Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Primicerius

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(Etymologically primus in cera, sc. in tabula cerata, the first in a list of a class of officials)

A term applied in later Roman times to the head of any administration-thus "primicerius notariorum", "primicerius protectorum" etc. (cf. Forcellini, "Totius latinitatis Lexicon", s.v.). In ecclesiastical use the term was given to heads of the colleges of Notarii and Defensores, which occupied so important a place in the administration of the Roman Church in later antiquity and in the early Middle Ages. When young clerics were assembled in schools for training in the ecclesiastical service in the different districts of the Western Church (from the fifth or sixth century), the directors of these schools were also commonly given this title. Thus, an inscription of the year 551 from Lyons mentions a "Stephanus primicerius scolae lectorum servientium in ecclesia Lugdunensi" (Le Blant, "Inscriptions chrétiennes de la Gaule", I, 142, n. 45; cf. similar notices in Ducange, "Glossarium", s.v.; Gregory of Tours, "Hist. Francorum", II, xxxvii). St. Isidore of Seville treats of the obligations of the primicerius of the lower clerics in his "Epistola ad Ludefredum" (P.L., LXXXIII, 896). From this position the primicerius also derived certain powers in the direction of liturgical functions. In the regulation of the common life of the clergy in collegiate and cathedral churches, according to the Rule of Chrodegang and the statutes of Amalarius of Metz, the primicerius appears as the first capitular after the archdeacon and archpresbyter, controlling the lower clerics and directing the liturgical functions and chant. The primicerius thus became a special dignitary of many chapters by a gradual development from the position of the old primicerius of the scola cantorum or lectorum.

THOMASSINUS, Vetus et nova Ecclesiae disciplina, I (Lyons, 1700); GALLETTI, Del Primicerio di Santa Sede Apost. (Rome, 1776); PHILLIPS, Kirchenrecht, VI (Ratisbon, 1864), 343; KELLER, Die sieben rom. Pfalzrichter (Stuttgart, 1904).

J.P. KIRSCH