• Latin: cancellarius, man at the barrier,/li>


Term which came to mean a notary, then the official charged with writing and sealing crown documents, and finally, the guardian of the great seal of state. From the days of Charlemagne, this office was generally held by an ecclesiastic. Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop Arundell, and Saint Thomas More, the last-named the first layman thus honoured, are famous English Catholic chancellors. In the German Empire, the chancellor was president of the federal council and so, under the emperor, was charged with the direction of imperial affairs. In England, the lord high chancellor is the keeper of the state seal; as the highest law officer he is the speaker of the House of Lords, a member of the cabinet, and appoints all the judges and justices of the peace, and, among other duties, supervises the interests of minors and lunatics. There is a lord chancellor in Ireland exercising similar legal powers. The chancellor of the exchequer is the British minister of finance. The titular head of a university is frequently called the chancellor. Catholics are excluded from the office of lord chancellor in England, on the grounds that this dignitary is the patron of many Church of England livings, but, however, it may be held by Jews and freethinkers. In canon law, the bishop of each diocese appoints a priest as diocesan chancellor, who in virtue of this office becomes an ecclesiastical notary and is charged with the care, arrangement, and indexing of the diocesan archives, records of dispensations, of ecclesiastical trials, etc. As notary he has to draw up all the written documents used in the official government of the diocese and to authenticate documents when necessary.

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 January 2009. Web. 27 October 2021. <>