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 :
All these Notitiae are published in:
The later works are only more or less modified copies of the Notitia of Leo VI, and therefore do not present the true situation, which was profoundly changed by the Islamic invasions of the region. After the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, another Notitia was written, portraying the real situation (Gelzer, Ungedruckte Texte der Notitiae episcopatuum 613-37), and on it are based nearly all those that have been written since. The term Syntagmation is now used by the Greeks for these documents.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has no such document, nor has that of Alexandria, although for the latter Gelzer has collected documents that may help remedy the deficiency (Byzantische Zeitschrift, II, 23-40). De Rougé (Géographie ancienne de la Basse-Egypte, Paris, 1891, 151-61) has published a Coptic document that has not yet been studied. For the Bulgarian Church of Achrida, see Gelzer, Byzantische Zeitschrift, II, 40-66, and Der Patriarchat von Achrida (Leipzig, 1902). Other churches having Notitiae are Cypriot Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church and Georgian Orthodox Church.