The Notitiae Episcopatuum (singular: Notitia Episcopatuum) are official documents that furnish Eastern countries the list and hierarchical rank of the metropolitan and suffragan bishoprics of a church.
In the Roman Church (the -mostly Latin Rite- 'Western Patriarchate' of Rom), archbishops and bishops were classed according to the seniority of their consecration, and in Africa according to their age. In the Eastern patriarchates, however, the hierarchical rank of each bishop was determined by the see he occupied.
Thus, in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the first Metropolitan was not the longest ordained, but whoever happened to be the incumbent of the See of Caesarea; the second was the Archbishop of Ephesus, and so on. In every ecclesiastical province, the rank of each Suffragan (see) was thus determined, and remained unchanged unless the list was subsequently modified.
The hierarchical order included first of all the Patriarch; then the 'greater Metropolitans', i.e., those who had archdioceses with suffragan sees; next 'Autocephalous Metropolitans', who had no suffragans, and were directly subject to the Patriarch; next other Archbishops, although not functionally differing from autocephalous metropolitans, whose sees occupied hierarchical rank inferior to theirs, and were also immediately dependent on the Patriarch; then 'simple', i.e. exempt bishops, neither Archbishop nor suffragan; and lastly suffragan bishops, who depended on a (Greater) Metropolitan Archbishopric.
It is not known by whom this very ancient order was established, but it is likely that, in the beginning, metropolitan sees and simple exempt bishoprics must have been classified according to the date of their respective foundations, this order being modified later on for political and religious considerations.
The principal documents (by church) are :
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