Chorepiscopi (χωρεπίσκοποι, country bishops), an order of ministers of ancient origin. Some (e.g. Rhabanus Maurus) derive the name from the fact that the bishop was chosen ex choro sacerdotum; others from cor episcopi (heart of the bishop), as their function was to assist the city bishop in rural districts, or villages remote from his residence. The most simple and likely derivation is from χώρα, country. Some writers hold that they were only presbyters, but it appears certain (see the full discussion in Bingham) that they discharged episcopal functions. They acted, however, in a subordinate capacity, and possessed limited powers, being subject to a city-bishop, and acting as his colleagues or vicars. They held a different rank, but possessed a similar office; they were authorized to give letters of peace and testimonials; to superintend the affairs of the Church in their district; to appoint ecclesiastical officers, readers, subdeacons, and exorcists; and to ordain presbyters and deacons, but not without the permission and co- operation of the superior or city-bishop. They possessed the privilege of attending councils in their own right, and not merely as substitutes or representatives of the bishop. The canons of the Council of Nicmea, A.D. 325, were subscribed by nine chorepiscopi, attached to dioceses of which the bishops also were present. These officers were at first confined to the Eastern Church; in the Western they began to be known about the fifth century. They were never numerous in Spain and Italy, but, abounded in Africa and Germany. In the Western Church, Pope Nicholas I (A.D. 864) ordained that they should abstain from all episcopal functions (Mansi, Conc. 15:389); and Leo VII issued a similar rescript about A.D. 937 (Mansi, 18:378); but, according to some writers, they continued in France till the twelfth, and in Ireland till the thirteenth. They were succeeded by archdeacons, rural deans, and vicarsgeneral. In the East the order was abolished, for the same reason, by the Council of Laodicea, about A.D.
365, which decreed (canon 57) that itinerant presbyters, περιοδευται, should visit the country villages for the future, in lieu of resident chorepiscopi; but the order continued until the tenth century. The necessity of suffragan bishops greatly increased after the cessation of the chorepiscopi. — Bingham, Orig. Eccls. bk 2, ch. 14, § 12; Mosheim, Historical Commentaries, 1:175 (and references there); Siegel, Alterthümer, 1:387 sq.