Kyrie Eleisons to the Greeks: that's their language, spit on them! You are Russian, Alexei, not Greek. Speak your mother tongue and be not ashamed of it, either in church or at home!" And in the trial of 1667, Avvakum told the Greek bishops: “You, ecumenical teachers! Rome has long since fallen, and lies on the ground, and the Poles have gone under with her, for to the present day they have been enemies of the Christians. But with you, too, Orthodoxy became a varied mixture under the violence of the Turkish Mohammed. Nor is that surprising: you have become powerless. From now on you must come to us to learn: through God’s grace we have the autocracy. Before the apostate Nikon the whole of Orthodoxy was pure and spotless in our Russia under the pious rulers and tsars, and the Church knew no rebellion. But the wolf Nikon along with the devil introduced the tradition that one had to cross oneself with three fingers…”

      It was this attempt to force the Russian Church into schism from the Greeks that was the real sin of the Old Ritualists. And it was against this narrow, nationalistic and state-centred conception of “Moscow – the Third Rome”, that Patriarch Nikon erected a more universalistic, Church-centred conception which stressed the living unity of the Russian Church with the Churches of the East.

     For “in the idea of ‘the Third Rome’,” writes Lebedev, “his Holiness saw first of all its ecclesiastical, spiritual content, which was also expressed in the still more ancient idea of ‘the Russian land – the New Jerusalem’. This idea was to a large degree synonymous with ‘the Third Rome’. To a large extent, but not completely! It placed the accent on the Christian striving of Holy Rus’ for the world on high.

     “In calling Rus’ to this great idea, Patriarch Nikon successively created a series of architectural complexes in which was laid the idea of the pan-human, universal significance of Holy Rus’. These were the Valdai Iveron church, and the Kii Cross monastery, but especially the Resurrection New-Jerusalem monastery, which was deliberately populated with an Orthodox, but multi-racial brotherhood (Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Germans, Jews, Poles and Greeks).

     “This monastery, together with the complex of ‘Greater Muscovite Palestine’, was in the process of creation from 1656 to 1666, and was then completed after the death of the patriarch towards the end of the 17th century. As has been clarified only comparatively recently, this whole complex, including in itself Jordan, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Ramah, Bethany, Tabor, Hermon, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, etc., was basically a monastery, and in it the Resurrection cathedral, built in the likeness of the church of the Lord’s Sepulchre in Jerusalem with Golgotha and the Saviour’s Sepulchre, was a double image – an icon of the historical ‘promised land’ of Palestine and at the same time an icon of the promised land of the Heavenly Kingdom, ‘the New Jerusalem’.

     “In this way it turned out that the true union of the representatives of all the peoples (pan-human unity) in Christ on earth and in heaven can be realised only on the basis of Orthodoxy, and, moreover, by the will of God, in its Russian expression. This was a clear, almost demonstrative opposition of the union of mankind in the Church of Christ to its unity in the anti-church of ‘the great architect of nature’ with its aim of constructing the tower of Babylon. But it also turned out that ‘Greater Muscovite Palestine’ with its centre in the New Jerusalem became the spiritual focus of the whole of World Orthodoxy. At the same time that the tsar was only just beginning to dream of becoming the master of the East, Patriarch Nikon as the archimandrite of New Jerusalem had already become the central figure of the Universal Church.

     “This also laid a beginning to the disharmony between the tsar and the patriarch, between the ecclesiastical and state authorities in Russia. Alexis Mikhailovich, at first inwardly, but then also outwardly, was against Nikon’s plans for the New Jerusalem. He insisted that only his capital, Moscow, was the image of the heavenly city, and that the Russian tsar (and not the patriarch) was the head of the whole Orthodox world. From 1657 there began the quarrels between the tsar and the patriarch, in which the tsar revealed a clear striving to take into his hands the administration of Church affairs, for he made himself the chief person responsible for them.”[49]


     This intrusion of the tsar into the ecclesiastical administration, leading to the deposition of Patriarch Nikon, was the decisive factor allowing the Old Ritualist movement to gain credibility and momentum. In the longer term, it led to the greater subjection of the Church to the State under Peter the Great. And thereby it radically undermined the ideal of Moscow the Third Rome, which depended on a true “symphony” between Church and State such as Patriarch Nikon stood for.

     And yet even in the St. Petersburg period of Russian history, when the ideal of statehood espoused by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great was closer to that of the First Rome than that of the Second or Third Romes, by a miracle of Divine Providence the ideals of the Third Rome continued to be pursued – and partially realized. For during the reigns of Tsars Nicholas I and Alexander II, and again during the reign of Nicholas II, the idea of Moscow the Third Rome was revived, if not explicitly at any rate by implication, and Orthodox intellectuals such as Aksakov and Dostoyevsky again began to see this as the role that Divine Providence had entrusted to Russia.[50] Thus the wars waged by Russia for the liberation of Bulgaria in 1877-78 and Serbia in 1914-17 were seen as prefiguring the full realization of that role, when “Constantinople shall be ours” and when the whole Orthodox world would be reunited under one roof in accordance with the ancient ideal: “One Faith, One Church, One Empire”. But then came the revolution, which destroyed the ideal just as the Russians found themselves within striking distance of recapturing Hagia Sophia for the Orthodox...

