The Full Wiki

Archdeacon: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Archdeacon

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A position of archdeacon is a senior position in Anglicanism, Syrian Malabar Nasrani, and in some other Christian denominations, above that of most clergy and below a bishop. In the High Middle Ages it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. An archdeacon is responsible for administration of an archdeaconry, which is the principal subdivision of the diocese.


Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, the post of archdeacon, generally a priest, was once one of great importance as a senior official of a diocese. It has fallen into disuse, and its duties are now part of the work of such officials as the auxiliary and/or coadjutor bishops, the vicar general, the episcopal vicar, and the vicar forane/dean/archpriest.



In 11th-century England, a diocese was meant to be about 3,000 square miles (8,000 km²). This would have implied that every part was reachable within a single day's ride. In practice, some dioceses were much larger, taking up to five days in some cases to go end to end. Additionally, some had topographical considerations that greatly limited travel within them (meaning that much shorter distances could be covered in a single day than in other areas). The response to the demands of such distances and terrain, and the increasing demands of church business, was territorial subdivision. The primary unit of subdivision of a diocese was the archdeaconry. An ecclesiastical council held at Windsor in 1070 ordered "that bishops should appoint archdeacons in their churches".


The archdeacon, generally an ordained priest, acted as the bishop's representative with the duty of supervising parish priests and churches, for example ensuring they had proper training in how to celebrate Mass and use the proper equipment.

The office of archdeacon no longer exists in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

Anglican Communion

Archdeacons serve the Gospel within a diocese by taking particular responsibility for buildings, including church buildings, the welfare of clergy and their families and the implementation of diocesan policy.[1]

An archdeacon is usually styled "The Venerable" instead of the usual clerical style of "The Reverend". In the Church of England the position of an archdeacon can only be held by an ordained priest who has been practising for six years; in some other parts of the Anglican Communion the position can be held by a deacon as well.

In some parts of the Anglican Communion where women cannot be consecrated as bishops, the position of archdeacon is effectively the most senior office a female cleric can hold: this being the current situation, for example, in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Very rarely, "lay archdeacons" have been appointed, most notably in the case of the former Anglican Communion Observer to the United Nations, Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagoloa-Leota, who retained her title having served as Archdeacon of Samoa.

Eastern Orthodox Church

In the Eastern Christian Churches (Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches), an archdeacon is an ordained deacon who holds a senior position of responsibility and honor on the staff of a bishop. In churches of the Russian tradition, an archdeacon is part of the "monastic" (that is, celibate) clergy, as distinguished from a similar position of seniority and honor, the protodeacon (for married clergy). In churches observing Greek practice (where the title of protodeacon is not used), an archdeacon may be either married or celibate. There is traditionally only one archdeacon within a diocese.

Syrian Malabar Nasrani

The Archdeacon was “the prince and head of the Christians of Saint Thomas” and had such titles as “Archdeacon and Gate of All India, Governor of India.” Portuguese colonists stopped this practice among the Catholic Syrian Christians and Pulikkottil Mar Dionysias stopped this amongst the Orthodox Syrian Christians in 1816.

According to the traditional structure, the Indian diocese of the Church of the East was governed by a Metropolitan sent by the Catholicos Patriarch, from Seleucia-Ctesiphon. At the same time, on the local level, in India, Church affairs were governed by the Malabar Assembly. There was also an indigenous head of the Church of Malabar, which, according to historians, means “the head of the caste,” that is, the head of the St Thomas Christians, but also the “Archdeacon of All India.” Apparently, in his person an indigenous function, characteristic of the St Thomas Christian community, was combined with an existing function of the Church of the East.

The Persian Patriach Thimothy (780–826) called him the head of the faithful in India.


According to the canons of the Eastern Church, the Archdeacon is the highest priestly rank: he is the head of all the clerics belonging to a bishopric; he is responsible for the whole worship of the cathedral church and represents the will of the bishop in his absence. One clearly understands how the appointment of an indigenous Archdeacon of All India served the needs of the ecclesiastical organisation of the Church of the East. While the Catholicos Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon reserved for himself the right to send his own prelates originating from Iraq to the Indian diocese, the continuous governance of his Indian flock was secured by the indigenous Archdeacon serving as the head of all the priests in Malabar and representing the bishop’s will.

