The Protos office is assumed by a monk who is elected among the members of the Iera Epistasia (Holy Administration) which functions as the executive committee of the Iera Kinotita (Holly Community) — the governing body of Athos composed of representatives from each of the Athonite monasteries — to be the head of the Athonite monastic community. He wields certain ecclesiastical powers, takes part in patriarchal synods, and has the right to confirm and dismiss abbots, with the approval of the Patriarch of Constantinople, under whose jurisdiction Mount Athos functions as an autonomous monastic republic. In the past, the Protos seems to have been given authority to ordain (cheirotonia) priests, but currently ordinations on Mount Athos are performed by the Archbishop of Thessalonika.
The earliest historical documentation of the office of Protos is from 908. The First Typikon of Mount Athos (the book containing monastic rules and regulations), published by the emperor John Tzimisces in 972, recognised the first authority over Mount Athos which was elected by the monasteries. During the centuries that followed, the institution of the Protos would at times flourish and at other times decline.
In the beginning of the nineteenth century the Typikon of 1810 was published, which assigned the Protos (Primate) along with four overseers and with a holy synod composed of representatives from the twenty sovereign monasteries which make up the Mount Athos community.
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