SS. Apostolorum. A visitation of the Church of the Apostles (Peter and Paul) at Rome may be imposed by a vow or by legal requirement. The former cause was very fruitful of such visits during the Middle Ages, and special protection was accorded to "Peregrini qui propiter Deum Romam vadunt, Romipetse Apostolorum limina visitantes," etc. It was the special privilege of the bishops to grant dispensation from such vows; but the popes introduced a papal reservation after a time, to protect themselves against abuses on the part of bishops, though the application of such reservation was connected with; conditions which led to the practical transfer of the whole business to the bishops.
The Visitatio ex lege is regulated by the pope, in whom centers the authority by which the Church is governed, and is ordered for the better government of the Church. Each prelate is obliged, to this end, to visit Rome at stated times, and to submit written reports of his charge during the intervals. The earliest decree bearing on the subject was issued by a Roman synod in 743 which obliged bishops subject to the Roman see to frequently visit their superior (c. 4, dist. 93; see also Liber Diurnus, op. et stud. Garnerii [Paris, 1680, 4to], p. 66). Since the time of Gregory VII a similar obligation was imposed on all metropolitans (c. 4, 10 De Jurejurando, 2, 24, Greg. VII, an. 1079), and afterwards on all prelates, particularly bishops, the intervals between their visits being regulated by the distance of the particular diocese from Rome. Certain bishops having secured an exemption from this duty, their privilege was revoked by Alexander IV in 1257. The bull Rominus Pontifex (Bullar. Magn. [ed. Luxemb.], 50, 551), issued by Sixtus V on Dec. 20, 1584, commanded the bishops resident in Mediterranean lands to visit Rome once in three years; those in Europe, outside of Russia and Turkey, once in four; all others, living in Europe and eastward of the American continent, once in five; and those in the remaining sections of the world once ill ten years. Benedict XIV extended the obligation so as to make it cover all prelates of every class who should have territorial jurisdiction, in the constitution Quod Sanda of Nov. 23, 1740 (Bullar. eit. 11, d. 11). It is generally conceded that even titulary bishops are held to this duty.
The Visitatio liminum should be made by the prelate or a proper person, but, in case of need, a substitute special, authorized may be employed by him. The increased facilities of travel in modern times have made such visitations a matter of regular recurrence, and the substitution for them of a written report is now infrequent. The report De Statu Ecclesiae is, however, part oral and partly written. A special instruction respecting it was elaborated by Prosper Lambertini, the subsequent pope Benedict XIV, and is given after vol. 2 of his Bullarium, and also in the appendix to his work. De Synodo Diiocesana, and in Richter and Schulte's edition of the Conc. Trident. (Lips. 1853).
See Ferraris, Biblioth. Canonica; Benedict XIV as above; Bangen, Die rom Curie, in Zeitschr., Recht u. Politik d.Kirche, by Jacobson and Richter, No. 2; Gieseler, Kirchengesch. 2, 2; Philipp, Kirchenrecht, 2, 81, 82; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.