Eastern Patriarchates

In every way as important to an understanding of Asia Minor and the Levant as the secular authorities, the following lists provide details on the primary Christian religious leaders of the region. The Eastern Orthodox faith is not as hierarchically arranged as the Roman church; each Patriarch is considered equal to the others in primacy, although Constantinople enjoys pride of place throughout the Orthodox world as the chief religious leader of the Imperial City. Included here are also some of the Jacobite (Monophysite) Patriarchs, and Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarchates established during the Crusader epoch.

Contains: Alexandria (O), Antioch (O), Antioch (L), Antioch (J), Antioch (M), Cilicia (A), Constantinople (O), Constantinople (L), Cyprus, Jerusalem (O), Jerusalem (L), Jerusalem (A), Nestorian (incl. Assyrian and Chaldean)

A = Armenian
J = Jacobite (Monophysite)
L = Latin (Roman Catholic)
M = Melkite
O = Greek Orthodox


Modern Iskandariyah, in Egypt. The city, founded by Macedonian occupation in the 4th century BCE, has been of absolutely primary impact to Western culture from the very beginning. Here was the site of the famous Library and museum, and here saw the writing of the modern Pentateuch. See also, Egypt, for temporal authorities. And, see Coptic Popes for a list of those patriarchs.

ALEXANDRIA (Coptic) See these Monophysite patriarchs, who governed not only Egypt but also Abyssinia as well, within EGYPT.

ANTIOCH The city of Antioch was founded in 300 BCE, as the capital of the Seleucid Empire. Located at the angle of Asia Minor and the Levant, it has been a center of historical process from its inception. For the temporal rulers of the city and region, go here.

ANTIOCH: Latin Patriarchs The Latin Patriarch of Antioch was an office established in the aftermath of the First Crusade by Bohemund, the first Prince of Antioch. The city already had a Greek Patriarch, who was expelled and fled to Constantinople. The Treaty of Devol between Antioch and the Byzantine Empire restored the Greek patriarch, though it was never enforced and the Greek patriarch continued to be resident at Constantinople. A Latin Patriarch continued to be appointed until the capture of the city by the Mamluks in 1268.

ANTIOCH: Jacobite Patriarchs The Jacobite Patriarch is one of at least six contenders to the see of Antioch - the others being the Roman Catholic, Maronite, Melkite, Greek Orthodox, and Nestorian candidates. In 544, Jacob Baradaeus (a Monophysite leader) consecrated Sergius of Tella as Patriarch in opposition to the Imperial-backed Orthodox candidate. Although the Syrian Orthodox or Jacobite church, like the Coptic, no longer follow the Monophysite doctrine, and are doctrinally almost identical to the Eastern Orthodox churches, old emnities die hard and the church continues to preserve an independent identity, in communion with the Armenian, Coptic, and Abyssinian churches.

ANTIOCH - THE MELKITE CATHOLICS Like the Maronites, the Melkites are Levantine Christians in communion with Rome; however, their association with the papacy came much later. In 1724 their community broke away from the Orthodox Patriarchate. Their liturgy is in Greek. During the occupation of Syria and Lebanon by the French, most Melkites adopted French as their lingua franca (no pun intended).

ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE For a listing of the leaders of the Armenian Church, an ecclesiastic organization similar in many ways to Orthodoxy, go to the Caucasus

CILICIA: ARMENIAN CATHOLICOSES With the establishment of an independent Armenian state in Cilicia in 1058, the Armenian patriarchate was transferred to Sivas, eventually settling in the city of Sis. Upon the restoration of the Patriarch to Etchimiadzin in Armenia in 1441, the Patriarch continued to appoint a catholicos to govern the spiritual lives of those Armenians who remained in southern Anatolia.

