The officion, or office, that each archon bears, stems from the Byzantine period. Through the Ecumenical Patriarchate, most of the traditional Byzantine imperial and ecclesiastical titles have been preserved.
A listing of these titles follows along with a brief description of their historic role. Occasionally, the officion is prefaced with the term Megas or Great denoting that this office had a larger, supervisory responsibility.
MEGAS LOGOTHETIS (The Grand Deputy)
This office can be compared to that of a prime minister or secretary of state, found in modern democracies. In the Byzantine Empire, it was second only to that of the Imperial Magistrate and Court Counsel. Today it is described in the Turkish language as the person who translates the official message of a newly elected Patriarch to the government. During a Patriarchal Liturgy, its holder stands to the right of the Patriarchal throne and recites the Nicene Creed during the Divine Liturgy.
MEGAS RHETOR (The Grand Orator)
This office had the responsibility of Christian education, and was bestowed upon those possessing a thorough theological background and a high degree of rhetorical skill. The Grand Orator, also known as the Master Orator, was in charge of a select group of Christian teachers chosen for their rhetorical skills, and known as lesser orators.
MEGAS HARTOPHYLAX (The Grand Archivist)
In the early Church the Megas Hartophylax was usually a deacon who served as a permanent representative of the Patriarch. He composed and prepared documents, which he could sign in the absence of the Patriarch. He read the minutes of the Holy Synod and was a source of current information on all Church matters. This officer was assisted by a secretariat and was given the privilege of being seated next to the metropolitans and preceding them in processions bearing a golden skull.
MEGAS PROTEKDIKOS (The Grand Counselor)
His office was assigned to protect and defend the rights of Church property and similar interests. He was also responsible for the welfare of prisoners, slaves, and others seeking sanctuary within the Church. Usually a priest, he evaluated the innocence or guilt of persons petitioning for asylum. In these matters, he acted on behalf of the Patriarch.
MEGAS REFERENDARIOS (The Grand Liaison Officer)
His duties were to interpret and present all petitions of the Patriarchate to the political leaders of the state. As such, he was liaison or Patriarchal representative to the emperor. During the coronation ceremony of a new emperor, he assisted with the imperial cloak. The corps of other liaison officers had similar duties, but on a less distinguished level. This office was typically filled by a deacon, but it was occasionally held by a layman.
MEGAS PROTONOTARIOS (The Grand Notary)
This office prepared and authenticated official documents concerning wills, ecclesiastical records, marital disputes, and Church property. Its holder was given the honor of reading the Gospel in Hagia Sophia on the Feast of Palm Sunday and was responsible for the corps of officials assigned to the fulfilling of these many duties. He was appointed from the ranks of priests, deacons or readers of the Church.
MEGAS IPOMNIMATOGRAFOS (The Grand Recorder)
His duties were to serve the hierarchs and record the proceedings of the election of bishops. He also recorded memorandums and read them in the absence of the Grand Archivist. He supervised the corps of official recorders who were appointed from the ranks of both the clergy and laity.
MEGAS DIKAIOPHYLAX (The Grand Jurist)
Initially this office was conferred on barristers or those with deep insight into the law and was similar to that of Megas Protekdikos. Beginning with the reign of Michael VIII (1259-1282), the title was conferred exclusively upon the clergy by imperial appointment. The duties of the Dikaiophylax involved cases of an ecclesiastical nature and required knowledge of civil and canon law. Other patriarchates and autocephalous churches also established this office.
MEGAS NOMOPYLAX (The Grand Lawkeeper)
This office was created by Emperor Constantine IX in 1047 to serve as the president of the Law School in Constantinople. Its holder was an automatic member of the Senate and ceremoniously received imperial gifts on Palm Sunday. The office quickly evolved after its creation and became a mediator between the administrations of Church and state. Some of the most renowned canonists of Byzantium (including Alexios Aristenos, Neilos Doxoatres, and Theodore Balsamon) held this office.
