Russian Orthodox Church

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The Kievan church was originally a Metropolitanate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Byzantine patriarch appointed the metropolitan who governed the Church of Rus'. The Metropolitan's residence was originally located in Kiev. As Kiev was losing its political, cultural, and economical significance due to the Mongol invasion, Metropolitan Maximus moved to Vladimir in 1299; his successor, Metropolitan Peter moved the residence to Moscow in 1325.

Monastic reform of St. Sergius and its aftermath

Following the tribulations of the Mongol invasion, the Russian Church was pivotal in the survival and life of the Russian state. Despite the politically motivated murders of Mikhail of Chernigov and Mikhail of Tver, the Mongols were generally tolerant and even granted tax exemption to the Church. Such holy figures as Sergius of Radonezh and Metropolitan Alexis helped the country to withstand years of Tatar oppression, and to expand both economically and spiritually.

The monastic reform of St. Sergius, which culminated in the foundation of the monastery known as Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra near Moscow, was one of the defining events of medieval Russian history. The monastery became the setting for the unprecedented flourishing of transcendent, spiritual art, exemplified by the work of Andrey Rublev, among others. The followers of Sergius founded four hundred monasteries, thus greatly extending the geographical extent of his influence and authority.

The spiritual resurgence of the late 14th century, associated with the names of St. Sergius, the missionary Stephen of Perm and the writer Epiphanius the Wise, contributed to the consolidation of the Russian nation. Lev Gumilev has observed that, having received the blessing of St. Sergius to make a stand against the Tatars, "the Suzdalians, Vladimirians, Rostovians, Pskovians went to the Kulikovo Field as representatives of their principalities but returned after the victory as Russians, although living in different towns",[12] a dictum which has been endorsed by modern church functionaries.[13]

At the Council of Florence (1439), a group of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church leaders agreed upon terms of reunification of the two branches of Christianity. The Russian Prince Basil II of Moscow, however, rejected the concessions to the Catholic Church and forbade the proclamation of the acts of the Council in Russia in 1452, after a short-lived East-West reunion. Metropolitan Isidore was in the same year expelled from his position as an apostate.

In 1448, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Metropolitan Jonas, installed by the Council of Russian bishops in 1448, was given the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia. This was just five years before the fall of Constantinople in 1453. From this point onward the Russian Orthodox Church saw Moscow as the Third Rome, legitimate successor to Constantinople, and the Primate of Moscow as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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