St. Ambrose
Archbishop of Milan (374–397)

In Christianity, an archbishop (p/, via Latin archiepiscopus, from Greek αρχιεπίσκοπος, from αρχι-, 'chief', and επίσκοπος, 'bishop')[1][2][3] is a bishop of higher rank or office. In some cases, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Church of England, the title is borne by the leader of the denomination. Like popes, patriarchs, metropolitans, cardinal bishops, diocesan bishops, and suffragan bishops, archbishops are in the highest of the three traditional orders of bishops, priests (also called presbyters), and deacons. An archbishop may be granted the title or ordained as chief pastor of a metropolitan see or another episcopal see to which the title of archbishop is attached.

Early history

The earliest appearance of neither the title nor the role can be traced. The title of "metropolitan" was apparently well known by the 4th century, when there are references in the canons of the First Council of Nicæa of 325 and Council of Antioch of 341, though the term seems to be used generally for all higher ranks of bishop, including patriarchs. The term "archbishop" does not appear in the modern sense until the 6th century, although the role, above ordinary bishops but below patriarchs, seems to be established for metropolitans by the 5th century.[4]