Pashkov Dmitry, archpriest

Pentarchy of patriarchates in the time of emperor Justinian i: prerequisites

Pashkov Dmitry (2020) "Pentarchy of patriarchates in the time of emperor Justinian i: prerequisites ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II : Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi, 2020, vol. 97, pp. 23-39 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturII202097.23-39


The article discusses the motives of Emperor Justinian to form the supermetropolitan authority of the fi ve patriarchs. In the 4th — 6th centuries when this highest level of church power was gradually forming, there was no “organic metaphysics” of the five major sees; accordingly, the author of the article points at the relativism of the use of the term “pentarchy” for the early Byzantine period of church history. This idea is confirmed by the attitude of Justinian to the most prominent sees; the number of incumbents he addresses his constitutions to changes from one to fi ve, while four of them presided over the Ecumenical Council. The emperor’s rule-making and administrative methods towards the major sees cannot be explained by the seeming aimlessness of his ecclesiastical policy. Justinian is aware of the actual structure of the imperial Church that had already developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In addition, he avoids obvious blunders of his predecessors Zeno and Anastasius, who tried to make the Church agree on compromise with anti-Chalcedonites by means of extending infl uence over a single patriarch, while separating him from his bishops and other patriarchs. Justinian learns from previous experience of Emperor Leo I and, probably, of Pope Felix III who considered the model of a one-time, “horizontal” consensus of catholic bishops to be essential for reaching an agreement in the whole Church. On the contrary, Justinian could also be infl uenced by the idea of Pope Gelasius, who denies the need for such a consensus, thus the following constitutions of Justinian established equality of the five patriarchal thrones. The author of the article also pays attention to Justinian’s ideas on the exceptional nature of his law-making powers that made him feel free to form the church government of superior rank.


pentarchy, Emperor Justinian I, patriarchates, Council of Chalcedon, See of Rome, ecclesiology, imperial legislation on the Church


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Information about the author

Pashkov Dmitry, archpriest

Academic Degree: Master of Ttheology;
Place of work: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for Humanities; 6/1 Likhov pereulok, Moscow, 127051, Russian Federation;
Post: Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Th eology;
ORCID: 0000-0002-0129-9548;
Email: papadimitrios1@gmail.com.