On January 25 (February 5), 1721 were adopted the Religious regulations replacing the patriarchate with a new collegiate system of the church administration. The single power of the patriarch was replaced with the power of a newly established body – the Religious collegiums later named the Most Holy Synod.
The Synod was now in charge of the patriarch’s departments: the Religious one, the Government one and the Palace one which were renamed into the Synod departments, Monastery department, the department of the church affairs, the office of schismatic affairs and a typography bureau.
The new institutions included as its members the president, two vice-presidents, four councilors and four collegiate assessors. In 1772 the Synod established the position of attorney-general – a civil official reporting to the emperor who was obliged to supervise the church activities.
Under the Synod’s authority were “all kinds of religious affairs in the All-Russian church” such as: religious education, prayer books publishing, churches’ construction, parishes’ establishment, supervising the birth certificates keeping, etc.
As to the legislation, the Synod had the right to make bills on the church administration issues. In the emperor’s absence it could issue and publish laws by itself but only by consent of the Senate.
The Synod had the supreme judicial authority not only over the entire clergy, but also over temporal persons regarding the issues of marriage, blasphemy, heresy, dissidence, sorcery, etc. The punishments imposed by the Synod were the same as under the patriarch: corporal punishment, putting into a monastery under the clergy supervision (sometimes for life), excommunication.
Thus, instead of a single head of the Russian church appeared a collegiate institution which was now in charge of all the issues being under the patriarch’s authority before.
The patriarchate was re-established in Russia only 196 years later under the decision of the All-Russian Local Council of the Russian orthodox church of October 28 (November 11), 1917.
Lit.: Ивановский В. Учреждение Святейшего Правительствующего Синода и его организация при Петре Великом // Ивановский В. Русское государственное право. Т. 1. Ч. 1. Казань, 1896. Гл. 5, § 52; Цыпин В. А. Учреждение Святейшего Синода // Цыпин В. А. Церковное право. М., 1996. Ч. 3.
From the Presidential library materials:
Духовный регламент, тщанием и повелением всепресветлейшего, державнейшего государя Петра Первого, императора и самодержца всероссийского, по соизволению и приговору Всероссийского духовного чина и Правительствующего сената в царствующем Санктпетербурге в лето от рождества Христова 1721 сочиненный. Изд. 1-е. М., 1856;
Духовный регламент, тщанием и повелением всепресветлейшего, державнейшего государя Петра Первого, императора и самодержца Всероссийского, по соизволению и приговору Всероссийского духовного чина и Правительствующего Сената в царствующем Санктпетербурге в лето от рождества Христова 1721, сочиненный. Изд. 2-е. М., 1861;