MEGAS HIEROMNIMON (The Grand Overseer)
He supervised daily ecclesiastical functions similar to those performed in a local church, was responsible for the codex of the Church, and was personal treasurer of the bishops. If he was a deacon he assisted the bishop in the vesting of his ecclesiastical garments, and if a priest he had the authority to consecrate a new church and anoint readers. He also had the honor or reading the Gospel on Holy Monday at Hagia Sophia.
MEGAS SKEVOPHYLAX (The Grand Sacristan)
This official was responsible for the care of the sacristy of Hagia Sophia, including its sacred vessels, clerical robes and other precious articles that were stored in the sacristy. Initially appointed by the emperor, the Megas Skevophylax also played an important role in Liturgical ceremony and in the administration of sacred property. The office was an important one in Constantinople as well as in other patriarchates, autocephalous churches and various metropolitanates.
AKTOUARIOS (Recorder of the Court)
This title changed meaning a number of times. In the Roman period, the Aktouarios was charged with keeping minutes of the Roman Senate, much like a recording secretary. The same title was used to signify the Roman official who was responsible for the distribution of military wages and provisions. By the 10th cent. AD, the Aktouarios served as an imperial courier, who, among other things, distributed the awards to victorious charioteers on behalf of the emperor. During the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire, the Aktouarios was the doctor of the Imperial Court, or “Court Physician.”
DEPOUTATOS (Patriarchal Summoner)
His duties were: 1) to issue invitations to the archons or officers for audiences before the Ecumenical Patriarch; 2) to precede the Patriarch in processions; 3) to lead the small and great entrances during the Divine Liturgy; and 4) to seat the congregants holding official titles and offices according to protocol. The office of Depoutatos for the Church of Hagia Sophia was bestowed upon the emperor himself during his coronation ceremony, which was conducted by the Patriarch.
DIDASKALOS TOU EVANGELIOU (Teacher of the Gospels)
A didaskolos was a general term for laymen, monks, or clerics who were teachers, often attached to the Patriarchal School at Hagia Sophia. The Didaskalos tou Evangeliou (like the Didaskalos tou Apostolou) were always deacons and held a rank within the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Teacher of the Gospels interpreted the Gospels and was expected to serve the role of exegete and preacher. Often, the holder of this position went on to become a bishop or metropolitan.
DIDASKALOS TOU APOSTOLOU (Teacher of the Epistles)
This office was also known as First Teacher of the Epistles. Its holder was a preacher and exegete of the Epistles and Acts of Apostles. Most likely, he was also a teacher of theology at the Patriarchal School at Hagia Sophia.
DIDASKALOS TOU GENOUS (Teacher of the People)
This office was created in a later period in Church history, and bestowed upon educated and dedicated men who devoted their lives to the teaching and enlightenment of the people during the period of Ottoman subjugation.
DIERMINEFS (Patriarchal Interpreter)
Both the imperial court and the Patriarch required the use of skilled interpreters. Although most foreign emissaries and dignitaries usually spoke Greek, this official served as the interpreter for the Patriarch.
EKDIKOS (Patriarchal Counselor)
This officer assisted a bishop in his role as a protector of the weak against the powerful. He served under the leadership of the Protekdikos and had similar duties. The headquarters of this office was in the Protekdikeion of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
Initially the Ecclesiastical Exarch was the chief bishop or primate of a diocese and the title was given to both metropolitans and patriarchs. This usage of the term disappeared, however, in the 6th cent. Another use of the title was to denote a patriarchal functionary or representative of a territory directly dependent upon the Ecumenical Patriarch. The term was also used to refer to a supervisor of monastic foundations subject to the Patriarch. In this capacity, the Exarch could represent the rights of the Patriarchate in monasteries and other Patriarchal institutions in different countries. The title could be given to a metropolitan, bishop, other clergy, a monk, or a layman. If bestowed upon a clergyman, he had the right to teach, counsel, establish churches, conduct ecclesiastical investigations, and nominate candidates for ordination. Exarchs from the ranks of the laity were dispatched to collect patriarchal contributions.
HARTOPHYLAX (Hierarchal Secretary)
An ecclesiastical official of Constantinople or the provinces, usually a deacon, with archival and notary duties that grew in extent and significance with the expansion of synodal transactions. The Hartophylax could serve as a permanent representative of his bishop and was authorized to sign certain ecclesiastic documents. He could also serve as a teacher of theology.
