Abbot

St. Dominic of Silos enthroned as abbot (Hispano-Flemish Gothic 15th century)

Abbot, meaning father, is an ecclesiastical title given to the male 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 the head of a monastery. The female equivalent is abbess.

Origins

The title had its origin in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria, spread through the eastern Mediterranean, and soon became accepted generally in all languages as the designation of the head of a monastery. The word is derived from the Aramaic av meaning "father" or abba, meaning "my father". In the Septuagint, it was written as "abbas".[1] At first it was employed as a respectful title for any monk, but it was soon restricted by canon law to certain priestly superiors. At times it was applied to various priests, e.g. at the court of the Frankish monarchy the Abbas palatinus ("of the palace"') and Abbas castrensis ("of the camp") were chaplains to the Merovingian and Carolingian sovereigns’ court and army respectively. The title abbot came into fairly general use in western monastic orders whose members include priests.[2]