With the decline of princes, church leaders quickly filled their roles, patronizing the building of churches and monasteries far removed from the centers of Mongol power. The Rus of Kiev sought refuge in the north (nominally under the Mongols), migrating in succession to Rostov, Suzdal and, finally, Vladimir. The effective leader of all the Rus, the metropolitan archbishop of Kiev, left it for Vladimir in 1300. Rostov, Suzdal and Vladimir all eventually fell under the influence of Muscovy, a minor principality led by ambitious princes. Just eight years after the move to Vladimir, the metropolitan archbishop of Kiev moved his court to the city of Moscow.
The Third Rome. Bolstered by a golden ring of fortified monasteries and towns, Moscow grew wealthy. Guided by such great figures as the sainted metropolitan archbishops Alexis (1292-1378) and Jonas (?-1471) and the founder of Trinity Monastery, St. Sergius of Radonezh (1314-92), its princes paid tribute to the Mongols while forging the principalities of the Rus into a cohesive force.
As Muscovys star crested, Byzantiums declined. Controlling a handful of villages from an impoverished Constantinople, the Byzantine emperor petitioned the pope in 1438 for help in warding off the hostile Ottoman Turks. The emperor offered a carrot: Should the papacy summon a crusade to aid him, he would ensure the healing of the schism that, since 1054, had divided the churches of Orthodox Constantinople and Catholic Rome.
In 1439, in the cathedral of Florence, the act of union between the Catholic and Orthodox churches was formally declared in the presence of pope, patriarch and emperor. Though the Rus representative, Metropolitan Isidore, endorsed the union, he was chased from Muscovy after returning to implement it. Ironically, the de facto division of the churches of Rome and Moscow dates to this period.
Despite the act of union and the papacys promises of support, Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453. Five years later Kiev and much of ancient Kievan Rus fell to the Catholic Poles and Lithuanians. Consequently, Moscow was declared in its own right the metropolitan see of all the Rus.
Suddenly Orthodox Muscovy stood alone. This was a crucial period in the development of the Russian state. Grand Prince Ivan the Great (1440-1505) married the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, adopted the Byzantine insignia of the double-headed eagle as his own, defeated the Mongols and increased the size of his realm. Two Romes have fallen, wrote the monk Philotheos to Ivans son and heir, Vasili III (1479-1533). A third, Moscow, yet stands. A fourth there shall not be.
Vasilis son and heir, Ivan the Terrible (1530-84), ruthlessly absorbed the lesser Rus principalities and cemented the concept of Muscovy as Byzantiums successor, formally adopting the title of tsar (Slavonic for caesar) when crowned in 1547. Russias tsars, from Ivan the Terrible to Nicholas II (1868-1918), understood they were the protectors of Byzantiums autocracy and Orthodoxy.
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