A member of the highest college of prelates in the Roman Curia, and also of the honorary prelates on whom the pope has conferred this title and its special privileges. In later antiquity there were in Rome seven regional notaries, who, on the further development of the papal administration and the accompanying increase of the notaries, remained the supreme palace notaries of the papal chancery ( notarii apostolici or protonotarii ). In the Middle Ages the prothonotaries were very high papal officials, and were often raised directly from this office to the cardinalate. Sixtus V (1585-90) increased their number to twelve. Their importance gradually diminished, and at the time of the French Revolution the office had almost entirely disappeared. On 8 February, 1838, Gregory XVI re-established the college of real prothonotaries with seven members called "protonotarii de numero participantium", because they shared in the revenues.
Since the sixteenth century the popes had also appointed honorary prothonotaries, who enjoyed the same privileges as the seven real members of the college ; and titular prothonotaries, who held a corresponding position in the administration of the episcopal ordinariate or in the collegiate chapter. By the Motu Proprio "Inter multiplices" of 21 February, 1905, Pius X exactly defined the position of the prothonotaries.
These are divided into four classes:
See the bibliography of PRELATE.
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