Orthodox Christianity

It is not easy to summarise a religion or major division of Christianity, however this page attempts to give a short guide of origins and ideas which may help you play characters of this religion in the world of Crusade!

Quick Start

The main thing to remember about Orthodox Christianity is both its similarities to and differences from Catholic Christianity. Both are noticeably and obviously different from Islam, as both spring from the same roots and even a century previous the major differences are cosmetic more than anything else. The best way of understanding it is as a series of both theological and traditional differences that individually are not necessarily too different, but together add up to a big difference.

Orthodox (also called Eastern) Christianity is defined most obviously geographically, being the religion of the Byzantine Empire, Georgia, the Rus as well as significant communities in the Holy Land and Egypt, centred on Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.


Orthodox Christianity is ceremonial to some extent and has developed a number of traditions in their services and both private and communal prayer. Churches are well-decorated with icons (images of Christ, the Virgin Mary and saints) and other ornaments, and even the smallest churches bear a number of icons and Communion chalices and plates in silver or gold.

The people themselves are usually devout and pious, and are mindful of their Christian beliefs in everyday life. They pray and attend Church regularly, and the wealthier members less and less keep apart from the lower classes and worship with local congregations (if still in a set-aside area).

Priests and bishops are respected, both as academics and leaders within the community, and there has been a long tradition of even Kings and Emperors bowing to the wisdom and divine inspiration of Bishops and monks.

In general, though people may be led and influenced by charismatic bishops and priests, the Orthodox Church has focused on learning and understanding of both one's own faith and the world around. Laymen are encouraged to become educated and apply their intelligence as well as faith to everyday life - indeed this attitude has contributed to high literacy rates in both the Rus Principalities and Georgia and the Byzantine Empire is known of its open ranks to the broad educated classes.

In Detail

Eastern Christianity

To a casual observer Orthodox Christianity in the 12th Century differed little from Catholicism. Indeed, the most apparent differences are cosmetic and geographic - the majority of Orthodox Christians are to be found in the Eastern half of the former Roman Empire, Rus and Georgia. The theological difference is in rejection of the Bishop of Rome as the single most important and authoritative representative on Christ on earth and some very technical and linguistic distinctions in the Nicene Creed.

In reality, the differences are more complex and the reasons for the division of the Church more numerous and inspired by a host of different factors. While both sides of the Church recognise each other as fellow Christians (and not heretics), the tensions, both real and imagined, are high. It is not uncommon for the less educated or less concerned to regard the other Church as strange, heretical or fallen.

The Schism

The Great Schism originated in divisions and disputes going as far back as the 4th and 5th centuries AD, but materialised into an official break of the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054. Pope Leo IX of Rome and Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople took their argument over the leadership of the whole Church (which Pope Leo claimed for Rome) to the next level and excommunicated each other, formalising the frequent disputes between Rome and Constantinople over the previous centuries.

Many rumours have since sprung up regarding the events and there have been those who have suggested the split was inflamed by shady political characters using magics and sorcery or even Satanists, wishing to antagonise God's servants and put them to war against each other. Though relations have continued being sour, there are those who seek to either uncover the sinister plot no doubt behind this Schism, or otherwise heal and unite the two Churches.

The Patriarchs and Hierarchy

The current Patriarch of Constantinople, and thus the nominal leader of the Orthodox Church is Basil II Kamateros. The Patriarch of Constantinople however, is unlike the Western Pope, and is titled 'First Among Equals'. In practice, as the other Patriarchs - of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria are under the rule of foreign and non-Orthodox powers, the powers of Basil II are significant, in both his political and religious roles.

A Patriarch has significant influence both as religious leader of Orthodox Christians and as a leader of the surrounding community in general. Indeed, the Patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria care for all the population of their cities, whether Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim. The Bishops under them exercise similar roles in their areas, called eparchies or dioceses, which themselves are subdivided into smaller units - the parishes.

Any serious theological or Church decisions are commonly made in Councils, requiring a gathering of all or a significant number of bishops to debate and rule on issues. This has been considered a serious strength of the Church and has helped it maintain a greater degree of unity and authority, able to crush heretical or otherwise hurtful ideas and movements as a whole.


Monasticism originated in Syria and Egypt almost a thousand years ago, and has established itself firmly in Orthodox Christianity in a number of ways. Monasteries are present throughout the Orthodox world in both centralised and highly-organised communities, as well as loose ones far out in the wildernesses, with a number of individuals in nearby locations.

Unlike Western Christianity, there are no widespread orders throughout the Orthodox world like the Dominicans or Benedictines. Instead, each Monastic community is individual and closely connected to the local Church authority. Monasteries are incredibly active and the monks and nuns work hard, both making all kinds of goods, gathering food and acting as hostels for travellers across the world.

Playing an Orthodox Christian

Playing an Orthodox Christian is not dissimilar to playing a Catholic, indeed, a number of the stereotypes can be adapted to an Orthodox believer. As a member of the Orthodox States, you are likely to be a practising Orthodox Christian or even a Bishop.

A pious warrior prays before and after battle, for both herself, her comrades and her enemies.

A statesman or diplomat might have strong beliefs but nevertheless see the Church as a tool or instrument to further his ends, calling on religious values as needed to make his point.

A merchant might invest some of her wealth in the building of a Church or Monastery, seeing it as a proper use for the God-given riches.

A Bishop might be called upon to work under her Patriarch to either spread the word to the masses or further the influence of the Church in lands and states under non-Orthodox rulers. As an ambassador not of a country, but a religion.

eastern_orthodox_christianity.txt · Last modified: 2009/04/03 14:52 by ivan
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