A character (or several) that leads the religious group they belong to. They can be either good or evil, depending on whether the religion in question is a SaintlyChurch or ReligionOfEvil, respectively. It can be a bit more iffy in a CorruptChurch, since the character may not know of its corruption, or may be working to root it out. The High Priest usually resides in a Vatican-style HolyCity, especially if the church worships an [[CrystalDragonJesus Abrahamic-analogue God]].

A common variation is for the character to be a Priest King, who leads their people both spiritually and [[TheEmperor physically]].

Expect AuthorityEqualsAsskicking to be in full effect in fantasy fiction, especially if ReligionIsMagic.

ThePope is the TropeCodifier, hence why many High Priests resided in Vatican-style cities, worshipped Abrahamic-analogue Gods, and [[ChristianityIsCatholic borrowed Catholic aesthetics]]. Compare the GodEmperor, who usually leads and is worshiped by the religion in question. There is a good chance he will carry a StaffOfAuthority. If the High Priest is also the leader of the government, you've likely got TheTheocracy.

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!!Examples:

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Father Cornello, the priest of Leto's Church in ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist''. Evil.
* The Elder on the Assasi Village on ''TengenToppaGurrenLagann'', who founded a CargoCult around an abandoned [[HumongousMecha Gammen]]. Not evil, but does use his religion to make killing children ForTheGreaterGood more palatable.
* ''Anime/YuGiOh'' has a couple of late arcs in which we start to learn who exactly our main character is and why he inhabits a puzzle, and it turns out that Seto Kaiba, an early antagonist who edged toward NobleDemon since his second return from PutOnABus defeat, though he never quite accepted that DefeatMeansFriendship, is the reincarnation of the the High Priest who served under the Puzzle Spirit three thousand years ago[[note]]in some lost period of New Kingdom history, apparently, unless you follow another translation and make it five thousand, which makes him the Scorpion King or something and doesn't agree with the architecture[[/note]], and apparently only betrayed him because of MindControl from his own dead father, the previous High Priest [[BigScrewedUpFamily and the previous Pharaoh's younger twin brother]]. Who made the magic gold jewelry by ''burning [[AxCrazy Bakura's]] family alive.''
* Knight Carim Gracia of ''Franchise/LyricalNanoha'', current head of the [[SaintlyChurch Saint Church]].
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[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* The protagonist Prometheus in [[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7893756/1/The_Chronicles_of_Utopia_Volume_II The Chronicles of Utopia Volume II]] becomes the High Priest of Pelor, the major god of Light and a major priest of Bahamut, Lord of all Metallic Dragons on the planet of Oerth in Greyhawk where he rules as Emperor.
* ''FanFic/QueenOfShadows'': Sanshobo, as General of the [[ChurchMilitant Kamikiri tribe]], is this for the Shadowkhan and their worship of the Queen as a divine [[GodEmperor Goddess-Empress]]. He's TheFundamentalist, but played mostly for laughs.
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[[folder:Film]]
* In the film ''Film/{{Avatar}}'', the Na'vi tribe Jake meets is led by a husband-wife pair: the husband is the military chief, and the wife is the high priestess. Their daughter, [[TheChiefsDaughter Neytiri]], is to follow in this tradition and be the next high priestess.
* [[http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/03/beastmaster-1982.html High Priest Maax]] from ''Film/TheBeastmaster'' (third one down).
* [[http://akizukifantasycritic.blogspot.com/2010/10/movie-version-of-thulsa-doom.html Thulsa]] [[http://swellco2000.com/tag/conan-the-barbarian/ Doom]] from ''Film/ConanTheBarbarian1982''.
* Sarm the Priest-King in the film version of ''Literature/{{Gor}}''. The Priest-Kings in the book are nothing like that.
* [[http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/10/29/a-dangerous-idea-that-stubbornly-refuses-to-die/ Mola]] [[http://www.imdb.com/media/rm473086720/ch0001075 Ram]] from ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheTempleOfDoom''.
