- Catholicism: The Pope
- Orthodox Christianity: The Ecumenical Patriarch
- Coptic Christianity: The Coptic Pope
- Nestorian Christianity: Patriarch of The East
- Sunni Islam: The Sunni Caliph
- Shia Islam: The Shia Caliph
Unreformed Pagans have no religious head, although they can create one by reforming the religion, called the High Priest or (for Germanic) Fylkir. Some heresies also have heads, not all of which exist at game start but can be created by decision. Some religious head titles cannot be destroyed, but are always held by some character; for some heresies, frequently the only character of that religion is its head. Indian religions also have no religious head.
In most religions the religious head is part of the clergy. In Islam and reformed Germanic paganism he is a noble who often wields considerable secular power. Religious heads may grant divorces, call Crusades, jihads and great holy wars (except Orthodox and Coptic and their heresies), and sanction invasions. The Christian religious heads can also excommunicate members of their church.
There is also a separate but related concept of a character's religious head, which is not always the same as the religion's head. This is particularly important for Orthodox and Coptic Christianity, which have autocephalous patriarchs; they have limited power compared to other heads. It is also relevant for Catholicism when Antipopes exist.
The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, residing in Rome and usually holding the county of Rome itself. His title has the rank of king, so he cannot be vassalised except by an emperor. The Sons of Abraham expansion added a number of unique features to the Papacy.
Opinion of Bishops
Catholic bishops will withhold levies to their secular liege and pay taxes to the Pope/Antipope if they like the Pope/antipope more than their secular liege. If their opinion is +100 to both their secular liege and the Pope/antipope , they will still withhold levies and taxes.
- Main article: Papal succession
The Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals. In-game, there are nine cardinals at a time, and when the Pope dies, the cardinals elect one among their number to replace him. Vacant cardinal positions are awarded to bishops based on their total suitability score. This is calculated based on the age, traits, culture, and secular power (rank and number of titles held) of the candidate, as well as the Pope's opinion of the bishop's liege. Rulers may invest in a campaign fund to increase the chance that their candidate will be chosen.
The cardinals choose the next Pope based on a similar ranking system, which rulers cannot directly influence. However, Popes who received votes from cardinals from a particular ruler's realm will have a massive +100 relations modifier per vote received.
Catholic leaders in good standing with the Pope can call upon him for special favors. Most of these require the Sons of Abraham DLC; the exceptions are divorce, excommunication and invasion. Most favors reduce the Pope's opinion of you (for 20 years). The piety costs of papal favors are halved if your primary title has papal investiture.
Hostile favors (claims, invasions, and excommunications) require that the target follow the same religious head. They will only be granted if the head severely dislikes the target, unless you are the liege (or above) of the head. The Pope will deny hostile requests if the target controls more cardinals than you do, or if you have free investiture and the target does not. The Pope will not accept requests from counts to excommunicate or claim titles from kings ("Too low rank to request this").
|Ask to nominate bishop|| 50 gold
|Primary title must have papal investiture.|
|Ask for divorce||100 piety||-10||Spouse's family unhappy. Costs to requester, including papal opinion penalty, are negated in the case of spousal infidelity.|
|Ask for claim||100 piety||-15||You can request a claim on a county or duchy by pressing the "Claim" button on its title screen. Not usable on titles held by clergy, burghers, or patricians. Not usable on titular duchies.|
|Ask for excommunication||100 piety||-25||Moral authority > 40%|
|Ask to lift excommunication||50 piety||-25|
|Ask for money||100 piety||-50||Gives double ruler's annual income.|
|Ask for invasion||500 piety||-100||Gives you a Sanctioned Invasion CB, which you do not have to use immediately. Moral authority > 50%|
|Ask for crusade||500 piety||-200||See Requesting a crusade for all requirements. Moral authority > 5%|
- Main article: Antipope
Antipopes are a special feature of Catholicism. They are bishops controlled by a ruler, and hold a rival claim to the papacy.
If the Sons of Abraham DLC is active and Rome is held by a Fraticelli ruler, that ruler can, by decision, create the Fraticelli Papacy for a cost of 1000 piety. The Fraticelli religion works just like Catholicism, except that the Fraticelli Pope is duke-tier instead of king-tier.
- Main article: Autocephaly
Some Christian religions have a feature called autocephaly with intermediate religious heads called Patriarchs, autonomous in their jurisdiction, but reporting to an overall head.
