Image: Luther, Serra, Richelieu, Calvin, Alexander VI, Phillaret, Rasputin, Hung Hsiu Chuan


Often the power behind the throne

Most of our clerical subjects were active among the political elite of their times. A few were even devout and saintly. Until the Reformation of the 1500s, all were Roman or Greek Orthodox Catholics. The Catholic hierarchies worked closely with the secular rulers and still do. Western Europe functioned under a duel rule of Holy Roman Emperor, the secular arm; and the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the spiritual arm. The power of this union was greatly diminished following the Reformation and the rise of Protestantism of Calvin and John Knox. The Eastern Orthodox Church remained a powerful political force until the early days of the 20th century. In czarist Russia, clerics like Patriarchs Nikon and Phillaret were closely allied with the crown.  Even mystics like Gregori Rasputin and Baroness Krudener had the ear of their rulers.

The enormous influence wielded by these clerics in the affairs of state would be beyond the imagining of today’s citizens. For the most part, historians see this influence as conflictive if not dangerous. Of course there were exceptions where the influence was a benefit to the state (ruler) with able administrators Like Cardinals Wolsey, Richelieu and Tremblay. Among those we have included, only a minority had totally sinister influence. By and large the negativity could be attributed to a misguided view and was little worse than the secular hear of state of their time.  Many clerics, like friars de las Casas, Kino and Serra were ordered to a life of outreach.