a title used in various senses both civilly and ecclesiastically.
In the civil administration of the Roman Empire the exarch was the
governor or viceroy of any large and important province. The
best-known case is that of the Exarch of Italy,
who, after the defeat of the Goths,
ruled from Ravenna
(552-751) in the name of the emperor at Constantinople.
In ecclesiastical language an exarch was, at first, a metropolitan
whose jurisdiction extended beyond his own (metropolitical)
over other metropolitans. Thus, as late as the time of the Council
of Chalcedon (451), the patriarchs
are still called exarchs (can. ix). When the name "patriarch"
became the official one for the Bishops of Rome,
(and later of Constantinople and Jerusalem),
the other title was left as the proper style of the metropolitans
who ruled over the three remaining (political) dioceses of
division of the Eastern Prefecture, namely the Exarchs of Asia
and of Thrace
The advance of Constantinople put an end to these exarchates,
which fell back to the state of ordinary metropolitan sees
(Fortescue, Orth. Eastern Church, 21-25). But the title of exarch
was still occasionally used for any metropolitan (so at Sardica
in 343, can. vi). Since the use of all these titles became
gradually fixed with definite technical meanings, that of exarch
has disappeared in the West, being replaced by the names
"Apostolic vicar" and then "primate".
A few cases, such as that of the Archbishop
of Lyons, whom the Emperor
Frederick I named Exarch of Burgundy
in 1157, are rare exceptions. In Eastern
Christendom an exarch is a bishop who holds a
place between that of patriarch and that of ordinary metropolitan.
The principle is that, since no addition may be made to the sacred
number of five patriarchs, any bishop who is independent of any
one of these five should be called an exarch. Thus, since the
Church of Cyprus
was declared autocephalous (at Ephesus
in 431), its primate receives the title of
Exarch of Cyprus. The short-lived medieval Churches of Ipek
were governed by exarchs, though these prelates occasionally
usurped the title of patriarch (Fortescue, Orth. Eastern Church,
305 sq., 317 sq., 328 sq.). On the same principle the Archbishop
Sinai is an exarch, though in this case, as in
that of Cyprus, modern Orthodox usage generally prefers the (to
them) unusual title, "archbishop"
(Archiepiskopos). When the Bulgarians constituted their national
Church (1870), not quite daring to call its head a patriarch, they
made him an exarch. The Bulgarian exarch, who resides at
Constantinople, is the most famous of all persons who bear the
title now. Because of it his adherents throughout Macedonia
are called exarchists (as opposed to the Greek patriarchists). It
was an inaccurate use of this title when Peter
the Great, after abolishing the Patriarchate
(1702), for twenty years before he founded the Russian Holy
Directing Synod, appointed a vicegerent with the title of exarch
as president of a temporary governing commission. Since Russia
destroyed the old independent Georgian Church (1802) the Primate
(always a Russian) sits in the Holy
Synod at St.
Petersburg with the title of Exarch of Georgia
(Fortescue, Orth. Eastern Church, 304-305). Lastly, the third
officer of the court of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who
examines marriage cases (our defensor matrimonii), is called the
exarch (ibid., 349).