Canon, Ecclesiastical (κανών, rule, see the foregoing article, § i), a term used in various senses, as follows:
CANON, a clerical title.
1. The roll or church register in which, in the ancient Church, the names of the clergy were written was called the canon; and the clergy were hence called canonici (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 1, ch. 5, § 10). In Cyril (Praef. Catech. n. 3), the presence of the clergy is expressed by the words κανονικῶν παρουσία. SEE CANONICE.
2. Cathedral Canons. — Chrodegangus, bishop of Metz, about A.D. 755, gave a common cloister-life law to his clergy, and thus originated the proper vita canonica, as attached to a cathedral church. SEE CHAPTER. Originally canons were only priests or inferior ecclesiastics who lived in community, residing near the cathedral church to assist the bishop, depending entirely on his will, supported by the revenues of the bishopric, and living in the same house, as his counselors or domestics. They even inherited his movables till A.D. 817, when this was prohibited by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle. By degrees these communities of priests, shaking off their dependence, formed separate bodies, of which the bishops were still the head. In the tenth century there were communities of the same kind, established even in cities where there were no bishops: these were called collegiates, as the terms "college" and "congregation" were used indifferently. Under the second race of French kings the canonical life spread over the country, and each cathedral had its chapter distinct from the rest of the clergy (Farrar, s.v.). Benedict XII (1339) endeavored to secure a general adoption of the rule of Augustine by the canons, :which gave rise to the distinction between canons regular (i.e. those who follow that rule) and canons secular (those who do not). SEE CANONS, REGULAR. As demoralization increased, the canonries were filled by younger sons of nobles, without ordination, for the sake of the revenues. The expectancies (q.v.) of canonries became objects of traffic, as advowsons (q.v.) now are in the English Church. The Reformation abolished most of the chapters and canonries in Germany: a few remain at Brandenburg, Merseburg, Naumburg, and Meissen.