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Currently trying to create a religion that follows around a dozen God/Goddesses for several cultures based on medieval Catholic Europeans (11th century onwards).

I have based the various deities roughly on those of ancient Greece/Rome with a Gaia/fertility goddess inspired head deity/mother of the gods at the top. This is a little twist I liked but am happy to change as I know medieval society was very much patriarchal and I am still working on that.

I have in mind replacing Cardinals with head priests of the various deities however I can’t wrap my head around how I can create an elected Pope figure in this religion from these head priests with separate patron deities. That brings me to how can I split the power and resources the medieval church had between a dozen Gods and I cant work it out.

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    $\begingroup$ Wait, doesn't TCC already worship a pantheon of dei^Wsaints? (I know, not helpful to what you're actually trying to accomplish, but couldn't resist 😉.) $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 9 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew Good point; the Reformation happened for a reason. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Apr 9 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ @MarvintheParanoidAndroid - Yeah. Martin Luther decided that he didn't want to be depressed alone, so institutionalised his own illnesses. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 9 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ @galactic_analyzer: Catholic means Universal. In Greek. The word church comes from the Germanic bastardization of the Greek word kyriakos, "of the Lord". Calling the organization overseeing organized religion the Universal Dominicate would be transparent to people who know where the words come from, while avoiding the ire of the masses. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 10 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Dalton You do realize you have deities for lost keys, closed doors or safe travel. You have deity that pass your prayes to the bestest highest god that is acutally three deities. And they had pope and bishops, and cardinals and cardinals were "oy, we're cardinals of the dude that make grain plentiful" and made parades and made sacrificies to their deity telling "oh, they gonna pass it to the big honcho". $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Apr 10 at 9:56
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Funny you should ask that... Let me offer a quick and very partial introduction on how the Roman state religion was organized.

It's not a Pope, it's a Supreme Pontiff

One of the titles of the Pope, Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of the West, is Supreme Pontiff, Pontifex Maximus (or Summus Pontifex) in Latin.

This title is old. Very old. As in, very much older than the Catholic Church or Christianity in general; and it has always been the title of the Great Priest of Rome, pagan or Christian.

At the top of the organized Roman state religion, back when Rome was pagan, was the College of Pontiffs, Collegium Pontificum; its members were the highest ranking priests of the state religion; it included the Rex Sacrorum (King of Sacraments), the fifteen flamens (high priests of the individual cults of Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus -- the flamines majores -- and 12 other deities -- the flamines minores), and the Vestals. The Pontifex Maximus was the head of the College of Pontiffs, and thus the Great Priest of Rome.

The title was carried over to the Christian Great Priest of Rome; there has been a Pontifex Maximus in Rome for 27 centuries now.

Aside: the word pontifex definitely looks like it should mean "bridge-maker". Lots of mental energy has been expended trying to understand why the Romans called (and still call) their Great Priest the Supreme Bridge-Maker, whereas actual bridge-makers were never called pontifices.

Octavianus Augustus as pagan Pontifex Maximus  Pope Clement XI as Christian Pontifex Maximus

Left, Octavianus Augustus as pagan Pontifex Maximus, 1st century BCE. Photograph by Marie-Lan Nguyen, available on Wikimedia; public domain. Right, Pope Clement XI as Christian Pontifex Maximus. Engraving by Christoph Weigel the Elder, 18th century CE.

The way the Pontifex Maximus was appointed changed in the course of history.

  • Originally, he was elected from among the members of the College of Pontiffs, and he had to be a patrician.

  • Then (in the 4th century BCE) the election became public -- the Pontifex Maximus was elected by the people, and the office was opened to plebeians.

  • Then (in the 2nd century BCE) the office became overtly political -- the Pontifex Maximus was elected by the comitia tributa (the assembly by tribes), just like the consuls.

  • Then (in the 1st century BCE) the office was subsumed to the imperial power, one of the offices cumulated into the position of the man whom we call "emperor" of Rome.

  • Christian Pontifices Maximi are elected by the College of Cardinals. Even that changed during history, but I won't enter into details.

TL;DR

The Roman pagan state religion did actually have such a position. The Great Priest of Rome was called the Pontifex Maximus or Supreme Pontiff and he (it was always a he) presided over a College of Pontiffs containing the highest-ranking priests of the cults of individual deities. The title was carried over to the Christian Great Priest when Christianity became the state religion.

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  • $\begingroup$ I may be wrong about this but was the Pontifex Maximus not elected from the upper class/noble families and not from the flamens exclusively? my difficulty is keeping the Papal election idea whilst having the various flamens/high priests as the sole choices. I appreciate you pointing me towards that link between both eras though. $\endgroup$ – Dalton Apr 9 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Dalton: That's a detail. How the P.M. was appointed changed in the course of history. Originally, he was elected from among the members of the College of Pontiffs, and he had to be a patrician. Then (in the 4th c. BCE) the office became public -- the P.M. was elected by the people, and the office was opened to plebeians. Then (in the 2nd c. BCE) the office became overtly political -- the P.M. was elected by the comitia tributa, just like the consuls. Then, the office was subsumed to the imperial power, so the emperor was also P.M. Christian P.M.s are elected by the College of Cardinals. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 9 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP So in other words, it has gone full circle. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Apr 9 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Pretty much this. Just dust off the old Religio Romana and Theobobertus is your uncle! Of course, you can't have the cultural and scientific revolutions that came from the Catholic Church, but hey! At least you get a big fancy Pagan Church with all the bells and whistles! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 9 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: Do you think an organised religion that follows a pantheon would not have the same cultural and scientific growth as one that followed a singular God (forget about the trinity aspect for a second) like Catholicism? $\endgroup$ – Dalton Apr 10 at 9:09
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Just loosen the doctrine enough to have the saints and the angels worshiped like gods.

Just as Jupiter was the "CEO" of the Pantheon, in this new doctrine it would the church god to have that role, with saints and angels playing the role of the other deities of the classical religion.

Consider that many rituals and festivities of the pagan tradition were assimilated into the new doctrine, to ease the transition to the new faith system. Therefore it is not entirely fictional to have such a development.

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Some possible solutions:

A godhead: If all twelve deities are emanations of one, potentially unknowable, deity then its possible they might agree to elect a single representor for their religion, who might be expected to behave impartially to each god/goddess.

A cycle: If there are exactly twelve then, for instance, each might have a dominion of a month, wherein the cardinal of that deity presides for a month and makes executive decisions for the religion and then at the end of the month steps down, while the next in line takes his/her place.

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