Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

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:

  • the "Protonotarii apostolici de numero participantium",
    (members of the college of prelates ), who exercise their office in connection with the acts of consistories and canonizations, have a representative in the Congregation of the Propaganda, and, according to the reorganization of the Curia by the Constitution "Sapienti consilio" of 29 June, 1908, sign the papal Bulls instead of the earlier abbreviators. They enjoy the use of pontificals and numerous privileges, and may also, after examining the candidates, name annually a fixed number of doctors of theology and of canon law;
  • the "Protonotarii apostolici supranumerarii",
    a dignity to which only the canons of the three Roman patriarchal churches (the Lateran, St. Peter's, and St. Mary Major), and of cathedral chapters outside of Rome to which the privilege has been granted, can be raised;
  • the "Protonotarii apostolici ad instar (sc. participantium)",
    who are appointed by the pope and have the same external insignia as the real prothonotaries;
  • the "Protonotarii titulares seu honorarii", who are found outside of Rome, and who may receive this dignity from the nuncios or as a special privilege. The privileges, dress, and insignia of the members of these four classes are exactly defined by the above mentioned Motu Proprio .

See the bibliography of PRELATE.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • MIRACLES DO HAPPEN: Days-old baby girl buried alive pulled to safety ...
  • CRYBABY KILLER: Islamist State fighter breaks down in tears after ...
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Monday, November 30, 2015
  • GRAPHIC IMAGES: Islamic extremist shown being BLOWN UP while making ...
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • St. Andrew: Saint of the Day for Monday, November 30, 2015

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 10:9-18
9 that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 4:18-22
18 As he was walking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 30th, 2015 Image

St. Andrew
November 30: Andrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a ... Read More