Primate (religion)

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The primate (“first”, “noblest”; plural primates ) is an honorary title of senior bishop in several churches (especially the Roman Catholic Church ). Certain church leadership functions can be assigned to a primate. In the Anglican Church Fellowship , Primas designates the leading bishop of a province.


Ancient and Middle Ages

Historically, the title of primate arose from the designation of the most important bishop of a province of the Roman Empire from the 4th century onwards . The Pope , who is also the Bishop of Rome, is the primate of the Catholic Church. Later, however, Primate was also the official title for the papal vicars and legates .

The primate had certain privileges, e.g. B. the presidency of the national councils , the ordination of the metropolitans , the coronation of kings and the like. a. The primacy seldom also included limited jurisdictional rights vis-à-vis the metropolitans and bishops.

Since in later times all outstanding archbishops could lay claim to the primacy, "the dignity became completely illusory".

Modern times

The title is usually associated with the most important or oldest diocese of a country or region, although there were at times several primates in the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and in France. The fact that the Holy Roman Empire also included today's Austria explains why the Archbishop of Salzburg still bears the title Primate Germaniae .

In older times primates enjoyed various privileges, e.g. B. they had the right to convene synods in their district, preside over such meetings, and lower ecclesiastical courts could appeal to the primate. In addition, the primate usually crowned the ruler and had the privilege of ordaining the bishops of his area. Primates were also referred to as vicars of the Pope.

The legal basis of the primatial title was a separate papal privilege. In the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917 it was determined that primates only have special rights if this had been expressly specified in individual cases. The 1983 Codex expressly states that the title of primate only entails priority of honor, unless something else results from a special privilege or approved habit (can. 438 CIC ). Certain areas of responsibility are now performed by the Bishops' Conferences .

The primate ranks above a metropolitan archbishop in ceremonial terms but below a patriarch and major archbishop . If he is a cardinal , the rules applicable to cardinals apply.