However, from the local point of view, the rank of the Archdeacon was more important than this; not only was he the most important priest of the community, but he also fulfilled the role of an Ethnarch. He was “the prince and head of the Christians of Saint Thomas” and had such titles as “Archdeacon and Gate of All India, Governor of India.” The origin and the meaning of the term “Gate” is mysterious. One might suppose that it is a Christological title: “I am the Gate of the sheep” (Gospel of John 10:7).

While originally the Archdeacon in the Church of the East was elected by the bishop according to merit, the office of the Archdeacon of India seems to have been hereditary. It was the privilege of the Pakalomattam family, at least from the sixteenth century onwards. Indeed, we know about a number of Pakalomattam Archdeacons, beginning with 1502, when Metropolitan John of India appointed George Pakalomattam. The name of the family varies, and the family seems to be identical with the Parambil family, translated into Portuguese as De Campo.

The Archdeacon had all the attributes of a secular leader and was normally escorted by a number, sometimes several thousands, of soldiers. It is important to note that while there could be several bishops appointed for the Malabar Diocese, there was always only one Archdeacon, a custom contrary to the canons of the Church of the East. This situation is best explained by the fact that from the point of view of the East Syrian Church structure the Archdeacon was an ecclesiastical function, but from that of the St Thomas Christian community it was also a socio-political, princely function, representing the unity of the Christian nation, or caste(s), of Hendo (India).

See also


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ARCHDEACON (Lat. archidiaconus, Gr. apXt&clucovos), a high official of the Christian Church. The office of archdeacon is of great antiquity. So early as the 4th century it is mentioned as an established office, and it is probable that it was in existence in the 3rd. Originally the archdeacon was, as the name implies, the chief of the deacons attached to the bishop's cathedral, his duty being, besides preaching, to supervise the deacons and their work, i.e. more especially the care of the sick and the arrangement of the externals of divine worship. Even thus early their close relation to the bishop and their employment in matters of episcopal administration gave them, though only in deacons' orders, great importance, which continually developed. In the East, in the 5th century, the archdeacons were already charged with the proof of the qualifications of candidates for ordination; they attended the bishops at ecclesiastical synods, and sometimes acted as their representatives; they shared in the administration of sees during a vacancy. In the West, in the 6th and 7th centuries, besides the original functions of their office, archdeacons had certain well-defined rights of visitation and supervision, being responsible for the good order of the lower clergy, the upkeep of ecclesiastical buildings and the safe-guarding of the church furniture - functions which involved a considerable disciplinary power. During the 8th and 9th centuries the office tended to become more and more exclusively purely administrative, the archdeacon by his visitations relieving the bishop of the minutiae of government and keeping him informed in detail of the condition of his diocese. The archdeacon had thus become, on the one hand, the oculus episcopi, but on the other hand, armed as he was with powers of imposing penance and, in case of stubborn disobedience, of excommunicating offenders, his power tended more and more to grow at the bishop's expense. This process received a great impulse from the erection in the 11th and 12th centuries of defined territorial jurisdictions for the archdeacons, who had hitherto been itinerant representatives of the central power of the diocese. The dioceses were now mapped out into several archdeaconries (archidiaconatus), which corresponded with the political divisions of the countries; and these defined spheres, in accordance with the prevailing feudal tendencies of the age, gradually came to be regarded as independent centres of jurisdiction.' The bishops, now increasingly absorbed in secular affairs, were content with a somewhat theoretical power of control, while the archdeacons rigorously asserted an independent position which implied great power and possibilities of wealth. The custom, moreover, had grown up of bestowing the coveted office of archdeacon on the provosts, deans and canons of the cathedral churches, and the archdeacons were thus involved in the struggle of the chapters against the episcopal authority. By the 12th century the archdeacon had become practically independent of the bishop, whose consent was only required in certain specified cases.