     Inevitably, the ideal of the Third Rome and the reality of Russian history diverged sharply; and there were not lacking cynics, who saw the ideal as a cover for a crudely imperialist will to power. However, as an ideal it was a noble one; nor can it be denied that the Orthodox Church needed a secular protector. Moreover, for most of the Russian great princes and tsars it was a burden rather than an excuse, a duty rather than a right. Whenever Greeks or Bulgars or Serbs or Arabs or Georgians or Armenians suffering under the Ottoman yoke appealed to Moscow or St. Petersburg for help, the tsars hastened to send armies into war even when they were unprepared or would have preferred to stay at home. Heavy is the head that bears the crown, and none heavier than that of the Emperor of the Third Rome…


September 1/14, 2019.

Church New Year.

Holy Righteous Joshua, the son of Nun.







[1] Dvorkin, Ocherki po istorii Vselenskoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi (Sketches on the History of the Universal Orthodox Church), Nizhni-Novgorod, 2006, p. 716.

[2]Mehmet II, in Henry Kissinger, World Order, London: Penguin, 2015, p. 5.

[3]Simon Sebag Montefiore, Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin, London: Phoenix, 2001, p. 215.

[4] Niall Ferguson, Civilization, London: Penguin, 2012, pp. 52, 53.

[5]Neal Ascherson, Black Sea, London: Vintage, 1996, pp. 180-181.

[6]Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity, Cambridge University Press, 1968, p. 365.

[7]M.J. Trow, Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula, Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2003.

[8] Curzon, “The Real Dracula. Vlad the Impaler”, All About History, p. 44.

[9]Archimandrite Ioanichie Balan, Romanian Patericon, Forestville, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, volume I, 1996, pp. 189, 191. So free from vainglory was Stephan that after his victory over the Turks at Vasilui on January 10, 1475, he forbade any celebrations but instituted a 40-day fast, insisting that the glory should be given to God alone.

[10] Runciman, op. cit., p. 365.

[11]Kollmann, “Muscovite Russia 1450-1598”, in Gregory L. Frazee, Russia. A History, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 59.

[12]With the exception of Georgia, which later entered the Russian empire. The metropolitan of Georgia had been among the very few, with St. Mark of Ephesus, who refused to sign the unia in Florence. Romania, as we have seen, was also independent for a time, but soon came under the suzerainty of the Ottomans. Technically, even Moscow was not completely independent until 1480, when it stopped paying tribute to the Tatars.

[13] Fr. John Meyendorff, “Was there an Encounter between East and West at Florence?” Rome, Constantinople, Moscow, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 108.

[14] Hosking, Russia and the Russians, London: Penguin, 2012, p. 85.

[15] Astafieva, “Prikliuchenia vizantijskoj printsessy v Moskovii” (The adventures of a Byzantine Princess in Muscovy), Diletant, October, 2016.

[16] Runciman, op. cit., pp. 211, 212.

[17] Archpriest Lev Lebedev, Velikorossia (Great Russia), St. Petersburg, 1997, p. 44.

[18]Hosking, Russia. People and Empire 1552-1917, London: HarperCollins, 1997, p. 5.

[19]Wil van den Bercken, Holy Russia and Christian Europe, London: SCM Press, 1999, p. 140.

[20] Quoted in Sir Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity, Cambridge University Press, 1968, p. 323. Ya.S. Lourié writes: “The idea of ‘Moscow – the new city of Constantine’ was put forward by Zosimus, who was linked with the heretical movement [of the Judaizers] at the end of the 15th century; Zosimus boldly referred the New Testament prophecy, ‘the first shall be last, and the last first’ to the Greeks and the Russians…” (“Perepiska Groznogo s Kurbskim v Obschestvennoj Mysli Drevnej Rusi” (“The Correspondence of the Terrible one with Kurbsky in the Political Thought of Ancient Rus’”), in Ya.S. Lourié and Yu.D. Rykov, Perepiska Ivana Groznogo s Andreem Kurbskim (The Correspondence of the Terrible one with Andrew Kurbsky), Moscow: “Nauka”, 1993, p. 230).

[21]Runciman, op. cit., pp. 323-324.

[22]Meyendorff, “Was There Ever a ‘Third Rome’? Remarks on the Byzantine Legacy in Russia”, in Rome, Constantinople, Moscow, p. 135.

