Caesaropapism

Caesaropapism is an important part of the political tradition which Russia inherited from Byzantium. It may be defined as an intimate cooperation between the Church and the State which made the Byzantine Empire essentially a theocracy. The emperor was "the Lord's Annointed," and was theoretically obligated to observe Church dogmas and canons. He was considered "holy" and "lord of the Christian universe." Patriarchs who headed the Greek Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Empire claimed that spiritual power was above that of the temporal world, but they lost their power-struggle with the emperors who considered themselves the successors of the Roman Emperors. The Church was enveloped by the state, a tradition that was passed on to Russia. The Grand Prince (called tsars after Ivan III and Emperors beginning with Peter the Great) were "saintly princes" and used the power of the Russian Orthodox Church to buttress their authority. Religous figures sometimes were "princely saints" who worked hand-in-hand with the political system, at times even standing in for weak or imprisoned princes in times of trouble. The consequence was autocracy, a unique Russian absolutism, that was stronger than any political power in the West. For a sense of the power of a prince who is at the same time a political and a religious figure, perhaps a visual sense of the medieval perception life after death would be useful. Hieronymus Bosch's painting of the Last Judgement shows the perception of life after death.