Territorial abbey

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The coat of arms of a territorial abbot are distinguished by a green galero with twelve tassels and a gold crozier with a veil attached. Template-Territorial Abbot.svg
The coat of arms of a territorial abbot are distinguished by a green galero with twelve tassels and a gold crozier with a veil attached.

A territorial abbey (or territorial abbacy) is a particular church of the Catholic Church comprising defined territory which is not part of a diocese but surrounds an abbey or monastery whose abbot or superior functions as ordinary for all Catholics and parishes in the territory. Such an abbot is called a territorial abbot or abbot nullius diœceseos (abbreviated abbot nullius and Latin for "abbot of no diocese"). A territorial abbot thus differs from an ordinary abbot, who exercises authority only within the monastery's walls or to monks or canons who have taken their vows there. A territorial abbot is equivalent to a diocesan bishop in Catholic canon law.

While most belong to the Latin Church, and usually to the Benedictine or Cistercian Orders, there is one Eastern Catholic territorial abbey: the Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Abbey of Grottaferrata.


Though territorial (like other) abbots are elected by the monks of their abbey, a territorial abbot can only receive the abbatial blessing and be installed under a mandate from the pope, just as a bishop cannot be ordained and installed as ordinary of a diocese without such a mandate. [1]

After the Second Vatican Council, more emphasis has been placed on the unique nature of the episcopacy and on the traditional organization of the church into dioceses under bishops. As such, abbeys nullius have been phased out in favor of the erection of new dioceses or the absorption of the territory into an existing diocese. A few ancient territorial abbeys still exist in Europe, and one in Korea. [2]

Present territorial abbeys

There are eleven remaining territorial abbeys, as listed by the Vatican in the Annuario Pontificio : [3]


Other historical territorial abbeys

Historically there have been more, such as:



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  1. Johnston, William M., ed. (2000). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 3. ISBN   1579580904.
  2. 1 2 "Vatican announces reorganisation of Montecassino Abbey". en.radiovaticana.va. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  3. 1 2 "Catholic Dioceses in the World (Territorial Abbacies)". www.gcatholic.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  4. Cheney, David M. "Belmont-Mary Help of Christians (Territorial Abbey)". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  5. Cheney, David M. (2007), "Territorial Abbey of Saint Peter-Muenster", Catholic-Hierarchy.org , retrieved 2007-08-17
  6. Oestereich, T. (1907). Abbot. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 11, 2022 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01015c.htm
  7. Pangan, John Kingsley (January 26, 2015). "The call for a missionary church". The Freeman. p. 14. Retrieved April 11, 2022.