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( Latin collegiatus , from collegium )

An adjective applied to those churches and institutions whose members form a college (see COLLEGE). The origin of cathedral and collegiate chapters, springing from the common life of clerics attached to cathedrals and other important churches, has been treated in the article CHAPTER, where special attention is given to what regards cathedral capitulars (see CHAPTER). Collegiate churches were formed on the model of cathedral churches, and the collegiate canons have rights and duties similar to the capitulars of a cathedral, except that they have no voice in the government of the diocese, even when the see is vacant. Their main object is the solemn celebration of the Divine Office in choir. Already in the time of Charlemagne many wealthy collegiate churches had been founded throughout his empire, especially in Germany and France, of which that at Aachen was the most celebrated. In England there was also a large number of these institutions, and at the Reformation, when they were dissolved, the revenues of some of them were used for founding public schools. The founding of a collegiate church gives the founder no right to nominate its members unless he have received a special papal indult to that effect.

For the erection of collegiate institutions, the authority of the Holy See is necessary. The pope refers the matter to the consideration of the Congregation of the Council, which makes a favourable report if certain conditions are found fulfilled, such as: the dignity of the city, the large number of clergy and people, the size and beauty of the church structure, the splendour of its belongings, and the sufficiency of the income. Although the bishop cannot erect a collegiate church, yet, if the college, owing to the death of canons or other similar cause, should cease as an active corporation but still retain, de jure , its status as a college, the bishop can restore it, for this would not be a canonical erection. As the ordinary cannot erect a collegiate church, so neither can he reduce it to a merely parochial status, and still less has he the power to suppress one. Only the pope can formally dissolve a collegiate foundation. A church loses its collegiate dignity by the will of the members, or the act of the supreme ecclesiastical authority, or the death of all the canons. When the right of an institution which claims the collegiate dignity is disputed, the question is to be decided by certain signs which create a presumption in its favour. These are, among others, an immemorial reputation as a collegiate institution, a common seal proper to a college, capitular meetings of the members under the presidency of a dean, the making of contracts in the name of the college, the right of electing a prelate, the cure of souls dependent on the chapter.

Although collegiate churches are ordinarily under the jurisdiction of the bishop, yet its members are not obliged to render any service to the ordinary outside of their own churches, except in case of necessity or through contrary custom. Neither can the cathedral chapter interfere with the chapter of a collegiate church when the latter remains within its own right and privileges. Collegiate churches are distinguished into insignes (famous) and non insignes . There are, however, no rules given in canon law to discern one from the other. Canonists declare that a church is insignis if it be the mother church of the locality, have right of precedence in solemn functions, be of ancient foundation, and conspicuous by its structure and the number of its dignitaries and members, and likewise be situated in a famous or well-populated city. The canons of a church which is insignis have precedence over the canons of other collegiate institutions at Synods and in public processions. When a parochial church is elevated to collegiate rank, the right to the cure of souls does not necessarily pass to the chapter, but may remain with the parish priest. When the chapter has the right of presentation and its votes are equally divided, the bishop may decide as to which part of the canons has presented a candidate of superior merit to the other. If, however, the merits of the candidates be equal, the decision must be referred to the pope, if the chapter cannot agree after taking two ballots. The chapters of collegiate churches, by common law, have the right of electing or presenting candidates for the dignities and canonries of their chapter. The rights of confirmation and installation belong to the bishop. Many innovations on these rights have been made by special decrees or customs, and, according to the prevailing discipline, account must be taken of the so-called pontifical reservations, or the rights which the pope has reserved to himself, especially as regards the highest dignity of the chapter, and also of the legitimate privileges possessed by patrons in Spain, Austria, Bavaria, etc. of nominating and presenting candidates. These privileges are still in force in many instances.


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