Written by Ephraim Chambers
Thursday, 01 January 1728 09:00
or ABBAT, the Chief, or Superior of an Abbey, of the Male Kind. See ABBEY, and ABBESS. The Name Abbot is originally Hebrew, where it signifies Father. The Jews call Father in their Language Ab ; whence the Chaldees and Syrians form'd Abba ; and thence the Greeks GREEK, which the Latins retain'd, Abbas ; and hence our Abbot, the French Abbe, &c.
St. Mark and St. Paul use the Syriac Abba in their Greek ; by reason it was then commonly known in the Synagogues, and the primitive Assemblies of the Christians ; adding to it, by way of Interpretation, the Word Father, 'GREEK, Abba, Father, q. d. Abba, that is to say, Father.
The Name Ab and Abba, which at first was a Term of Tenderness and Affection, in the Hebrew and Cbaldee, became at length a Title of Dignity and Honour. The Jewish Doctors affected it ; and one of their most antient Books, containing the Sayings, or Apothegms of divers of 'em, is entitled, Pirke Abbot, or Avoth, i. e. Chapter of the Fathers.
'Twas in allusion to this Affectation, that Jesus Christ forbad his Dlsciples to call any Man their Father on Earth :which Words S. Jerom turns against the Superiors of the Monafteries of his Time, for assuming the Title of Abbots, or Fathers.
The Name Abbot, then, appears as old as the Institution of Monks it self. See MONK.
The Governors of the primitive Monasteries assum'd indifferently the Names Abbots and Archimandrites. See ARCHIMANDRITES.
They were really distinguish'd from the Clergy, tho frequently consounded with 'em, because a Degree above Laymen. S. Jerom, writing to Heliodorus, says expresly, Alia Monachorum est Causa, alia Clericorum. See CLERGY, PRIEST, &c.
In those early Days, the Abbots were subject to the Bishops, and the ordinary Pastors. Their Monasteries being remote from Cities, built in the farthest Solitudes, they had no share in Ecclesiastical Affairs. They went on Sundays to the Parish-Church with the rest of the People : or, if they were too remote, a Prielt was sent 'em to administer the Sacraments ; till at length they were allow'd to have Priests of their own Body.
The Abbot, or Archimandrite himself was usually the Priest : but his Function extended no farther than to the Spiritual Assistances of his Monastery ; and he remain'd Hill in obedience to the Bishop.
There being among the Abbots several Persons of Learning, they made a vigorous Opposition to the rising Heresies of those Times ; which first occasion'd the Bishops to call 'em out of their Defarts, and fix 'em about the Suburbs of Cities ; and at length in the Cities themselves : from which Æra their Degeneracy is to be dated.
The Abbots, now, soon wore off their former Plainness and Simplicity, and began to be look'd on as a sort of little Prelates. In time they would be Independent of the Bishop ; and became so insupportable, that some severe Laws were made against 'em at the Council of Chalcedon: This notwithstanding, in time, many of 'em carry 'd the Point of Independency; and got the Appellation of Lord, with other Badges of the Episcopate, particularly the Mitre.
Hence arose new Species and Distinctions of Abbots, Mitred, and not Mitred ; Crozier'd, and not Crozier'd, Oecumenical, Cardinal, &c.
Mitred Abbots, were those privileg'd to wear the Mitre; and having, withal, a full Episcopal Authority within their several Precincts. Among us, these were also call'd Abbots sovereign, and Abbots general ; and were Lords of Parliament. Of these Sir Edward Coke, de Jur. Eccles. reckons 27 in England, beside two Mitred Priors. See PRIOR.
The rest, who were not mitred, were subject to the Diocesan.
Peré Hay, a Benedictine Monk, in his Book entitled Astrum Inextinctum, maintains, that the Abbots of his Order have not only an Episcopa, but even a Papal Jurisdiction ; Potestarem quasi Episcopalem, imo quasi Papalem ; and as such can confer the lower Orders of Deacon and Subdeacon. See ORDER.
When the Abbots first assum'd the Mitre, the Bishops made heavy Complaints of their Privileges being invaded by the Monks ; and were particularly offended, that in Synods and Councils there was no Distinction between 'em. On this Occasion, Pope Clement IV. order'd, that the Abbots should only wear their Mitres embroider'd with Gold, and leave Jewels to the Bishops. See MITRE.
