The Notitiae Episcopatuum (singular: Notitia Episcopatuum) is the name given to official documents that furnish for Eastern countries the list and hierarchical rank of the metropolitan and suffragan bishoprics of a church.
In the Roman Church (the Patriarchate of Rome), archbishops and bishops were classed according to the seniority of their consecration, and in Africa according to their age. In the Eastern patriarchates, however, the hierarchical rank of each bishop was determined by the see he occupied.
Thus, in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the first metropolitan was not the longest ordained, but whoever happened to be the incumbent of the See of Caesarea; the second was the Archbishop of Ephesus, and so on. In every ecclesiastical province, the rank of each suffragan was thus determined, and remained unchanged unless the list was subsequently modified.
The hierarchical order included first of all, the patriarch; then the greater metropolitans, i.e., those who had dioceses with suffragan sees; the autocephalous metropolitans, who had no suffragans, and were directly subject to the patriarch; next archbishops who, although not differing from autocephalous metropolitans, occupied hierarchical rank inferior to theirs, and were also immediately dependent on the patriarch; then simple bishops, i.e., exempt bishops, and lastly suffragan bishops.
It is not known by whom this very ancient order was established, but it is likely that, in the beginning, metropolitan sees and simple bishoprics must have been classified according to the date of their respective foundations, this order being modified later on for political and religious considerations.
The principal documents (by church) are:
Church of Constantinople
- The Ecthesis of pseudo-Epiphanius, a revision of an earlier Notitia Episcopatuum (probably compiled by Patriarch Epiphanius under Byzantine Emperor Justinian), made during the reign of Heraclius (about 640)
- a Notitia dating back to the first years of the ninth century and differing but little from the earlier one
- the Notitia of Basil the Armenian drawn up between 820 and 842; the Notitia compiled by Leo VI the Wise, and Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus between 901 and 907, modifying the hierarchical order which had been established in the seventh century, but had been disturbed by the incorporation of the ecclesiastical provinces of Illyricum and Southern Italy in the Byzantine Patriarchate
- the Notitiae episcopatuum of Constantine Porphyrogenitus (about 940), of John I Tzimisces (about 980), of Alexius I Comnenus (about 1084), of Nil Doxapatris (1143), of Manuel Comnenus (about 1170), of Isaac Angelus (end of twelfth century), of Michael VIII Palaeologus (about 1270), of Andronicus II Palaeologus (about 1299), and of Andronicus III Palaeologus (about 1330).
All these Notitiae are published in:
- Heinrich Gelzer, Ungedruckte und ungenügend veröffentlichte Texte der Notitiae episcopatuum (Munich, 1900)
- Gelzer, Georgii Cyprii Descriptio orbis romani (Leipzig, 1890)
- Gelzer, Index lectionum Ienae (Jena, 1892)
- Gustav Parthey, Hieroclis Synecdemus (Berlin, 1866).
The later works are only more or less modified copies of the Notitia of Leo VI, and therefore do not present the true situation, which was profoundly changed by the Islamic invasions of the region. After the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, another Notitia was written, portraying the real situation (Gelzer, Ungedruckte Texte der Notitiae episcopatuum 613-37), and on it are based nearly all those which have been since written. The term Syntagmation is now used by the Greeks for these documents.
Church of Antioch
Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has no such document, nor has that of Alexandria, although for the latter Gelzer has collected documents which may help to supply the deficiency (Byz. Zeitschrift, II, 23-40). De Rougé (Géographie ancienne de la Basse-Egypte, Paris, 1891, 151-61) has published a Coptic document which has not yet been studied. For the Bulgarian Church of Achrida, see Gelzer, Byz. Zeitschrift, II, 40 66, and Der Patriarchat von Achrida (Leipzig, 1902). Other churches having Notitiae are those of Cyprus, Serbia, Russia, and Georgia.