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Pentarchy, meaning literally "rule of five" is from a Greek term pentarchia, from pente "five" + archien "to rule". The general meaning of Pentarchy today is as a term designating the five ancient patriarchates of the undivided Church of the first millennium of her history as "The Pentrarchy", which includes the Churches of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch, and Jerusalem.[1][2]

These major centers of early Christianity, founded by the apostles, were looked to by their respective regions as leaders in Church life, and eventually their bishops (Greek episkopoi) came to be regarded as the primates of their areas[3]. The members of the Pentarchy all participated in some form in the first eight Ecumenical Councils, from A.D. 325 to 880.[4]

See also

Catholic Church
Orthodox Church
Petrine Primacy


  1. Pentarchy (
  2. A History of the Orthodox Church: Outline (
  3. The office of ecclesiastical "Primate" (first in rank and dignity) comes from occupying or holding the "Primacy" or chief position relative to others, the patriarch of a geographically defined inclusive area of ecclesiastical Christian government in the Church. Ecclesiastic is from the Greek word ekklesia "assembly", usually translated, "church" in the New Testament.
  4. Church Councils – The Documents and Canons of the Councils of the Catholic Orthodox Church from Nicaea I to Vatican II

External links