The following religions use autocephaly and have the associated overall religious head:
- Orthodox: The Ecumenical Patriarch (usually in Constantinople)
- Coptic: The Coptic Pope (usually in Alexandria)
- Monophysite: The Monophysite Pope (usually in Alexandria)
- Nestorian: The Patriarch of the East (usually in Antioch)
- Monothelite: The Monothelite Patriarch (usually in Antioch)
- Iconoclast: The Iconoclast Patriarch (in Constantinople, if formed)
- Paulican: The Paulican Patriarch (usually in Constantinople)
These always exist, except that no one holds the Iconoclast Patriarchate initially; if you have the Sons of Abraham DLC, the Iconoclast Patriarch can be created decision by the liege of the Bishop/Patriarch of Constantinople if both are Iconoclast.
One exception is in 769, where the nobles and Baselius of the Byzantine Empire are Iconoclast, where Constantinople (the bishopric) is held by the Iconoclast Patriarch. However, any Byzantine Emperor who is not Zealous can denounce Iconoclasty, converting him and the Patriarch to Orthodoxy (destroying the Iconoclast Patriarchy and granting him the Ecumenical Patriarchy in the process). Until this decision is taken, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist.
Another exception is when the title is destroyed using a CB that destroys titles, such as the Tribal Invasion CB. The Ecumenical Patriarchy can still be restored via a decision, provided an Orthodox ruler controls Constantinople. This will grant both the bishopric and the top level holding of Constantinople to the new Patriarch, and grant him independence.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is king-tier, and is usually the Byzantine Emperor's vassal and religious head (so he cannot appoint an autocephalous patriarch, but he has all the benefits of one); the rest are duke-tier.
Bogomilism, though a heresy of Orthodoxy, has no head. The same applies to Messalianism.
The Patriarchate has a unique mechanic of usurping their capital barony. The only requirement for this is that the bishopric in question is held by a character of the same religion as their head.
Upon doing so:
- they will receive the barony in question
- if the barony was the capital of a county, they will obtain the county title and all other baronies associated with it
- will become the vassal of the lowest-ranked ruler that can vassalize them
An example of the above: The Bishopric of Alexandria is currently held by a Coptic character. His lieges are, in order, the Count of Alexandria, the Duke of Alexandria, the King of Egypt, and the Emperor of Arabia, all different characters. (Their religion does not matter.) Once the Coptic Pope usurps the Bishopric of Alexandria from the current Bishop, he will become a vassal - however because Counts and Dukes cannot hold Dukes as vassals, he breaks the vassal contract with the Count of Alexandria and Duke of Alexandria and becomes the direct vassal of the King of Egypt, and consequently an indirect vassal of the Emperor of Arabia.
In a similar example with the Ecumenical Patriarch and Constantinople, he would instead be the direct vassal of the Emperor of Byzantium instead of the King of Greece, as Kings cannot vassalize Kings.
Mending the Great Schism
If all five seats of the pentarchy (Constantinople, Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch) are controlled by Orthodox bishops who are all, along with the religious head, vassals (direct or indirect) of an independent ruler of the same religion, this liege has a decision to mend the Great Schism. This gives all Catholic characters the opportunity to convert to Orthodoxy and makes Catholicism and its heresies into heresies of Orthodoxy. This will not happen to Miaphytism or Nestorianism, however, likely because these branches of Christianity broke off before the Great Schism.
Iconoclasts, Paulicians, and Monothelites can also mend the schism if one of these heresies manages to replace Orthodoxy as the parent religion. Bogomilists, having no religious head, cannot mend the schism. Miaphysites, Nestorians, and their heresies, though they use the same mechanics as Orthodoxy, cannot mend the schism either.
Even though the Iconoclast, Paulician, and Monotheilite Patriarchs can mend the Schism if they are orthodox, the Schism cannot be mended if Catholicism is heretical. This is due to the fact that if Catholicism (the entity that caused the Schism) is heretical and replaced by one of their heresies, there is no longer a Schism to mend.
A Muslim religious head is known as a Caliph, a political and religious successor to the prophet Mohammad. Unlike Papacies and Patriarchates, which mainly hold religious authority and are usually regional secular powers at best, caliphates are often large feudal lands ruled by noble lords. This means one can play as the Caliph and call Jihads against enemy religions.
Caliphates are strongly tied to the primary title:
- When the primary title of a secular religious head is usurped, the religious head title is usurped as well. For example, taking the Arabian Empire may also make you the Sunni Caliph, as long as you are also Sunni.
- Characters of other religions are disqualified from the ruler's succession.
- Caliphates are destroyed if their holder becomes unlanded.
Abilities of caliphs
Muslim religious heads (including the Yazidi and Hurufi Sheikhs) gain access to two powerful CBs. You can use Caliphal Subjugation to take Kingdom-tier territories from rulers of the same religion, so long as you either border the kingdom or own land in it. (You retain the Muslim Invasion CB against everyone else.) You also have the ability to call great Jihads every 30 years, which upon success both increase your religion's Moral Authority and potentially give you large amounts of land.