[23] N. Riasonovsky, A History of Russia, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 121. “The Russian church was split, and the two parts of the Russian nation were alienated from each other. Now there came into being a distinctive Ukrainian identity which was not done away with by the incorporation of the territory in 1654 into the kingdom of Moscow and in the twentieth century was again to lead to a break with Moscow” (van den Bercken, op. cit., p. 118).

[24]Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p. 87.

[25] Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p. 87.

[26]Philotheus, Letter against the Astronomers and the Latins, in Wil van den Bercken, Holy Russia and Christian Europe, London: SCM Press, 1999.

[27]Nazarov, Taina Rossii (The Mystery of Russia), Moscow, 1999, p. 538.

[28] An 8th or 9th century Greek prophecy found in St. Sabbas’ monastery in Jerusalem, declares: "The sceptre of the Orthodox kingdom will fall from the weakening hands of the Byzantine emperors, since they will not have proved able to achieve the symphony of Church and State. Therefore the Lord in His Providence will send a third God-chosen people to take the place of the chosen, but spiritually decrepit people of the Greeks.” (Archbishop Seraphim, “Sud’by Rossii” (“The Destinies of Russia”), Pravoslavnij Vestnik (Orthodox Messenger), N 87, January-February, 1996, pp. 6-7; translated in Fr. Andrew Phillips, Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church, English Orthodox Trust, 1996)

[29]Tikhomirov, Monarkhicheskaia Gosudarstvennost’ (Monarchical Statehood), St. Petersburg, 1992, p. 164.

[30]Dominic Lieven, Empire, London: John Murray, 2000, pp. 262, 278.

[31]V.M. Lourié, “Prekrashchenie moskovskogo tserkovnogo raskola 1467-1560 godov: final istorii v dokumentakh”.

[32]“In the 1520s,” writes Serhii Plokhy, “Muscovite intellectuals produced a new genealogical tract, the Tale of the Princes of Vladimir, which associated the rulers in the Kremlin, the former grand princes of Vladimir, with Emperor Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire. The link was established through a legendary personality called Prus, allegedly the brother of Augustus. Thus the founder of the Roman Empire and the rulers of Moscow had the same forefather. But how were the grand princes of Vladimir (and later Moscow) related to Prus? The solution proposed by the Muscovite authors was quite simple: the missing link was another legendary [sic] figure, Prince Rurik, the founder of the Kyivan ruling clan. According to the Rus’ chronicles, Rurik had come from the north, the part of the world allegedly assigned by Augustus to Prus.

     “Should that lineage be found wanting, the authors provided another connection to Rome with a much more solid historical foundation. It led to the eternal city through Byzantium. The princes of Vladimir and Moscow were heirs of Prince Volodymyr (Vladimir) Monomakh, the twelfth-century ruler of Kyiv who had received his name through his mother, a relative of the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachos, who in turn was related to Augustus. One way or another, all roads of the Muscovite imagination led to Roma. According to the Tale, Constantine had passed on his emperor’s regalia to Volodymyr, and they had subsequently been inherited by the princes of Moscow. Among them was Monomakh’s Cap, an Eastern equivalent of an emperor’s crown. It was in fact a fourteenth-century gold filigree skullcap from Central Asia, possibly a gift from the khan of the Golden Horde, intended to symbolize the vassal status of the Muscovite princes. The Mongol gift was now reimagined as a symbol of imperial power” (Lost Kingdom, London: Allen Lane, 2017, pp. 14-15).

[33] Lourié, op. cit.

[34] Runciman, op. cit., p. 329.

[35] Lourié, op. cit.

[36] Lourié, op. cit.

[37]Lebedev, Velikorossia (Great Russia), St. Petersburg, 1999, p. 105.

[38]Dobroklonsky, Rukovodstvo po istorii russkoj tserkvi (A Guide to the History of the Russian Church),Moscow, 2001, pp. 280-281.

[39]See A.V. Kartashev, Ocherki po Istorii Russkoj Tserkvi (Sketches in the History of the Russian Church), Paris: YMCA Press, 1959, pp. 10-46, Vladimir Rusak, Istoria Rossijskoj Tserkvi (A History of the Russian Church), 1988, pp. 152-156, Dobroklonsky, op. cit., pp. 282-285; and the life of St. Job, first patriarch of Moscow, in Moskovskij Paterik (The Moscow Patericon), Moscow: Stolitsa, 1991, pp. 110-113.