HARTOULARIOS (Patriarchal Archivist)
These officers were leaders of the imperial corps of secretaries serving the archives, known as “Skrinia,” and were similar to that of the “Keeper of Documents”, paralleling the work done by modern archivists. Evidence of their role is as old as the 4th. cent. AD. Many departments of the Church had their own archives and, as such, there were various titles given to ecclesiastical archivists, including, Vestiariou, Secreton, Sakeliou, etc.
KASTRINSIOS (Patriarchal Chaplain)
Initially, the Kastrinsios was charged with military duties and was responsible for a military unit (similar to that of a captain of the guard). When the office became ecclesiastical in nature it was charged with the storage and safe keeping of ecclesiastical supplies and its holder assisted in the vesting of the hierarch. He would also bestow the divine blessing upon the congregation by sprinkling from the randistirion, and he would proclaim the arrival of His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, with Eulogison Thespota (Master Give the Blessing).
MYREPSOS (Overseer of the Holy Chrism)
He was and is still responsible for those in charge of the preparation of the Holy Chrism, the oil used for the Sacrament of Chrismation. The elaborate ceremony that surrounds the blessing of the Holy Chrism takes place on Great Thursday of Holy Week, after which the Chrism is dispatched from the See of Constantinople to all archdioceses and metropolitanates under its direction. In previous centuries, this officer was sometimes sent to other patriarchates and autocephalous churches as visible evidence of the unity of Orthodoxy and the ecumenicity of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
This office supervised the legal library, guided the training of lawyers and notaries, and signed their graduation diplomas. He was also in charge of legal scholarships.
NOTARIOS (Patriarchal Notary)
The title stems from the Roman period and refers to persons who served as notaries, secretaries, or other officials who registered transactions and certified documents. The Church, of course, had its own body of notaries and several saints of the Church served in this capacity, including St. Athanasios the Great, St. Makrianos, and St. Martirios. The protonotarios supervised the corps of Patriarchal notaries.
ORPHANOTROPHOS (Commissioner for Orphans)
This office was established in the 5th cent. AD for the care of orphans. At least two early Patriarchs, one of them Akakios, were former Orphanotrophoi, prior to their elevation. In the provinces, the role remained in the hands of the clergy or monks, but in Constantinople, by the 9th cent., the Orphanotrophoi were members of the secular elite, who had some role in the imperial distribution of charity. By the 14th cent., it had become an honorary title and was conferred upon persons who were philanthropic and charitable in nature. Thus, holders of the office were dedicated to the welfare of poor children in the empire.
OSTIARIOS (Ostiary or Keeper of the Portals)
In Byzantium, there were two types of Ostiarioi. At the imperial court, the Ostiarios made formal introductions of guests to the emperor. The title was also conferred on notaries and protonotaries. In ecclesastic circles, the Ostiarioi date back to the period of Roman persecution, when the Ostiarios would notify the faithful of the clandestine place and time of divine worship. Later he guarded the doors of the local church to prevent entry of non-Christians and to dissuade communicants from exiting prior to the conclusion of the service. He would hold the pastoral staff of the hierarch, and with it guard the entrance of the church during the election of a bishop.
PRIMIKIROS (Lay Ecclesiarch)
He signed official ecclesiastical documents for: 1) personal wills; 2) papers of agreement on various matters; 3) certificates concerning transactions of properties and merchandise; and 4) monastic oaths. His authority also permitted co-signing of Patriarchal and synodical documents. He was also the leader of the lower clergy and would chant with the corps of ecclesiastical chanters during worship services. Today he bears the manoualion or candle during worship services in the Patriarchal Church.
It is apparent from the foregoing descriptions that archons in the Byzantine Empire carried a heavy responsibility for the administration of both Church and state. Today, archons continue to serve in ecclesiastic and secular roles: as lay leaders of the Church and as pioneers in business, civic life, education, law, and medicine.
- The source of this information is The Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to whom we are grateful.