What is a synod - definition, rules and interesting facts

What is a synod? This question is asked by many Orthodox people who want to learn more about the denomination to which they belong. In this article we tried to give it the most detailed answer, written in simple and understandable language. After reading it, you will fully learn about the definition of a synod. We will also tell about its history and main functions.

what is a synod

Synod: definition and meaning of the word

Before diving into the jungle of history, it is necessary to give a brief description of this term. The synod is a meeting of the participants of the Christian church, at which issues related to dogma, religious life and morality are resolved. It is one of the highest organs of church administration.


Residents of Russia and many other CIS countries probably know about Emperor Peter I and his reforms, which radically changed the entire Russian state of the 18th century. It was the reign of Peter that launched the processes of "Europeanization" of the Slavic society, reflected in almost all spheres of life of the immense empire.Peter began to redo the political structure of the country and its economy, relying on Western European states. Despite the fact that Russia has repeatedly contacted with the countries of Europe and before that, under the emperor, these processes reached their peak.

synod definition

Begin change

For a complete and comprehensive understanding of what a synod is, you need to plunge into the past. You have probably already guessed that the reforms of Peter I affected not only the state apparatus and the cultural life of the Russian state, but also his church organ. The emperor began radical transformations in the sphere of religion during the lifetime of Patriarch Adrian. In 1697 he issued a decree according to which the entire economy of the bishop's houses and monasteries was taken under state control. In 1698 in the church, which had parish yards and grounds, ceased to supply bread and cash. Supplies to churches that did not have yards and land were halved. On October 16, 1700, Patriarch Adrian died, and Peter I began to subordinate the church even more.

Continuing radical reforms

After the death of Adrian, Peter canceled the election of a new patriarch, and then appointed his ally Stefan Yavorsky as the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne.In the first decade of the new century, the state budget was replenished with more than 1 million rubles received from monastic estates. At the same time, the state prohibited monks from moving from one monastery to another and set a limit on their total number. The church began to carry out functions of the device and the maintenance of primary schools, and also the help to sick people and retired military men.

meaning of the word synod

Creation of the Holy Synod

In 1718, Peter ordered the formation of the Theological Collegium or the Holy Synod of Government. He was to come to replace the already well-established patriarchate. The aforementioned Stefan Yavorsky was appointed president of the Theological Board, and two bishops, one of whom was Feofan Prokopovich, the archimandrites and the protopopes, became its participants. The head of the synod was the chief prosecutor, who was also appointed by the state governor. As a rule, secular people, who had not had a serious relationship to religion, became chief prosecutors. They performed functions directly related to the church’s activities: interpretation of dogmas, censorship of religious publications, opposition to heresy, the management of schools and other educational institutions, etc. In addition to the functions listed earlier, the synod was also a kind of counterpart of the Spiritual Court.The presence of this body consisted of 12 hierarchs, who were also appointed by the government.

The Holy Synod was the central apparatus of the church and administrative authority in the Russian Empire until August 1917. In 1918, the synod as a body subordinate to the state was liquidated by the Council of People’s Commissars, and its place was again taken by the revived patriarchate. For some time he served as a collegial governing body, but in 1924, Patriarch Tikhon completely dissolved it. Full recovery of the synod took place in 1945 in the Local Council.

synod definition meaning

Clergy reaction

What is the synod and how it was formed, you already know, now it's time to tell no less interesting information on the confrontation between the clergy and Peter I.

It is not surprising that such dramatic and fundamental changes in the church life of the country caused discontent on the part of many representatives of the clergy. Moreover, some churchmen directly called Peter the Antichrist. This situation, of course, did not like the ruler, and therefore he began to resort to punitive measures.For example, in 1700, long before the abolition of the patriarchate and the establishment of the Holy Synod, the bishop of Tambov Ignatius was deprived of the chair. In 1707, the Metropolitan of Nizhniy Novgorod, Isaiah was also deprived of the pulpit and sent to the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery. In this situation, it is impossible not to mention the case of Prince Alexy. For a long time he was abroad and at a distance spoke with other like-minded people from the church. In 1718, the prince returned to Russia, where he was deprived of the rights to the succession to the throne. Peter I called the main reason for this act "conversations with priests and Chernets." After these events, the Theodore the Desert Key Primer in Suzdal, the Archpriest James Ignatiev and the Bishop Dositheus were executed. Metropolitan Ignatius was deprived of the department, and Metropolitan Joasaph, who was called in for questioning, died on the way from Kiev.

synod is

Synod Responsibilities

What is a synod? I think you have already perfectly understood the meaning and meaning of this word. Now you should learn more about the responsibilities of this body, which we mentioned earlier:

  1. Care for the unchanged storage and interpretation of Christianity, as well as the established rules of morality and piety, preached by this religion.
  2. Serving the internal unity of the Russian Orthodox Church (Russian Orthodox Church).
  3. Maintaining an alliance with Orthodox Churches from other states.
  4. Maintaining the necessary relations with government agencies that fully comply with the current statute and laws.
  5. Planning the internal and external activities of the church, as well as solving issues arising on this basis.
  6. Evaluation of key events that occur in the life of the church itself, in relations with other faiths and religions.
  7. Monitoring the actions of the entire ROC’s fullness in its attempts to achieve universal justice and peace.
  8. Setting the procedure for the ownership and use of buildings and property that belong to the Russian Orthodox Church.

 Holy Synod

Now you know the meaning of the word synod, the history of this church organ, as well as its main functions. We hope that the information provided in the article was interesting to you, and you learned a lot from it.

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