Provost (religion)
A provost is a senior official in a number of Christian
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...


Historical Development

The word praepositus (Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

: "set over", from praeponere, "to place in front") was originally applied to any ecclesiastical ruler or dignitary. It was soon more specifically applied to the immediate subordinate to the abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 of a monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

, or to the superior of a single cell
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

, and it was defined as such in the Rule of St Benedict
Rule of St Benedict
The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Since about the 7th century it has also been adopted by communities of women...

. The dean (decanus) was a similarly ranked official. Chrodegang of Metz
Chrodegang of Metz
Saint Chrodegang was the Frankish Bishop of Metz from 742 or 748 until his death.-Biography:He was born in the early eighth century at Hesbaye of a noble Frankish family that via his mother Landrada was related to the Robertians, and died at Metz, March 6, 766.He was educated at the court of...

 adopted this usage from the Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

s when he introduced the monastic organization of cathedral chapter
Cathedral chapter
In accordance with canon law, a cathedral chapter is a college of clerics formed to advise a bishop and, in the case of a vacancy of the episcopal see in some countries, to govern the diocese in his stead. These councils are made up of canons and dignitaries; in the Roman Catholic church their...

s. The provostship (praepositura) was normally held by the archdeacon
An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in Anglicanism, Syrian Malabar Nasrani, Chaldean Catholic, and some other Christian denominations, above that of most clergy and below a bishop. In the High Middle Ages it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church...

, while the office of dean was held by the archpriest
An archpriest is a priest with supervisory duties over a number of parishes. The term is most often used in Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Churches, although it may be used in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church instead of dean or vicar forane.In the 16th and 17th centuries, during...

. In many cathedrals, the temporal duties of the archdeacons made it impossible for them to fulfil those of the provostship, and the headship of the chapter thus fell to the dean.

The title became prevost in Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

, and then prévôt in modern French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, before being adopted as "provost" in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...



In Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 a "provst" is the leader of a "provsti", an administrative territorial unit which comprises several parishes (Danish: Sogn). The "Provst" is the immediate superior of the parish priest (Danish: Sognepræst) but wil in the same time usually himself be a parish priest in one of the parishes. In turn, several "provstier" (plural) make up a Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 (Danish: Stift).


Besides today's prevailing spelling of Propst, especially in historical respect the spelling Probst may also occur. Military chaplain
Military chaplain
A military chaplain is a chaplain who ministers to soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and other members of the military. In many countries, chaplains also minister to the family members of military personnel, to civilian noncombatants working for military organizations and to civilians within the...

s, both Catholic and Protestant, have also used the title (e.g. Feldpropst in Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...


Anglican Church

In England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, the title of provost in cathedrals was almost completely replaced by that of dean, although sometimes when a bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 nominated himself as dean of his own cathedral, a provost was appointed as his deputy.

In cathedrals which were also parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

es, however, especially the newly-created cathedrals of the 19th and 20th centuries, the senior priest (who was also the parish priest) continued to be known as the provost. This title was used by the head priests of Birmingham Cathedral
St Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham
The Cathedral Church of Saint Philip is the Church of England cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Birmingham. Built as a parish church and consecrated in 1715, St Philip's became the cathedral of the newly formed Diocese of Birmingham in the West Midlands in 1905...

, Blackburn Cathedral
Blackburn Cathedral
Blackburn Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral Church of Blackburn Saint Mary the Virgin, is a cathedral situated in the heart of Blackburn town centre, in Lancashire, England...

, Bradford Cathedral
Bradford Cathedral
Bradford Cathedral , full name Cathedral Church of St Peter, is situated in the heart of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England, on a site used for Christian worship since the 8th century when missionaries based in Dewsbury evangelised the region...

, Chelmsford Cathedral
Chelmsford Cathedral
Chelmsford Cathedral in the county town of Chelmsford, Essex, England is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, St Peter and St Cedd. It became a cathedral when the Anglican Diocese of Chelmsford was created in 1914 and is the seat of the Bishop of Chelmsford....

, Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral, also known as St Michael's Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, in Coventry, West Midlands, England. The current bishop is the Right Revd Christopher Cocksworth....

, Derby Cathedral
Derby Cathedral
The Cathedral of All Saints , is a cathedral church in the City of Derby, England. It is the seat of the Bishop of Derby, and with an area of around is the smallest Anglican cathedral in England.-History:...

, Leicester Cathedral
Leicester Cathedral
Leicester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Martin, Leicester is a Church of England cathedral in the English city of Leicester, and the seat of the Bishop of Leicester...

, Newcastle Cathedral
Newcastle Cathedral
St Nicholas's Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Its full title is The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas Newcastle upon Tyne...

, Portsmouth Cathedral
Portsmouth Cathedral
The Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Portsmouth, commonly known as Portsmouth Cathedral, is the Church of England cathedral of the City of Portsmouth, England and is located in the heart of Old Portsmouth...

, St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, Sheffield Cathedral
Sheffield Cathedral
Sheffield Cathedral is the cathedral church for the Church of England diocese of Sheffield, England. Originally a parish church, it was elevated to cathedral status when the diocese was created in 1914...

, Southwark Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral or The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, Southwark, London, lies on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge....

, Southwell Minster
Southwell Minster
Southwell Minster is a minster and cathedral, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England. It is six miles away from Newark-on-Trent and thirteen miles from Mansfield. It is the seat of the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.It is considered an outstanding...

, and Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of All Saints Wakefield is the cathedral for the Church of England's Diocese of Wakefield and is the seat of the Bishop of Wakefield. The cathedral has Anglo Saxon origins and the tallest cathedral spire in Yorkshire...

