Cathedral chapter

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The cathedral chapter (from Middle High German  chapter "gathering, solemn assembly"), also known as the cathedral chapter or cathedral chapter , is the governing body of an episcopal church in administrative and liturgical matters. In modern canon law , they are the clergy whose duties include the administrative and liturgical direction of the cathedral church. The clergy elected to a chapter are called capitulars or canons . When the Episcopal Church at the same time Metropolitan seat , then is the name Metropolitan Chapter - at a collegiate church is the appropriate designation pen chapter .


The word itself was derived from caput ( Latin , head, leader '), more precisely its diminutive (diminutive) capitulum (Latin, small head, little head', later also 'gathering, general meeting, spiritual convention'). This gave rise to the term kapitel in Middle High German ('gathering of clergymen, of monks, solemn assembly').

Another explanation of the term is derived from the common order of life of the clerics concerned : the corresponding rules were read out chapter by chapter during daily meetings . This ultimately gave the community of canons their name - the cathedral chapter.

Tasks and composition

The cathedral chapter supports the bishop as an independent legal person in the management of the diocese . In certain matters it has the right to consent or advice. The body consists of the Dompropst , Domdechant or Domdekan (the so-called dignitaries or dignities), which in individual chapters also include other resident and non-resident members from other regions of the diocese; other offices within a cathedral chapter are e.g. B. Cathedral curator , cathedral choirmaster , cathedral cantor or cathedral waiter . The extended cathedral chapter can include honorary canons (honorary cathedral capitulars) who are appointed by the bishop. One of his most important tasks is to elect the diocesan administrator after the resignation or death of a bishop - i.e. when the sedis vacancy occurs - and to submit a list of candidates for the office of bishop to the Pope . The actual main task of the cathedral chapter, however, is to maintain the choir prayer and the liturgy at the cathedral church .


The cathedral chapters have been in existence since the 9th century, later where bishoprics were founded. They were in the area of ​​cathedral immunity or cathedral freedom , so they were not subject to the respective secular rule over the place of their seat. In addition to the regular choir service in the cathedral , the duties of a cathedral chapter included advising and supporting the bishop in the diocese (spiritual domain) and bishopric (secular domain). In the course of the 12th century, the cathedral chapters formed exclusive electoral colleges with the right to elect a bishop. This right was lost to most cathedral chapters by the end of the 13th century in favor of papal commission and sovereign nomination rights. In the early Middle Ages, the members of the cathedral chapter formed a community that was not unlike that of a Benedictine monastic community. In the High Middle Ages, the communities were mostly organized much more loosely. In the Middle Ages and early modern times, the members of most of the cathedral chapters were predominantly descendants of noble and knightly families.

The Council of Trent put an end to the canons ' attempt to curtail the right of bishops to visit the cathedral chapter and ordered that at least half of the canons should be priests and half should also have degrees in theology or canon law . In addition, it demanded the appointment of a cathedral theologian and a penitential canon and curtailed the position of the cathedral chapters during the sedis vacancy, in which it imposed on them to appoint a chapter vicar within eight days , who then had to administer the diocese independently of the cathedral chapter.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the right to elect bishops was redefined in a large number of countries through concordats between the Holy See and governments. As a rule, the respective cathedral chapter submits a list of candidates for the office of bishop to the pope , from which the pope then appoints the bishop.


In many Lutheran areas the cathedral chapters also existed after the Reformation . In some cases, as in Halberstadt or Minden , the chapter remained as a corporation, but was controlled by the sovereign; in other cases, for example in the prince-bishopric of Lübeck , the chapter, which no longer consisted of clergymen, also exercised secular rule over its share of the bishopric ; so the Lutheran cathedral chapter in Lübeck owned until 1804 a. a. the Stormarn villages Hamberge and Hansfelde. The Lutheran cathedral chapters were dissolved as part of the secularization of ecclesiastical goods as a result of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803 or in Prussia until 1810. Only the United Cathedral Founders of Merseburg and Naumburg and the Zeitz Collegiate Foundation have remained largely unchanged in their legal subjectivity to this day. The cathedral chapter in Brandenburg was restored in 1826 and, after an eventful history, has also been preserved to this day, like the chapters in Meißen and Wurzen as Lutheran church corporations.


Roman Catholic cathedral chapters no longer exist in every diocese. Newer dioceses in particular no longer have their own cathedral chapter. Its functions, especially if the episcopal see is vacant , are performed by a diocesan college of consultors .

See also


  • Michael Bollesen: The Cathedral Chapter in Legal History and Present. Grin, Munich 2008, ISBN 3-638-92899-3 .
  • Stephan Haering, Burghard Pimmer-Jüsten, Martin Rehak : Statutes of the German cathedral chapters (= Subsidia ad ius canonicum vigens applicandum. 6). Abtei-Verlag, Metten 2003, ISBN 3-930725-02-9 .
  • Peter Hersche : The German cathedral chapters in the 17th and 18th centuries . Peter Hersche, Bern 1984 (3 volumes).
  • Eva Jüsten: The cathedral chapter according to the Codex Iuris Canonici from 1983 with special consideration of the legal situation in Germany and Austria (= European university publications. Series II: Jurisprudence. Volume 1386). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1993, ISBN 3-631-46029-5 .
  • Stephan Kotzula: The priest council. Ecclesiological principles and canonical realization. A legal theological study (= Erfurt Theological Studies. 48). St. Benno, Leipzig 1983.
  • Guy P. Marchal : Art. Cathedral Chapter. In: Theological Real Encyclopedia . 9, 1982, pp. 136-140.
  • Richard Puza : Art. The cathedral and collegiate chapters. In: Joseph Listl, Heribert Schmitz (ed.): Handbook of Catholic Church Law. 2nd Edition. Pustet, Regensburg 1999, ISBN 3-7917-1664-6 , pp. 475-479.
  • Rudolf Schieffer : The emergence of cathedral chapters in Germany (= Bonn historical research. 43). Röhrscheid, Bonn 1976, ISBN 3-7928-0378-X .
  • Rudolf Schieffer: Canon . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 5, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-7608-8905-0 , column 903 f.
  • Heribert Schmitz: The legal figure of the non-resident cathedral capital. In: Josef Isensee, Wilhelm Rees, Wolfgang Rüfner (ed.): Dem Staate, what des Staats - der Kirche, what der Kirche is. FS for Joseph Listl on his 70th birthday (= treatises on state church law. 33). Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-09814-5 , pp. 875-892.
  • Heribert Schmitz: Cathedral Chapter in Germany after the Vatican Revolution: Sketches - Information - Stumbling Blocks. Lecture version of the contribution to the day of cathedral chapters on September 10, 1998 as part of the 750th anniversary of the High Cathedral in Cologne. Press Office of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Cologne 1998. [without ISBN]
  • Oskar Stoffel: cc. 503-510. In: Klaus Lüdicke (Ed.): Munster Commentary on the Codex Iuris Canonici with special consideration of the legal situation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Ludgerus, Essen since 1985 (loose-leaf collection as of: 36th supplementary delivery December 2002).

Individual evidence

  1. can. 503 CIC
  2. Chapter. In: Digital dictionary of the German language .  (In the Etymology section).
  3. ^ Wilhelm Volkert : Nobility to guild. A lexicon of the Middle Ages . C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-406-35499-8 , cathedral chapter, p. 45-47 .
  4. Domstift Brandenburg: Leben am Dom