The power of the archdeacon reached its zenith at the outset of the 1 3th century. Innocent III. describes him as judex ordinarius, and he possesses in his own right the powers of visitation, of holding courts and imposing penalties, of deciding in matrimonial causes and cases of disputed jurisdiction, of testing candidates for orders, of inducting into benefices. He has the right to certain procurations, and to appoint and depose archpriests and rural deans. And these powers he may exercise through delegated officiales. His jurisdiction has become, in fact, not subordinate to, but co-ordinate with that of the bishop. Yet, so far as orders were concerned, he remained a deacon; and if archdeacons were often priests, this was because priests who were members of chapters were appointed to the office.

From the 13th century onward a reaction set in. The power of the archdeacons rested upon custom and prescription, not upon the canon law; and though the bishops could not break, they could circumvent it. This they did by appointing new officials to exercise in their name the rights still reserved to them, or to which they laid claim. These were the officiales: the officiales foranei, whose jurisdiction was parallel with that of the archdeacons, and the officiales principales and vicars-general, who presided over the courts of appeal. The clergy having thus another authority, and one moreover more canonical, to appeal to, the power of the archdeacons gradually declined; and, so far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, it received its death-blow from the council of Trent (1564), which withdrew all matrimonial and criminal causes from the competence of the archdeacons, forbade them to pronounce excommunications, and allowed them only to hold visitations in connexion with those of the bishop and with his consent. These decrees were not, indeed, at once universally enforced; but the convulsions of the Revolutionary epoch and the religious reorganization that followed completed the work. In the Roman Church to-day the office of archdeacon is merely titular, his sole function being to present the candidates for ordination to the bishop. The title, indeed, hardly exists save in Italy, where the archdeacon is no more than a dignified member of a chapter, who takes rank after the bishop. The ancient functions of the archdeacon are exercised by the vicar-general. In the Lutheran church the title Archidiakonus is given in some places to the senior assistant pastor of a church.

1 Archdeaconries were, indeed, sometimes treated as ordinary fiefs and were held as such by laymen. Thus Ordericus Vitalis says that "(Fulk) granted to the monks the archdeaconry which he and his predecessors held in fee of the archbishop of Rouen" (Hist. Eccl. iii. 12). In the Church of England, on the other hand, the office of archdeacon, which was first introduced at the Norman conquest, survives, with many of its ancient duties and prerogatives. Since 1836 there have been at least two archdeaconries in each diocese, and in some dioceses there are four archdeacons. The archdeacons are appointed by their respective bishops, and they are, by an act of 1840, required to have been six full years in priest's orders. The functions of the archdeacon are in the present day ancillary in a general way to those of the bishop of the diocese. It is his especial duty to inspect the churches within his archdeaconry, to see that the fabrics are kept in repair, and to hold annual visitations of the clergy and churchwardens of each parish, for the purpose of ascertaining that the clergy are in residence, of admitting the newly elected churchwardens into office, and of receiving the presentments of the outgoing churchwardens. It is his privilege to present all candidates for ordination to the bishop of the diocese. It is his duty also to induct the clergy of his archdeaconry into the temporalities of their benefices after they have been instituted into the spiritualities by the bishop or his vicar-general. Every archdeacon is entitled to appoint an official to preside over his archidiaconal court, from which there is an appeal to the consistory court of the bishop. The archdeacons are ex officio members of the convocations of their respective provinces.

It is the privilege of the archdeacon of Canterbury to induct the archbishop and all the bishops of the province of Canterbury into their respective bishoprics, and this he does in the case of a bishop under a mandate from the archbishop of Canterbury, directing him to induct the bishop into the real, actual, and corporal possession of the bishopric, and to install and to enthrone him; and in the case of the archbishop, under an analogous mandate from the dean and chapter of Canterbury, as being guardians of the spiritualities during the vacancy of the archiepiscopal see. In the colonies there are two or more archdeacons in each diocese, and their functions correspond to those of English archdeacons. In the Episcopal church of America the office of archdeacon exists in only one or two dioceses.

See Hinschius, Kirchenrecht, ii., §§ 86, 87; Schrader, Die Entwicklung des Archdiakonats bis zum Ir. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1890); Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlexikon (Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1882-1901); Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopeidie (ed. 1896); Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law, part ii. chap. v. (London, 1895). (W. A. P.)

<< Archchancellor

Archduke >>


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address