Catholic primates

Diocese country Period title
Archdiocese of Venice Italy Title management also mentioned around 1889 and 1908
Archdiocese of Cologne Holy Roman Empire from 1052
Archdiocese of Bari Italy circa 1090 Apulia
Archdiocese of Salerno Italy July 20, 1098 All of Lucania
1545 Kingdom of Naples
Archdiocese of Tarragona Spain 1150, 1869, title guidance also mentioned around 1889 and 1908 Spain
Archdiocese of Tuam Ireland 1255 Connaught
Archdiocese of Braga Portugal before 1400 All of Iberia
since 1400 Portugal
Archdiocese of Dublin Ireland 1353, 1674 Ireland
Archdiocese of Cagliari Italy Aug 29 1087-22 Apr 1138; 1456, 1569 Sardinia
Archdiocese of Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Feb 12, 1546 - Nov 28, 1816 New world
Nov 28, 1816 West indies
Archdiocese of Lima Peru 1572, 1834, May 23, 1943 Peru
Archdiocese of Bogotá Colombia 0Nov 7, 1902 Colombia
Archdiocese of Buenos Aires Argentina Jan. 29, 1936 Argentina
Archdiocese of Mexico Mexico June 29, 1951 Mexico
Archdiocese of Quebec Canada 0Feb. 4, 1956 Canada
Archdiocese of São Salvador da Bahia Brazil Oct 25, 1980 Brazil
Archdiocese of Quito Ecuador Nov 11, 1995 Ecuador
Archdiocese of Armagh Ireland 1111, IX / 1152, 1171, 1261, 1869, title guidance also mentioned around 1889 and 1908 All of Ireland
Archdiocese of Funchal Portugal 0Nov 3, 1534 - July 3, 15510 India
Archdiocese of Nidaros Norway 1152-1687 Norway
Archdiocese of Reims France circa 850– Nov 29, 1801 Primate of Gaul
1095-29 Nov 1801 Gallia Belgica
Archdiocese of Sens France 0Jan 2, 876 - Nov 29, 1801 Gaul
Archdiocese of Rouen France 990– 29 Nov. 1801, title use also mentioned around 1889 and 1908 Normandy
Archdiocese of Bordeaux France 1305, 1306-29 Nov. 1801 Aquitaine
Diocese of Nancy-Toul France since Oct. 22, 1602; from 1777 connected with the bishopric of Nancy (since 1823 Nancy-Tours) Lorraine
Archdiocese of Rouen France since July 11, 1458 Normandy
Archdiocese of Narbonne France 0Nov 6, 1097, 1418-29 Nov 1801 Gallia Narbonensis
Archdiocese of Doclea Montenegro 877-927 Dalmatia
Archdiocese of Bar Montenegro 1032, March 18 1067-1078; 1199, Dec. 26, 1523, Feb. 14, 1870, Mar. 7. 19020 Serbia
Split-Makarska Archdiocese Croatia 1199, 1636– June 30, 1828 Dalmatia and all of Croatia
Archdiocese of Esztergom Hungary 1394, Mar. 24 1452, 1869 Hungary
Archdiocese of Saint Andrews Scotland 17 Aug 1472, 27 Mar 1487-V / 1694 Scotland
Archdiocese of Mechlin (Brussels) Belgium 14 Mar 1560– 29 Nov. 1801, title use also mentioned around 1889 and 1908 Belgium
Archdiocese of Goa India 1572, 1606 Orient
Archdiocese of Warsaw Poland 0Oct 6, 1818, Dec 30, 1819 Kingdom of Poland
Archdiocese of Karthargo Tunisia 530, Dec 17, 1053- Oct 18, 1246; Nov 10, 1884 - July 9, 19640 Africa
Archdiocese of Nicosia Cyprus 1196-1571 Kingdom of Cyprus
Archdiocese too France 879-29 Nov 1801 Novempopulana (Aquitania Tertia)
circa 1650 - Nov. 29, 1801 Deux-Navarre
Archdiocese of Vienne France June 28, 1119, Feb. 25, 1120-29 Nov. 1801 Primate of the Primate of France
Archdiocese of Bourges France circa 840, II / 865, 876, 1112, 1126, 15th Mar. 1146, Apr. 4, 1218, XII / 1223, Mar. 18. 1232-29 Nov 18010 Aquitaine
II / 865 - Nov. 29, 1801 Gallia Narbonensis
Archdiocese of Lyon France Apr 20, 1079, 1095, 1116, I / 1121, 1145-29 Nov, 1801; July 25, 1851 Gaul
Archdiocese of Toledo Spain Oct. 15, 1088, 1101, 1118, Nov. 3, 1121, title guidance also mentioned around 1889 and 19080 Spain
Archdiocese of Salzburg Holy Roman Empire from 1026, title management also mentioned around 1889 and 1908, since 1689 by official imperial award Primate Germaniae , all of Germany
Archdiocese of Mainz Holy Roman Empire 780-1803 Primate Germaniae , all of Germany
Archdiocese of Trier East Franconian Empire 9/10 Century Belgica Great
Holy Roman Empire 10th century – 1803 Primate Germaniae , all of Germany
Archdiocese of Pisa Italy May 30, 1091 Corsica
May 30, 1091 - Apr 11, 1176 Judiciary Torres in Sardinia
Apr 11, 1176
Dec. 31, 1198 Sardinia
0May 1, 1138 Tuscany
Archdiocese of Prague Czech Republic 1365, title use also mentioned around 1889 and 1908 Bohemia
Archdiocese of Gniezno Poland 1418, 1513, 1869, title guidance also mentioned around 1889 and 1908 Poland
Patriarchate of Constantinople Turkey 0July 6, 1830– July 12, 1867
Archdiocese of Skopje North Macedonia 06th Mar 1656– Oct 29, 1924 Serbia
Archdiocese of Magdeburg Holy Roman Empire 986-1648 Primate Germaniae , all of Germany
Archdiocese of York England 11th century, 1353-30 Jan 1688 England
Archdiocese of Canterbury England 1072, Apr 5, 1166-30 Jan 16880 All of England
Archdiocese of Uppsala Sweden 1367, 1397, 1455-1687 Sweden
Archdiocese of Eauze France 6th century – 879 Novempopulana (Aquitania Tertia)
Archdiocese of Lund Sweden 1163, Nov 16, 1217-1687 Scandinavia
Tirnowo Bulgaria (Bulgarian Catholic Church) 0Nov 7, 1204-1235; 1277 – circa 1280 Bulgaria and Wallachia


Coat of arms of a catholic primate; green galero with 30 tassels . If it is a patriarch, the green is surrounded by gold.

Most primates nowadays use their coat of arms as archbishop or cardinal , the archbishop of Salzburg has an archbishop's coat of arms in red as Legatus natus (20 tassels, papal legate cross in the middle, left and right of it the archbishop's cross and the shepherd's crook). There is, however, an (outdated) coat of arms for primates, which differs from that of the patriarch through its tassels not set in gold and their connection to the galero .

See also: Church heraldry

Orthodox churches

In the area of ​​the Orthodox Churches the title Primate is often used for the heads of autocephalous churches.

Anglican Church Fellowship

Within the Anglican World Community , a primate is the head of an ecclesiastical province (national church) . As a rule, a province coincides with one or more nation states. The primate can be the bishop of a certain seat, like the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, or is elected from among the bishops at the provincial synod. In most cases he has the title of archbishop. Often his term of office is limited. The office of Anglican Primate arose from the primate title of Archbishop of Canterbury.

See also: List of Anglican Churches


With the Rhine Confederation Act , a sovereign prince was created in Germany in 1806 . Officials in the Confederation of the Rhine were the Archbishop of the Reich and Archbishop of Regensburg , Karl Theodor von Dalberg , and in Hungary the Archbishop of Gran , who also exercised primatial rights.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, Fourth edition, 13th volume, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig 1889, p. 387
  2. a b c d e f g h i Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Sixth Edition, Volume 16, Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig and Vienna 1908, p. 345