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This article is about the Roman Catholic liturgical book. For other uses, see Pontifical (disambiguation).

The Roman Pontifical or Pontifical, also referred to in Latin as the Pontificale or Pontificale Romanum, is the Roman Catholic liturgical book that contains the rites performed by bishops.[1]

The Pontifical is practically an episcopal ritual, containing formularies and rubrics for the sacraments of confirmation and Holy orders; however, it does not include the rites for the Mass or the Divine Office, which can be found in the Roman Missal and Roman Breviary, respectively.

The Pontifical includes the texts and rubrics which existed in the old sacramentaries and Ordines Romani, and were gradually collected together to form one volume for the greater convenience of the officiating bishop. The earliest pontificals date from the late ninth century. From the mid tenth century, one particular version, known as the Romano-German Pontifical, became dominant, and was widely copied.[2] Nevertheless, pontifical manuscripts were variously described throughout the middle ages, and a pontifical might well be described as a Liber Sacramentorum, a Liber Officialis, a Liber Pontificalis, a Ordinarium Episcopale or a Benedictionale.

Under Innocent VIII, a standard version was published for the use of the entire Roman Rite, under the title Pontificale Romanum. An edited traditional version published by Pope Leo XIII is available online at Liturgia Latina.[3]

The service book should not be confused with the papal annals, also called Liber Pontificalis, which is used by historians of the early Roman Church.

Eastern Christianity

A server holding the Archieratikon for a Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches, the equivalent of the Pontifical is the Archieratikon (Greek: Ἀρχηιερατικόν; Slavonic: Чиновникъ, Chinovnik). This book is often in a large format and contains only those portions of Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy which pertain to the bishop (hierarch). It also contains those rites (ordination, the consecration of a church, etc.) which are normally performed only by a bishop.

See also


  1. ^ Coredon, Christopher (2007). A Dictionary of Medieval Terms & Phrases (Reprint ed.). Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer. pp. 223. ISBN 978-1-74384-138-8.  
  2. ^ A convenient though outdated list is given by Victor Leroquais, Les pontificaux. Manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, 4 vols. (1937).
  3. ^ Pontificale, Catholic Encyclopedia

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.



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