Nebojša S. Šuletić

Institute for Balkan Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade

Usurpations of and Designated Successions to the Throne in the Serbian Patriarchate. The Case of Patriarch Moses Rajović (1712-24)

Abstract: In the medieval and early modern periods, the metropolitans and bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church were elected according to the procedure described in the Archi-eratikon, the bishop's liturgical book. The procedure prescribed that the archbishop should choose from among the three candidates nominated by the council of bishops of an autocephalous church. Then the elected bishop was confirmed by the ruler. The archiepiscopal (patriarchal) election procedure was not specifically described because the central role in the process in the middle ages was played by the ruler. In the Ottoman Empire, the central role in the election and confirmation of bishops was played by the sultan, but the ecclesiastical canons were not among his considerations. Sometimes persons unworthy of the office of patriarch, metropolitan or bishop were appointed, without the knowledge of or contrary to the will of the synod. In order to prevent the appointment of an unworthy person as head of the Serbian Church, some patriarchs sought to have their successor elected in their own lifetime and to ensure a smooth transfer of office in agreement with the synod. Based on known sources and unpublished Ottoman documents, this paper discusses the questions of the election of Serbian patriarchs, the usurpation of the patriarchal throne and the attitude of the Ottoman administration towards the clergy. It offers a number of fresh insights into events during the patriarchate of Moses Rajović (1712-24).

Keywords: Serbian Patriarchate, patriarch, Moses Rajović, Timothy, Arsenius Jovanović