* [[http://limoday.blogspot.com/2011/01/limhotep.html Imhotep]] from the black and white ''Film/TheMummy1932''.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* In Literature/TheBible, Israel went through a period of being ruled by "Judges" like Samuel. God was actually [[AristocratsAreEvil very displeased]] when the Jews asked for a regular king.
** The actual office of High Priest and its duties in Ancient Israel are described, including the vestments to be worn and the proper way of butchering a sacrifice. The office was hereditary and dominated by the line of Aaron, Moses' brother, and of the Tribe of Levi. This fell out of joint a bit after the Babylonian Exile and while the office was restored by the returnees, it was destroyed along with a large amount of the Jewish religious hierarchy during the JewishRevolts. There hasn't been a High Priest since then. The rabbinical class to some degree took the place of the priesthood, but rabbis can't do sacrifices, one reason that modern Jews don't sacrifice anymore (the other is that there is no Temple). There are, however, many Jews who are hereditary priests--the last names Cohen, Kahn, Kahane, Kane, Katz, and others all come from the Hebrew word kohen, or priest, and signify priestly families--and they do still have some special religious duties, such as giving blessings to the congregation on holidays. There is no high priest, or kohen gadol, because the method for selecting the high priest (there were different selection methods in the first and second Temples) became defunct when the Temple was destroyed.
** One [[OneSceneWonder famous example]] from the BookOfGenesis was Melchizedek, a Canaanite priest-king who gave Abraham and Sarah some food and blessed them. He is also noted for acknowledging the Abrahamic {{God}}, although it is not clear whether Melchizedek was a monotheist or merely worshipped {{God}} as part of a larger pantheon.
** ''Literature/BookOfExodus'' has Aaron, as mentioned above.
* High Priest Hughon Ridcully is the High Priest of the Ankh-Morpork clergy in ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'', of the sort that regards actual religious-ness as one of those tiresome things that you just have to put up with when what you really want to concentrate on is getting the pews organised.
** In ''Discworld/SmallGods'' Deacon Vorbis of the Omnian church plots to take over the Omnian High Priest post (The Cenobriarch) and usher in a new age of religious terror.
*** One of the effects of the Prophet Brutha's revelation on the Omnian church was to abolish the Cenobriarch and ("let there be a thousand voices") start a long train of schisms, meaning Omnians stopped running around ruling an empire of grandeur and oppression and the suppression of science and got busy arguing theology all the time and became harmless and handed out a lot of pamphlets. Which is a ''tad'' problematic if you look at some of the awful shit Protestants have pulled in the last four hundred years, but the Disc can be like that.
*** The Omnian in the Ankh-Morpork Watch (we never learn his exact denomination) is actually ''named'' Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets. They call him Visit. Of course, given Brutha achieved his great transformation from stupid youth to politically savvy prophet largely due to absorbing an {{Expy}} of the Great Library of Alexandria before it was burnt down, there may be rather sound theological reasons for those pamphlets. Although Visit was invented before Brutha.
** In ''Discworld/{{Pyramids}}, the main antagonist is High Priest Dios. Although the previous examples of Discworld high priests aren't evil, according to Pyramids, high priests have a general tendency to be evil. "There is no such thing as a good GrandVizier. A predilection to cackle and plot must be part of the job spec. High Priests are much the same way. No sooner than they get the funny hat they start goving orders about feeding babies to the sacred crocodiles and throwing virgins into volcanoes."
* Deacon Hollingshead, the head of the Dominion of Jesus Christ in ''Literature/JulianComstock''.
* Tenar/Arha, the Eaten One, the high priestess of the Powers of the ''Literature/EarthseaTrilogy''.
* Lord Reston in ''JustElla'' by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who is priest to the king (although the king is technically the leader of the church.)
* ''Literature/StrangerInAStrangeLand'' has Foster, the founder of the Church of the New Revelation, and his successor, Supreme Bishop Digby. Valentine Michael Smith, as the leader of the Church of All Worlds, also fits.
* High Priest Jakan, head of the [[ScaryDogmaticAliens Yuuzhan Vong]] religious caste, is a recurring supporting villain during the last third of the NewJediOrder (and was the father of Elan, a one-off villainess from earlier in the series). His boss, [[EvilOverlord Supreme Overlord Shimrra]], is somewhere between Priest King and GodEmperor.
