Principate of Rome

The title of Prince of the Romans, also known as Prince of Rome, holds significant historical and religious importance. It is a prominent title within the temporal patrimony of the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia, who is recognized as the Supreme Pontiff of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church.

Caesar Augustus, Prince and Emperor of Rome

Originally established during the time of Caesar Augustus in the Roman Empire, this title was among those traditionally held by the Pope-Bishops of Rome since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. However, in 2011, it was transferred to the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia, serving as a successor to Pope St. Leo X, temporal successor to St. Peter the Apostle, and successor to St. Mark the Apostle in Aquileia. The United Roman-Ruthenian Church is in hereditary descent from Rome and Ruthenia (Old Russian State), becoming  the temporal successor of St. Peter. St. John Paul II relinquished the temporal claims of the Bishops of Rome, except for those pertaining to Vatican City, while St. Benedict XVI renounced the Patriarchal title. Now, the United Roman-Ruthenian Church holds the temporal heritage of Rome as the closest recognized successor from St. Leo X in the Holy Roman Empire. (See more here.) This transition in 2011 marked an important milestone for the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and solidified its place within the Roman and Ruthenian succession. It represents not only a continuation, but also an evolution within the church's rich history.

The significance of the Roman title today lies in its symbolism and representation. It signifies both secular and religious authority, emphasizing the dual roles of those who hold it. Today the Pontifical Imperial State
is the combination of the historic Pontifical Roman State and the Pontifical Kingdom of Ruthenia and All Rus' to which the Church is heir, carrying a legacy that spans centuries.  To foster a sense of unity and represent all the historical territories associated with the patrimony of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church (which include an empire, three kingdoms, several principalities, and more), the modern name - Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia - was chosen. Uniting these historic states under one banner of fellowship strengthens the bonds of collective heritage within the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and writes a new chapter in their shared history. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we are all part of a greater whole. Today the Pontifical Imperial States stands as an ethno-religious cultural nation without political territory that constitutes a state unto itself, representing people across multiple modern political countries.

The Pontifical Imperial State is the titular secular wing of  the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, a canonical autocephalous patriarchal Apostolic Church of ancient Orthodox and Catholic origins. The Church, today an ethno-religious minority, is rooted in the ancient Apostolic Churches of Rome, Constantinople, Syria, Russia, Alexandria, and Armenia and represents a rare convergence of Apostolic faith and tradition that is both Orthodox and Catholic, both Western and Eastern. (Find out more about the history here, or see the Frequently Asked Questions.)

The Roman Principate

In the history of the Roman Empire, the period known as the Roman Principate played a vital role in shaping both political and religious institutions. The Principate, which lasted from 27 BC to AD 284, marked a transition from the Roman Republic to an autocratic form of government under emperors.

Julius Caesar
Founder of the Roman Empire
His name "Caesar" was given to all emperors and is
the basis for later titles such as Kaiser and Tsar.

During this era, Rome experienced significant political changes. Caesar Augustus, who became Rome's first emperor, established a system where power was concentrated in his hands while maintaining the appearance of a republican government. This shift in power dynamics allowed for more stability and centralized control over vast territories. Under the Principate, emperors wielded absolute authority but often relied on Senate support to maintain legitimacy. This period saw several notable emperors such as Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. Some brought prosperity and peace to Rome, while others faced criticism for their excesses.

The Influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire

During the later years of the Principate, Christianity emerged as a significant religious movement within the empire. Initially considered a sect within Judaism, it gradually gained followers across different social classes. The rise of Christianity posed challenges to traditional Roman beliefs and practices. The Romans were polytheistic worshippers who revered multiple gods and goddesses. Christianity, with its monotheistic beliefs and emphasis on moral values, clashed with the polytheistic traditions of Rome.

The Church as the Successor to the Roman Principate

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476, political power in Europe fragmented. However, during this turbulent period, the Catholic Church of Rome emerged as a unifying force in Western society. The church gradually gained influence over various aspects of people's lives. It provided stability and offered spiritual guidance to individuals seeking solace amidst political turmoil. As feudalism took hold in Europe, the church played a crucial role in organizing social structures and maintaining order.

Furthermore, the church became an important patron of education and learning. Monastic schools helped preserve knowledge from ancient civilizations, including that of ancient Rome itself. The works of philosophers like Cicero, Seneca, and Virgil were preserved by monks and later became crucial sources for the Renaissance movement.

Constantine VII, Byzantine Emperor of Rome

Indeed, the history of both the Latin and the Orthodox Churches is closely intertwined with that of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, power and influence shifted to various entities. One significant development was the emergence of the Roman (Latin) Church as a successor to the empire, while the various Orthodox Churches remained strongly linked to the Eastern Roman Empire (also later known as the Byzantine Empire). The United Roman-Ruthenian Church descends in Apostolic succession from the Latin (Roman Catholic) Church and  Greek, Russian, Syrian, Coptic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches.

