Great Moscow Synod

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Defrocking of Patriarch Nikon, an 1885 painting by Sergey Miloradovich

The Great Moscow Synod (Большой Московский собор) was a Pan-Orthodox synod convened by Tsar Alexis of Russia in Moscow in April 1666 in order to depose Patriarch Nikon of Moscow.[1]

It was led by Patriarch Païsius of Alexandria, and attended by Patriarchs Macarios of Antioch and Nikon of Moscow, the Metropolitan of Iconium Athanasius (representing the Ecumenical Patriarch), and Ananias of Sinai (representing the Patriarch of Jerusalem), among many other bishops and fathers.

The council condemned the famous Stoglav of 1551 as heretical, because it had dogmatized the native Russian church rituals and usage at the expense of those accepted in Greece and other Orthodox countries.[2] This decision precipitated a great schism of the Russian Orthodox Church known as the Raskol. Avvakum and other leading Old Believers were brought to the synod from their prisons. Since they refused to revise their views, the Old Believer priests were defrocked, anathemized and sentenced to life imprisonment in distant monasteries.[1]

On 12 December 1666 the council pronounced Nikon guilty of reviling the tsar and the whole Muscovite Church, of deposing Paul, bishop of Kolomna, contrary to the canons, and of beating and torturing his dependents. His sentence was deprivation of all his sacerdotal functions; henceforth he was to be known simply as the monk Nikon.

One of the decisions in the synod was a specific ban on a number of depictions of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, which then also resulted in a whole range of other icons being placed on the forbidden list.[3] See God the Father in Western art for details.


  1. ^ a b Paul Meyendorff. Russia, Ritual, and Reform: The Liturgical Reforms of Nikon in the 17th Century. ISBN 9780881410907. Pages 66-68.
  2. ^ Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 5, Eastern Christianity. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Page 320.
  3. ^ Oleg Tarasov, 2004 Icon and devotion: sacred spaces in Imperial Russia ISBN 1-86189-118-0 page 185