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Headquarters of the Holy Synod of the Russian Empire in St. Petersburg.
The Most Holy Governing Synod ( ) was the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between 1721 and 1918 – when the Patriarchate was restored. At the time of its disestablishment, it was the oldest governing body (Holy Synod) among the various Orthodox Churches. The jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod extended over every kind of ecclesiastical question and over some that are partly secular.

The Synod was established by Peter I of Russia on January 25, 1721 as a part of his church reform. Its establishment was followed by the abolition of the Patriarchate. The Synod was composed partly of ecclesiastical persons, partly of laymen appointed by the Tsar. Among them were the Metropolitan of Saint Petersburgmarker, Moscowmarker and Kievmarker, and the Exarch of Georgiamarker. Originally, there were ten ecclesiastical members, but the number later changed to twelve.

The Synod was, in the first place, the guardian of the purity of faith; it ensured that all the members of the clergy performed their duties in the spirit of Orthodoxy; it concerned itself with the extermination of dissent and superstition, and superintended the publication of religious books. The Synod took charge of public religious education and the propagation of Orthodoxy; it also has control over religious educational establishments, and, beginning in 1885, over church parish schools for laymen. The Synod was the highest court for all ecclesiastical affairs whether administrative or judicial; and it decided all matters, relating to marriage.

See also


  • Statesman's handbook for Russia. 1896.

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