* High Priestess Viviane and Archdruid Taliesin in ''TheMistsOfAvalon''.
* ''ASongOfIceAndFire'' has a [[CrystalDragonJesus Pope-equivalent]] called the High Septon. The ones seen in the series have been fairly bad, including a corrupt glutton who was killed by a starving mob; the glutton's substantially (but not totally) better replacement, who was killed by political enemies; and most recently, an incorruptible, but fanatical and misogynistic KnightTemplar.
* In ''{{Mistborn}}'' [[SmugSnake Lord Prelan Tevidian]] is High Priest of the CorruptChurch, one of the chief lieutenants of [[GodEmperor the Lord Ruler]] and [[spoiler: the father of heroine Vin]]. There is a faction in his church, led by [[WasOnceAMan the Steel Inquisitors]], that want to get rid of him and put the head Inquisitor, Kar, in his place [[spoiler: and they succeed, offing Tevidian brutally before he has a chance to really do anything on-page, though Kar himself is then killed before he can enjoy his new position]].
* In ''JohnCarterOfMars'' the title of "Holy Hekkador" basically means "Priest King" among the [[PathOfInspiration Therns]]. During the time of the novels, it's held by Matai Shang, very much a villain.
* The ''{{Green-Sky Trilogy}}'' has D'ol Falla, described as high priest of the Vine. Since the Root of the Vine is all that stands between the good people of Green-sky and the revelation of a horrific truth, the high priest of the Vine is the ultimate authority on the planet. She lives in the Vine Palace at the heart of the Temple Grove.
* In the ''HeraldsOfValdemar'' series, Karse is always ruled by the High Priest and Son of the Sun, the most recent being Solaris, the first female to ascend the position after the god Vkandis decided to do a little rearranging of the heirarchy with a BoltOfDivineRetribution.
* A few in TalesOfTheBranionRealm. The Hierarchpriest of Cannonshire, while possibly an expy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is treated as a secular position and seems to be second in command next to the monarch, although he/she does have some religious duties. A truer high priest is the Archpriest of the Flame, the kingdom's god, and to a lesser extent the Archpriests of the other three [[SentientCosmicForce Aspects]]. There's also the Essussiate Pontiff (expy of the Pope) and his various bishops and abbots.
* In ''Literature/{{Elantris}}'', ''Wyrn'' is the title of the high priest of the [[ChurchMilitant Derethi]] faith, who is also the temporal leader of the [[TheTheocracy Fjordell]] [[TheEmpire Empire]]; the office is currently held by Wyrn Wulfden IV. Directly subordinate to him are approx. twenty lesser high priests called ''Gyorns'' (roughly analogous to cardinals); the Gyorn [[AntiVillain Hrathen]] is one of the novel's three core POV characters.
* Acatl in the ObsidianAndBlood trilogy is a High Priest of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec God of the Dead. This doesn't give him as much power or authority as you'd imagine; the God of the Dead is actually a lesser deity in the Aztec pantheon, and in fact Acatl was practically disowned by his family for taking up the priesthood instead of the more "honorable" profession of a warrior.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Merlin}}'' has had three. Nimueh was the High Priestess of the Old Religion until her death at the end of season 1. It was revealed later that Morgause had become the new High Priestess, and when Morgana killed her as the blood sacrifice to open the veil between worlds, she became the new High Priestess.
** There was also Alator, a high priest of the Catha.
* In ''Series/BabylonFive'' the Grey Council has three representatives from the warrior, religious, and worker castes respectively. Delenn is in the religious caste making her a High Priestess.
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[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In {{Exalted}}, the High Priest of the Unconquered Sun angers Sol so much, he turned his face from his Exalted, and let the Ursurpation happen without any intervention. Said high priest claimed that Sol backed a tax increase, without having bothered to check with him.
* ''MagicTheGathering'': [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=214352 Elesh]] [[http://www.planeswalkerslibrary.com/images/action/Elesh_Norn.jpg Norn]], Grand [[TheBlank Cenobite]] is the leader of [[TheLegionsOfHell New Phyrexia's]] [[LightIsNotGood white-aligned]] faction, the [[ReligionOfEvil Machine Orthodoxy]].