Emperor Constantine the Great

One key event that solidified this transition was the "Gift of Constantine." Emperor Constantine the Great donated the Roman Empire and its authority to Pope Sylvester I. Another pivotal moment came with the Donation of Pepin. In 756 AD, Pope Stephen II sought assistance from King Pepin of the Franks against Lombard forces threatening Rome. In return for Pepin's military aid, Stephen anointed him King of the Franks and gave him control over territories in central Italy. This marked the birth of what would later become known as the Papal States, also known as the States of the Church, or the Pontifical Roman State.

Matilda, Margravine of Tuscany
Vice-Queen of Italy

Later, Matilda, Margravine of Tuscany, a powerful figure in medieval Italy, played a significant role in solidifying the temporal authority of the Roman Pope. As the Imperial Vice Queen of Italy, she made a bold move by giving her lands and titles to the Roman Pope, solidifying his office as the overlord of Italy. This act took place during a time when political and religious power were intricately intertwined. By relinquishing her possessions to the Church, Matilda not only demonstrated her devotion but also bolstered the authority of the Bishop of Rome in secular matters.

Pope St. Leo X

However, these titles eventually reverted back to Florence (in Tuscany), marking a shift in power dynamics. Today, the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia holds the title of Florentine Archfather as successor to Pope St. Leo X and as ecclesiastical heir to Hugh, Imperial King of Italy. This lineage connects back to Matilda's legacy and signifies her enduring influence, which laid down a precedent that shaped centuries of history. 

Pope St. Pius IX
Openly known as "Papa Rex" (Pope-King),
he embodied the concept of sovereign temporal and spiritual authority

These donations bestowed significant temporal power upon successive Bishops of Rome, allowing  them to exert political authority over substantial territories and exercise influence beyond just religious matters. This fusion of spiritual and secular power laid the foundation for the concept of a pope as simultaneously bishop and king or emperor, holding both religious and political authority.

Prince-Bishops in Europe

It is important to note that throughout history, there were other leaders who held similar positions of joint spiritual and temporal authority as the Bishop of Rome. These sovereigns, known as Prince-Bishops, were bishops who also ruled over secular territories. They held both spiritual and temporal authority, much like the Pope-Bishop of Rome. This concept was particularly prevalent during the medieval period, Renaissance, and Baroque when the Church played a prominent role in governing various regions.

Prince-Bishops were typically appointed by secular rulers or elected by local clergy. They held significant political power and governed their territories with the same level of authority as secular princes. These territories varied in size and influence, ranging from small towns to entire regions.

Cardinal Albrecht v. Brandenburg
Prince-Archbishop and Elector of Mainz

One notable example of a Prince-Bishop is Albrecht von Brandenburg, who served as Archbishop of Mainz in Germany during the early 16th century. He not only held religious authority but also wielded considerable political influence as a member of the powerful House of Hohenzollern, which ruled as Kings of Prussia and later as German Emperors. The Archbishop of Mainz was one of the ecclesiastical Prince Electors that elected the Holy Roman Emperor. 

Petar II Petrovic-Njegos
Metropolitan and Prince-Bishop of Montenegro

Another notable example is the Orthodox Prince-Bishop of Montenegro. This individual was not only a religious figure but also a political leader, known for their influence over both spiritual and temporal affairs in the region. The Prince-Bishop of Montenegro played a significant role in shaping the destiny of the people under their leadership. They held authority over matters such as governance, law enforcement, and even military affairs. This dual role allowed them to have a profound impact on both the religious and secular aspects of society. For a long period of Montenegrin history, Prince-Bishop was an hereditary office. Eventually the country became a secular kingdom.

While today many consider the Roman Pope to be the most well-known figure when it comes to joint temporal and spiritual authority, it is important to acknowledge that this role has existed in various forms throughout history. Indeed, the Bishop of Rome is not alone in holding historic temporal and spiritual authority.  By recognizing these other Prince-Bishops, we gain a greater understanding of the diverse ways in which religion and politics have intertwined over time.

The Legacy of the Roman Principate

The legacy of the Roman Principate can be seen in modern political systems worldwide. Concepts such as centralized authority, bureaucracy, and autocracy have their roots in this period. Additionally, many legal principles developed during this time still form the basis for contemporary legal systems. Similarly, the influence of the Roman (Latin) Church, the various Orthodox Churches, and the United Roman-Ruthenian Church continue to shape moral values and ethical standards within societies around the world.

See also: Roman-Ruthenian Nobility Association

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