Consistory (Lat. consistorium), a name designating a college of men who acted as advisers of the Roman emperors in important affairs of the state, as well as the place where these meetings were held.
1. In the Roman Catholic Church the name has frequently, but not generally, been used to designate colleges of members of the chapter, also the episcopal chapters themselves, viewed as a whole, in their relations to the bishop and to the diocese. Papal consistories, or Consistories of cardinals (Consistoria cardinalium), are meetings of the colleges of cardinals, called by the pope for deliberating on important affairs of the Church, and generally under his presidency. These consistories are partly regular (usually once a fortnight), in which only cardinals take part, under the presidency of the pope or of the dean of the college of cardinals. They are called secret consistories (consistoria secreta). When, on solemn occasions, bishops and the ministers of foreign powers are admitted, they are called public consistories (consistoria publica). The latter are always presided over by the pope. At both the cardinals have only a consultative vote. The subjects which are to be finally disposed of in a consistory are first selected by the pope with the aid of an extraordinary congregation, consisting of the oldest (as to the time of appointment) cardinal bishop, the oldest cardinal priest, and the oldest cardinal deacon, the cardinal vice- chancellor, the cardinal chamberlain, and the cardinal secretary of state; and after that referred for preparatory deliberation to the Consistorial Congregation. SEE CONGREGATION. The resolutions passed at secret consistories are promulgated in a public consistory, and mostly accompanied by a solemn "allecution" (q.v.) of the pope. While presiding the pope is mounted on a magnificent throne and habited in his pontificalia; on his right sit the cardinal bishops and priests, aid on the left the cardinal deacons. The other prelates, prothonotaries, auditors of the rota, and officers, are seated on the steps of the throne; the courtiers on the ground; ambassadors on the right, and consisterial and fiscal advocates behind the cardinals. — Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 2:345 and 821.
2. In the Lutheran state churches consistories are boards of clerical and lay officers appointed by the sovereign of the country, as highest bishop for the administration and superintendence of ecclesiastical affairs, for exercising jurisdiction in marriage affairs, and for inflicting ecclesiastical penalties. The first consistory was established at Wittenberg in, 1537, the second at Leipzic in 1543. The members are called "consistorial councillors," the chief "consistorial president." If there are more than one consistory in a country, a "supreme or national consistory" (OberConsistorium, Landes - Consistorium) is placed over the "provincial consistories." If the right to establish a consistory was conceded by the sovereign of a country to a nobleman or city, such a consistory was called a "mediate consistory" (Mediat-Consistorium). Nearly all the consistories of this class have been abolished in modern times. As the power of consistories was defined by the princes, it differed in different countries. In the Reformed churches the name consistory is equal to the session of the Presbyterian churches. For full information, consult Bohmer Jus Ecclesiasticun Protestantium, and Richter, Kirchenordnungen.
3. The lower Church courts in the German and Reformed Dutch churches in America are also called consistories. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 3:130; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, 2:822; Constitution of the Reformed Dutch Church, ch. 2, art. 2.