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' has several:
** Ecclesiarch, the head of the Adeptus Ministorum, or Eccelsiarchy, the state church of the Imperium of Man.
** The Fabricator-General of Mars, the leader of the Adeptus Mechanicus and senior priest of the [[MachineWorship Machine Cult]].
** SpaceMarine Chapters have their own Chapter cults revering the God-Emperor and their Primarch, led by the Master of Sanctity or High Chaplain.
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[[folder:Theatre]]
* GiuseppeVerdi's ''Theatre/{{Nabucco}}'' has two - the [[SinisterMinister High Priest of Baal]], and [[BadassPreacher Zacaria, the High Priest of the Jews]].
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[[folder:Video Games]]
* [[SpellMyNameWithAnS Habaruku/Habalk]] in ''BreathOfFire2'' is the High Priest of the Church of Eva. [[spoiler: [[OffscreenTeleportation He also masquerades as the village priest in the tiny town of Gate.]]]]
* Galius from ''VideoGame/ExitFate'', High Priest of Cento while also Governor of Oischin.
* A handful of characters with this title appear at certain specific points in ''VideoGame/NetHack''.
* The Lord High Priest in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'' lives in a special residence on the Holy Isle of Neos and functions as the spiritual leader of the world's major religion.
* The Divine is the head of the Andrastian Chantry in ''Franchise/DragonAge''.
* The Paranid Empire, a theocracy in the ''[[VideoGame/{{X}} X-Universe]]'' series, is ruled by Xaar, the Priest-Emperor or more formally the Pontifex Maximus Paranidia.
* Tyrande Whisperwind, High Priestess of the Moon and, along Malfurion Stormrage, leader of the night elves in the {{Warcraft}} universe. Doubles as a [[LadyofWar Lady of War]] too.
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[[folder:Webcomics]]
* From ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** [[TheDragon Redcloak]] is the high priest of the Dark One.
** Malack in [[TheEmpire The Empire of Blood]] is the high priest of Nergal.
* [[BigBadDuumvirate Angelo]] from ''OurLittleAdventure'' is the high priest of 'Angelo's Kids.'
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[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The Fire Sages in ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' seem to be this, only 1) there's a roughly equal group of them and 2) they spend most of their time on an island separate from the rest of their countrymen and 3) it's unclear what the tenets of their faith are supposed to ''be'', anyway, besides supporting the Avatar and crowning the Fire Lord.
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[[folder:Real Life]]
* ThePope for Catholicism.
* The Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs.
* Ancient Egypt often actually had these; not of the entire 'religion' so much as of specific powerful cult-centers, since a particular god in ascendancy generally only had one location that was at the center of his or her worship. Since it behooved the ruler to be aligned as closely as possible with the most important of the gods and vice-versa, and since Pharaoh was a religious position, High Priest was often a highly government-affiliated job.
* Constitutional Monarchs bear some interesting analogies to this, being in charge of ritual-of-state while their ministers actually do the business of ruling. They are not always religious in concept though they might have some religious duties. But the mystical air about them gives room for comparison. One or two monarchs actually were closer to being High Priests then rulers, like the Emperor during the Japanese shogunate period, or the Archon-Basilus in Ancient Athens.
** The British monarchy is an interesting example in and of itself, as the reigning monarch is also the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Governor_of_the_Church_of_England Supreme Governor of the Church of England]], though in both the political and spiritual realms most of the actual day-to-day administration is conducted by others.
* While Moslems like to make a point of having teachers but no priests, the closest Islamic equiv would be the Caliph who would hypothetically double as TheEmperor. The office was held by the Ottoman Sultan among his other titles, and became defunct at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Thus the Islamic Caliph like the Jewish High Priest is a theoretical office at the present time.
* Sikh gurus were sort of priest kings.
* The emperors of China were the highest priests of the state religion. The emperor's religious duties, which only he could perform, included sacrificing and making a report to Heaven on the state of the Empire in the Temple of Heaven each year, and ceremonially plowing the first furrow for the planting every spring.
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