, but all were redesignated deans in 2000.

In the Scottish Episcopal Church
Scottish Episcopal Church
The Scottish Episcopal Church is a Christian church in Scotland, consisting of seven dioceses. Since the 17th century, it has had an identity distinct from the presbyterian Church of Scotland....

 tradition continues. The leading priests of the cathedrals, with the exception of the Cathedral of the Isles
Cathedral of the Isles
The Cathedral of The Isles and Collegiate Church of the Holy Spirit is a cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church in the town of Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae. It is one of the two cathedrals of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, the other being St John's Cathedral in Oban...

 on Cumbrae, are called provost.

The usage
Provost (education)
A provost is the senior academic administrator at many institutions of higher education in the United States, Canada and Australia, the equivalent of a pro-vice-chancellor at some institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland....

 is preserved in the title of the heads of some college
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

s in England formerly administered by the Church.

Roman Catholic Church

In Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, the heads of certain Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 chapters are still known as Probst or Propst.

Furthermore, "Propstei" or "Propstei(pfarr)gemeinde" is the honorary title to some important, old Roman Catholic churches in Germany; most honorary titles date back to the 20th century. The provosts (see "Propst" in German), being ordinary parish priests, have the privilege to wear the prelate's dress (black-purple) and wear a pectoral cross on a ribbon.

The office of provost in the Roman Catholic Church, particularly when applied to the monastic role, falls under the category of prelate
A prelate is a high-ranking member of the clergy who is an ordinary or who ranks in precedence with ordinaries. The word derives from the Latin prælatus, the past participle of præferre, which means "carry before", "be set above or over" or "prefer"; hence, a prelate is one set over others.-Related...

 a rank equivalent to bishop. In a society of apostolic life
Society of Apostolic Life
A society of apostolic life is a group of men or women within the Catholic Church who have come together for a specific purpose. Unlike members of an institute of consecrated life , members of apostolic societies do not make religious vows...

, for example the Oratory of St Philip Neri, the Provost is a major religious superior of that house and ordinary
In those hierarchically organised churches of Western Christianity which have an ecclesiastical law system, an ordinary is an officer of the church who by reason of office has ordinary power to execute the church's laws...

 to the members of his Oratory. It is customary in the Oratory to call the Provost "the Father" as he is primus inter pares and a father in the place of the founder, St Philip Neri.

Protestant Churches (General)

Some pastor
The word pastor usually refers to an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. When used as an ecclesiastical styling or title, this role may be abbreviated to "Pr." or often "Ps"....

s bore the merely honorific rank of provost, usually connotated with certain churches and traditionally maintained even after the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 (e.g. in the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union and its successor Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg).

In certain Landeskirche
In Germany and Switzerland, a Landeskirche is the church of a region. They originated as the national churches of the independent states, States of Germany or Cantons of Switzerland , that later unified to form modern Germany or modern Switzerland , respectively.-Origins in the Holy Roman...

n within the Evangelical Church in Germany
Evangelical Church in Germany
The Evangelical Church in Germany is a federation of 22 Lutheran, Unified and Reformed Protestant regional church bodies in Germany. The EKD is not a church in a theological understanding because of the denominational differences. However, the member churches share full pulpit and altar...

 the title is used for a pastor officiating as chairperson in a provostry (e.g. in the Lutheran Evangelical Lutheran State Church in Brunswick
Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Brunswick
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick is a Lutheran church in the German states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. The seat of the Landesbischof is Wolfenbüttel. Its district as a Landeskirche covers the former State of Brunswick in the borders of 1945...

, Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg is a Lutheran church in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, serving the citizens living in Mecklenburg. The seat of the Landesbischof is the state capital Schwerin with Schwerin Cathedral as the principal church...

 and in the united
United and uniting churches
United and uniting churches are churches formed from the merger or other form of union of two or more different Protestant denominations.Perhaps the oldest example of a united church is found in Germany, where the Evangelical Church in Germany is a federation of Lutheran, United and Reformed...

 Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau and the Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony
Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony
The Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony was the most important Protestant denomination in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. As a united Protestant church, it combined both Lutheran and Reformed traditions...

). In the above-mentioned Lutheran churches a provostry is equal to a deanery
A Deanery is an ecclesiastical entity in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. A deanery is either the jurisdiction or residence of a Dean.- Catholic usage :...

, in the two united churches it is a unit comprising several deaneries.

Furthermore in the united Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia
Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia
The Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia is a Protestant church body in the German states of Brandenburg, Berlin and a part of Saxony. The seat of the church is in Berlin. It is the most important Protestant denomination in the area....

 the provost is the theological leader of the consistory
-Antiquity:Originally, the Latin word consistorium meant simply 'sitting together', just as the Greek synedrion ....


Monasteries and Religious Houses

The heads of Augustinian
Order of Saint Augustine
The Order of St. Augustine —historically Ordo Eremitarum Sancti Augustini", O.E.S.A.), generally called Augustinians is a Catholic Religious Order, which, although more ancient, was formally created in the thirteenth century and combined of several previous Augustinian eremetical Orders into one...

 and Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

ies are termed "provost or prior" (praepositus vel prior), and those of Cistercian monasteries "provost or warden" (praepositus vel custos). The superiors of the Oratory are also known as provosts.

Religious Orders

In some religious orders, especially those under the patronage of royalty or nobility, the ecclesial management of the Order is placed under the jurisdiction of a provost.
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