Episcopal see

An episcopal see is, in the usual meaning of the phrase, the area of a bishop's ecclesiastical jurisdiction.[1][2]

Phrases concerning actions occurring within or outside an episcopal see are indicative of the geographical significance of the term, making it synonymous with diocese.[3][4][5][6]

The word see is derived from Latin sedes, which in its original or proper sense denotes the seat or chair that, in the case of a bishop, is the earliest symbol of the bishop's authority.[7] This symbolic chair is also known as the bishop's cathedra. The church in which it is placed is for that reason called the bishop's cathedral, from Latin ecclesia cathedralis, meaning the church of the cathedra. The word throne is also used, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Church, both for the chair and for the area of ecclesiastical jurisdiction.[8]

The term "see" is also used of the town where the cathedral or the bishop's residence is located.[7]

Catholic Church

Within Catholicism, each diocese is considered to be a see unto itself with a certain allegiance to the See of Rome. The idea of a see as a sovereign entity is somewhat complicated due to the existence of the 23 Particular Churches of the Catholic Church. The Western Church and its Eastern Catholic counterparts all reserve some level of autonomy, yet each also is subdivided into smaller sees (dioceses and archdioceses). The episcopal see of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is known as "the Holy See"[9] or "the Apostolic See",[10] claiming Papal supremacy.

Eastern Orthodox Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church views all bishops as sacramentally equal, and in principle holding equal authority, each over his own see. Certain bishops may be granted additional administrative duties over wider regions (as in the idea of the Pentarchy), but these powers are limited and never extend over the entire Church. Thus, the Eastern Orthodox oppose the idea of papal supremacy or any similar supremacy by any one bishop.

See also


  1. "Dictionary : EPISCOPAL SEE". www.catholicculture.org. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  2. "CHURCH OF ENGLAND—EPISCOPAL SEE OF GIBRALTAR.—QUESTION. (Hansard, 12 August 1876)". api.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  3. "Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Little Malvern | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  4. The Church of England, Together in Mission and Ministry (Church House Publishing 1993 ISBN 978-0-71515750-3), p. 103
  5. "Ordinance of William I Separating the Spiritual and Temporal Courts". avalon.law.yale.edu. 1998-12-29. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  6. Saint Augustine, Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (CUA Press 2010 ISBN 978-0-81321138-1), p. ix
  7. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), s.v. "see"
  8. For instance, Communiqué of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
  9. "Definition of HOLY SEE". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  10. "Definition of APOSTOLIC SEE". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
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