The disadvantages of being Caliph are minor. Your character's Diplomacy and Piety count for your religion's Moral Authority, so if your character is impious or antisocial you may have hard time converting provinces, and heretics will pop up more often. The Caliphate or Sheikhdom counts as a duchy title, discouraging you from holding two de jure duchies. If your diplomacy and intrigue are both very low, you may be at risk of becoming known as a Wicked Caliph .
Creating a caliphate
A Muslim ruler who meets special requirements can create a caliphate for their branch of Islam.
- No caliph exists for this branch of Islam.
- Independent, or all lieges follow the same branch of Islam.
- For Shia: there is not an ongoing Shia caliphate revolt.
- For Shia, Sunni, Ibadi, or Hurufi:
- For Yazidi:
- 1000 piety and the de-jure capital county of Mosul.
- For Kharijite:
- 1000 piety AND (control Mecca AND control Medina) OR (control Baghdad AND control Damascus AND control Jerusalem)
Players who meet all requirements will see a Title can be created alert. Players who are unsure which requirements are unmet can open the Religion tab, click the crown icon under "No Head", and hover the "Create Title" button.
Getting the Sayyid trait into a dynasty without Ruler Designer requires matrilineal marriage. This is difficult because Muslims normally cannot marry matrilineally nor suggest matrilineal marriages. With Conclave DLC, matrilineal marriage becomes possible if you reach at least Notable Status of Women and then switch to a non-agnatic form of succession.
With The Old Gods DLC, Zoroastrians can restore their ancient religion to prominence by retaking the Persian Empire and appointing a Moabadan-Moabad (Priest of Priests) who will function thereafter as a religious head. A notable feature of the Moabadan-Moabad is his ability to call Great Holy Wars without having to wait until the 11th or 12th century like Christians, Muslims or Reformed Pagans.
Reforming Pagan Religions
It is also possible in The Old Gods to reform Pagan religions. The ruler who forms it and his direct vassals, demense, and courtiers will automatically convert, other rulers have the option of conversion. This has the following effects:
- The old, unreformed religion has "old" in front of it, showing that it's the unreformed version. e.g. "Old Tengri".
- The religion becomes organised, getting a permanent +20% moral authority, which makes conversion of others easier and makes them less prone to conversion to other religions.
- The religion gets a head. This is a duke-tier vassal like an Orthodox Patriarch, except the Germanic Fylkir who is a secular ruler like the Muslim Caliphs. The leader can call Great Holy Wars (which are Crusades with a different name), so long as either the Christian Crusades or the Muslim Jihads are unlocked. Once a Great Holy War has been unlocked for one Pagan type, they are unlocked for all Pagan types.
- If the Player has the relevant DLC, the reformed faith gets a Holy Order. The Germanic Jomsvikings require The Old Gods, the Zunist Sun Warriors require Charlemagne, and all others require Sons of Abraham. (Note that the Jomsvikings may form on their own after the year 920, even if the faith is not reformed.)
- Rulers gain access to a modified Holy War casus belli, requiring 100 piety but having only a 5 year truce and usable against anyone of a different religion, including reformed and unreformed Pagans of a different religion.
- Rulers lose access to the Subjugation casus belli.
- Religions that get a defensive attrition bonus (all but Tengri and Aztec) lose it, but holdings keep their levy/garrison size and strength bonuses.
- Feudal rulers may set Crown Authority higher than Low.
- Tribal Pagan rulers do not receive opinion penalties from Reformed Pagan vassals, can have Gavelkind succession (along with Elective Gavelkind), and may settle to either feudalism or a Merchant Republic so long as they meet other requirements.
- Feudal rulers may use succession laws other than gavelkind (and ultimogeniture for Mongols), so long as they meet crown authority requirements.
- Independence wars no longer have increased ticking warscore, making them harder to win. This is bad for vassals, but good for rulers.
- The "short reign" opinion penalty returns to its normal level (50% higher than other religions when unreformed).
- Germanic, Tengri, and Aztec rulers lose the prestige penalties for being at peace, but gain the usual opinion penalties for raising vassal levies.
It is possible to reform any of the Pagan religions except the generic Pagan and Hellenic religions. This requires 750 piety and either owning all five Holy Sites or owning three and having 50% moral authority.
A Jew who restores the Kingdom of Israel can, by decision, reinstate the office of Kohen Gadol, or High Priest. Like the Zoroastrian religious leader, the Kohen Gadol can call Great Holy Wars as soon as his office is reinstated.