[40] It also divided Catholics and Protestants. James Shapiro writes: "Shakespeare came of age when time itself was out of joint: the Western calendar, fixed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC (a meddling with nature deemed tyrannical by some of his fellow Romans), had by the late sixteenth century drifted ten days off the celestial cycle. Something had to be done. In 1577 Pope Gregory XIII proposed skipping ten days and in 1582 Catholic Europe acted upon his recommendations: it was agreed that the day after 4 October would 15 October. [Queen] Elizabeth was ready to go along with this sensible change, but her bishops baulked, unwilling to follow the lead of the Pope on this issue or any other. Other Protestant countries also opposed the change and, as a result, began to keep different time. By 1599 Easter was celebrated a full five weeks apart in Catholic and Protestant lands.

     "There's an odd moment in 'Julius Caesar' when Brutus, on the eve of Caesar's assassination, unsure of the date, asks his servant Lucius: 'Is not tomorrow, boy, the first of March?' (II, i, 40) and tells him to check 'the calendar' and let him know. Virtually all modern editions silently correct Brutus' 'blunder' (how could such an intelligent man be so wrong about the date?), changing his question to: 'Is not tomorrow, boy, the ides of March?' Elizabethans, though, would have smiled knowingly at Brutus' confusion in being off by a couple of weeks - as well as at his blindness to the significance of the day that would resound through history. They also knew, watching the events in the play that culminate in the ides of March, that virtually all the political upheaval their own nation had experienced since the Reformation - from the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, to the Cornish Rebellion of 1549, to the Northern Rebellion of 1569, coincided with or had roots in feasts and holidays. As recently as 1596 the planners of the abortive Oxfordshire Rising had agreed that their armed insurrection, in which they would cut down gentlemen and head 'with all speed towards London' to foment a national rising, would begin shortly after Queen Elizabeth's Accession Day, 17 November. 'Is this a holiday?' was a question that touched a deep cultural nerve..." (1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, London: Faber & Faber, 2005, pp. 169-170)

[41] Kuzenkov and Pushchaev, “The Rudiments of an Ultra-Ecumenical Project, or Why Constantinople Needed to Introduce the New Calendar”,, February 20, 2019.

[42] Mureşan, “Rome hérétique? Sur les décisions des conciles de Moscou et de Constantinople (1589, 1590 et 1593”, file://localhost/Users/anthonymoss/Documents/Rome%20he%CC%81re%CC%81tique%20%20%20Sur%20les%20de%CC%81cisions%20des%20conciles%20de%20Moscou%20et%20de%20Constantinople%20(1589,%201590%20et%201593).html.

     V.M. Lourié writes: “The case of the raising to the patriarchy of Job, who was already Metropolitan of Moscow by that time, was strangely dual. The first Episcopal consecration was carried out on Job already in 1581, when he became Bishop of Kolomna, and the second in 1587, when he was raised to the rank of Metropolitan of Moscow. Now, with his raising to the rank of Patriarch of Moscow, a third Episcopal ordination was carried out on him (Uspensky, 1998).” This uncanonical custom appears to have originated with Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople, when he transferred St. Alexis from Vladimir to Moscow (, June 1, 2006).

[43]Metropolitan Cyprian of Orope, “’The Sigillion’ of 1583 Against ‘the Calendar Innovation of the Latins’: Myth or Reality?”, May 13, 2011, Monastery of SS. Cyprian and Justina, Fili, Attica. This article confirms the truth of the anathematizations of the Grigorian calendar in the sixteenth century while at the same time exposing a forgery by a Russian monk of St. Panteleimon’s monastery in 1858 known as the “Sigillion”.

     On September 29, 1998, the True Orthodox (Old Calendar) Church of Greece under Archbishop Chrysostomos (Kiousis) of Athens confirmed these decisions, and declared “eternal memory” to the three signatories and all the signatories of the Councils, which “condemned the calendar innovation and severed from the Body of the Church those who accepted it” (

[44]Zyzykin, op. cit., part I, p. 156. This thought was echoed by the patriarch of Alexandria, who wrote to the “most Orthodox” tsar in 1592: “The four patriarchates of the Orthodox speak of your rule as that of another, new Constantine the Great… and say that if there were no help from your rule, then Orthodoxy would be in extreme danger.” (van den Bercken, op. cit., p. 160).

[45] Peter, cited (with some alterations) in Mahlon Smith III, And Taking Bread: The Development of the Azyme Controversy, Paris: Beauchesne, 1978, p. 58, note 80.

[46]Lebedev, Moskva Patriarshaia, p. 37.

[47]Pokrovsky, Puteshestvia za redkimi knigami (Journeys for rare books), Moscow, 1988; The mistake in the Creed consisted in adding the word “true” after “and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord”.

[48]Lourié, “O Vozmozhnosti”, op. cit., p. 14.

[49]Lebedev, Moskva Patriarshaia, pp. 40-41.

[50]See N. Ulyanov, "Kompleks Filofea" (“The Philotheus Complex”), Voprosy Filosofii (Questions of Philosophy), 1994, N 4, pp. 152-162.

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