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Title: Protopope  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Avvakum, Dragiša Stojadinović, Samuil Micu-Klein, Sydir Vorobkevych, Alexandru Baltagă
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A Protopope, or Protopresbyter, is a priest of higher rank in the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches, corresponding in general to the Western archpriest or Latin dean.


  • History 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5


The rights and duties of these dignitaries have varied to some extent at different times and in different local Churches. Roughly, the titles archpriest (in Greek ἀρχιπρεσβὐτερος archipresbyteros), protoiereus (πρωτοιερεύς protoiereus, πρωτοπρεσβύτερος protopresbyteros), protopope may be taken as meaning the same thing, though they have occasionally been distinguished.

The general idea is that the archpriest has the highest rank in his order; he comes immediately after the bishop. In the fifth century he appears as head of the college of priests, as the bishop's delegate for certain duties of visitation and canonical judgment, as his representative in case of absence or death (sede vacante).[1] He therefore combined the offices of the Roman Catholic dean of the chapter, vicar-general and vicar capitular. The title recurs constantly in the Early Middle Ages.[2]

At tou bematos, in authority] holding the second place after the pontiff" (De Officiis, I, quoted by Goar 237).

Distinct from the official of the patriarchal court, though bearing the same title, were the protopopes in the country parishes. They correspond to Catholic rural deans, having delegate episcopal jurisdiction for minor cases, from which appeal may be made to the bishop. So Theodore Balsamon (twelfth century): "It is forbidden by the canons that there should be bishops in small towns and villages, and because of this they ordain for these priests who are protopopes and chorepiscopi" (Syntagma, III, 142). There are cases in which a protopope in a remote place has episcopal jurisdiction, but not orders, like some vicars Apostolic, or the archpriests in England from 1599 to 1621. In such cases they are distinguished from archpriests and have such officials under them (so the introduction to Nicholas Bulgaris' "Sacred Catechism", Venice, l681).

In modern times the Orthodox (and Eastern Catholic) title of protopope often means hardly more than a complimentary title conveying a certain rank and precedence with sometimes a few unimportant rights. Often in a church that has several priests (as we should say a rector and curates) the first (rector) is called protopope. In imperial Russia, royal Bulgaria, royal Rumania and Habsburg Austria the protopopes had authority over a district containing several parishes which they had to visit occasionally, representing for the clergy the court of first instance. In Orthodox Hungary and Transylvania there are protopresbyterates (eparchies), in which the protopope is elected by clergy and people and rules under the bishop. In these cases he may be compared to our rural deans. Such an office is the highest to which a married Orthodox priest may aspire, since bishops are always monks. In Russia the protopope (protoierei) sometimes wears the Byzantine mitre (but without a cross atop it) and epigonation, but not the omophorion or sakkos.

See also


  • Jacques Goar, Euchologion (Venice, 1730)
  • Bingham, Origines sive antiquitates ecclesiastic (London, 1723)
  • Milasch, Das Kirchenrecht der morgenländischen Kirche (2nd ed., Mostar, 1905)
  • Knie, Die russisch-schismatische Kirche (Graz, 1894).


  1. ^ So Liberatus: "Breviarium", XIV (Patrologia Latina LXVIII, 1016.
  2. ^ Bingham, op. cit., I, 292 sqq.

External links



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