In the early days of the Christian era, the apostles chose cities as centers for the dissemination of their evangelistic teaching. Here they established churches, which they put in the charge of bishops. With the gradual spread of and the increase in the number of churches, the older church came to enjoy a mother-daughter relationship with the more recently established ones. Its bishop was accordingly designated metropolitan, a term first used in 325 by the of Nicaea (see NICAEA, COUNCIL OF).

A has seniority over other in the province. Canon 34 stipulated, “The of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it.”

A has the right to convoke and preside over their sessions.

A has the right to confirm the election of in his province. The First Ecumenical of Nicaea decreed, “It is, by all means, proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the in the province; but should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent [bishops] also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place.

But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan.” Canon 6 of the same adds, “And this is to be universally understood, that if anyone be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the Great Synod has declared that such a man might not be a bishop.”

In 341 the Synod of Antioch stipulated, “A bishop shall not be ordained without a synod and the presence of the of the province. And when he is present, it is, by all means, better that all his brethren in the ministry of the Province should assemble together with him, and these the metropolitan ought to invite by letter.”

In recognition of the preeminent position of the metropolitan, his formal approval was required by members of the priesthood who requested interviews with the head of state: “If any bishop, or presbyter, or anyone whatever of the canon shall presume to betake himself to the Emperor without the consent and of the bishop of the province, and particularly of the bishop of the metropolis, such a one shall be publicly deposed and cast out. . . . But if necessary business shall require anyone to go to the Emperor, let him do it with the advice and consent of the metropolitan.”

Similar recognition was decreed by the held in Carthage. “ shall not go beyond seas without consulting the bishop of the primatial see [the metropolitan] of his own province, so that from him they may be able to receive a formal or commendatory letter.”


  • Cummings, D. The Rudder (Pedalion). Chicago, 1957.