Crozier'd ABBOTS, are those who bear the Crozier, or Pastoral Staff. See CROZIER.
There are some Crozier'd and not Mitred ; as the Abbot of the BenediBine Abbey at Bourges : and others, both the one and the other.
Among the Greeks, some even took the Quality of Oecumenical Abbots, or Universal Abbots, in Imitation of the Patriarch of Cmjhatttinople. See OECUMENICAL.
Nor have the Latins been much behind 'em in that respect : The Abbot of Cluny, in a Council held at Rome, assum'd the Title of Abbas Abbatum. Abbot of Abbots ; and Pope Calixtus, gave the same Abbot the Title of Cardinal Abbot. See CLUNY.
To say nothing of other Cardinal Abbots, thus denominated from their being the principal Abbots of Monasteries, which came to be separated.
Abbots, again, are now chiefly distinguish'd into Regular, and Commendatory.
ABBOTS Regular, are real Monks, or Religious, who have taken the Vows, and wear the Habit of the Order. See REGULAR, RELIGIOUS, VOW, &c.
Such are all Abbots presum'd to be ; it being expresly provided by the Canons, that none but a Monk have the Command over Monks.
ABBOTS in Commendam, are Seculars ; tho they have undergone the Tonsure, and are oblig'd by their Bulls to take Orders when they come of Age. See SECULAR, TONSURE, &c.
Tho the Term Commendam insinuates, that they have only the Administration of their Abbies for a Time ; yet do they hold, and reap the Fruits of 'em for ever ; as well as the Regular Abbots.
Their Bulls give 'em a full Power tam in Spiritualibus, quara in Temporalibus. And yet, 'tis true, that Commendatory Abbots do not perform any Spiritual Offices ; nor have they any Spiritual Jurisdiction over their Monks. So that the Phrase in Spiritualibus, is rather something of the Roman Stile, than a Reality.
Some of their best Canonists rank the Commendam in the Number of Benefices, inter titulos Beneficiorum. 'Tis no more than a Canonical Title, or Provision to enjoy the Fruits of a Benefice : But as such Provisions are contrary to the antient Canons, none but the Pope, by dispensing with the old Law, can grant 'em. See COMMENDAM, BENEFICE, &c.
Our own History speaks very little of these Commendatory Abbots ; and 'tis probable the Practice never prevail'd much among us. Hence, many of our Writers have been led into the Mistake, of supposing that all Abbots are Monks. Of this we have a remarkable Instance, at which many of our Countrymen have stumbled, in that Dispute about the Inventor of the Lines for transforming of Geometrical Figures, call'd by the French the Robervallian Lines. Dr. Gregory, in the Philosophical Transactions, Anno 1694. rallies the Abbot Galloys, who held the Abbey of S. Martin de Cores, in Commendam, with being a Monk : "The good Father, says he, imagines we are return'd into that fabulous Age where in a Monk might be allow'd to say what he pleas'd." Which Passage the Abbot takes hold of, and returns the Raillery, with Inrerest, on the Doctor, in the Memoirs de l'Academ. Anno 1703.
The Ceremony whereby Abbots are created, is properly call'd Benediction ; or sometimes, tho abusively, Consecration. See BENEDICTION, and CONSECRATION.
It antiently consisted in cloathing him with the Habit call'd Cuculla, Cowl ; putting the Pastoral Staff in his Hand, and the Shoes call'd Pedales, or Pedules, on his Feet. These Particularities we learn from the Ordo Romanus of Theodore Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Title Abbot has also been given to certain Bishops, by reason their Sees had originally been Abbeys ; and that they were even elected by the Monks : Such are those of Cutanea and Montreal, in Sicily. See BISHOP.
The same Appellation is extended to the Superiors or Generals of some Congregations of Regular Canons ; as that of S. Genevieve at Paris. See CANON, GENEVIEVE, &c.
Abbot is also a Title bore by several Magistrates, and other Lay-Persons. Among the Genoesc, one of their principal Magistrates was call'd the Abbot of the People.
In France, particularly about the Time of Charlemaign, there were several Lords and Courtiers, who having the Inspection of certain Abbeys committed to them, were styI'd Abba-Comites, or Abbey Counts. See ABBEY, COUNT, &c.