CONSTANTINOPLE Although the Christian community here is not the oldest, this Patriarchate comes closest to being the recognized head of the whole Orthodox world, by reason of its association with the Imperial City. It is not the head, as the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic world; each Orthodox community is autonomous. Nevertheless, these ecclesiastics have wielded an enormous influence among their co-religionists, and to the world at large. For the Imperial succession, go here. For the temporal rulers of the city of Byzantium, go here.

CONSTANTINOPLE: Latin Patriarchs In 1204 the fourth Crusade invested and seized the Imperial City, and established a sequence of Latin Emperors. They brought with them Roman Catholic ecclesiatics, who set up a Roman Patriarchate. The Latin establishment was defeated and dispossessed in 1261, although the Latin patriarchate existed, at least in nominal form, for another 240 years. Here is a list of these western ecclesiastics.

The Cypriot Orthodox Church is one of sixteen autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church. It was recognized as autocephalous against the claims of the Patriarch of Antioch, at the Council of Ephesus in 431, making it the oldest of the current autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. Its This autocephaly was confirmed in the 470's, when the bishop of Salamis was raised to the status of metropolitan and Archbishop by Emperor Zeno. Its independence was confirmed by the Trullan Synod in Constantinople in 692. Attempts were made subsequently by the patriarchs of Antioch to claim authority over the Cypriot Church, the last as recently as 1600, but in vain.

JERUSALEM Perhaps one of the best-known places on earth; the Old City is situated on a bluff overlooking the Valley of the Jordan to the east, a site in continuous human habitation for a minimum of 7000 years. The Christian community in Jerusalem can reasonable make the claim of seniority over all others, since there has been a contiguous Christian presence here since the time of Jesus and his immediate followers. Here is a record of the leaders of that community, at least as it developed into an Orthodox Patriarchate. For the temporal authorities in Jerusalem, go here.

JERUSALEM: Latin Patriarchs On July 15, 1099 the City was captured by Crusaders, inaugurating a Latin Kingdom which endured almost 250 years. A Roman Catholic hierarchy was established in the Kingdom, here are the Latin Patriarchs of the era.

JERUSALEM (ARMENIAN PATRIARCHS) Since Roman times the Holy Land has been home to a large Armenian population; this community expanded a great deal during the centuries of Ottoman rule. In 638 the Catholicos appointed an Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem in opposition to the Orthodox, Nestorian, and other patriarchs already in place. Although appointments were sporadic at times (there are considerable gaps in some cases) the Armenian church in Jerusalem has been more or less continually autonomous since the Muslim conquest.

MOSCOW The Metropolitans and Patriarchs of Muscovy are not among the Four Primates of the Greek Orthodox Church; in fact, the Russian Church is an entirely separate and independent entity from the Greek Church, and has been so since the 15th century. Nevertheless, the Russian Church is of vital significance, not only in it's own realm, but to the world at large. A listing of its leaders will be found under the Patriarchate of Moscow.

The NESTORIANS (the Church of the East [Ecclesia Orientalis]) The Church of the East was originally the Christian Church of Persia. Since Persia was incessantly at war with Rome, resident Christians would have been under some pressure to show that they were not acting as agents of Rome. Possibly for this reason the Church of the East has often distinguished itself both theologically and liturgically from its Western and Orthodox counterparts. Missionaries of this church ranged far and wide across Asia, winning huge numbers of converts in India, China, and among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia (see, e.g., Kerait, Qara-Khitai, and Naiman). The Ecclesia Orientalis is sometimes referred to as the Nestorian church, but this appellation, as discussed below, is somewhat misleading. During the ascendancy of the Mongols, many notable leaders, including Hulegu (the first Ilkhan), belonged to this church, and though reliable statistics are not available, it is likely that this church, whose remnants today number at most a few million, boasted the largest population of any Christian denomination.

N.B.!! The Assyrian and Chaldean churches each hold to different chronologies for the Patriarchs until the early 1700's. This list is an attempt to reconcile the two lists but dates given before 1700 should be regarded as approximations.