Caesaropapism

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Caesaropapism

 

a term introduced in 19th-century Catholic historiography by the German scholar J. Hergenróther and others to denote the unique relationship between the imperial authority and the church in the Byzantine Empire: the head of the secular power—the emperor (caesar)—was in fact head of the church (pope) as well. The term is occasionally encountered in modern historical works as well, and not only in reference to Byzantium.

Caesaropapism does not describe the true relations between the Byzantine emperors and the church. In fact, the Byzantine Church was more dependent economically on the state than the Catholic Church; its rights were not formally defined, appointment of the patriarch remained the prerogative of the emperor, and the Byzantine clergy played a much smaller role in state administration. However, the relationship did vary. In certain periods the patriarchs exerted great influence on the state machinery, and attempts by the emperors to impose their will on the church were often unsuccessful: the emperors could not assume the right of appointing bishops and metropolitans, could not enforce Iconoclasm, and did not achieve union with the papacy. The emperors, with the exception of Justinian I and Manuel I Comnenus, did not even claim that the state held ideological authority over the church.

A. P. KAZHDAN