A layman, usually a lawyer, charged with the defense of the interests of the church in lawsuits and in any conflicts with secular authorities. Most of the evidence for the existence of comes from , where they are mentioned by , in 403 ( 12). They are also the subject of a law of (15 November 407), addressed to , , maintaining the inviolability of the privileges of the that had been requested by the North African ( Theodosianus XVI.2.38: see also The of the 217 Blessed Fathers . . . 1956, canon 97). The institution was found in other churches in the West, including Rome (, 1721, Letters 9.3), but no evidence has survived of its existence in Egypt.


  • The Canons of the 217 Blessed Fathers who Assembled at Carthage.
  • African Code XCVII. In A Select Library of Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers of the , 2nd ser., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1956.
  • Martroye, F. “Les defensores ecclesiae aux Ve. et VIe. siècles.” Revue historique de Droit français et étranger, 4th ser., (1923):597-622.

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