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The prothonotary is the chief court clerk in certain courts of law in certain Anglo-American jurisdictions, including the American states of Pennsylvania and Delaware, the Federal Court of Canada, and the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

Catholic Church usage

In the Roman Catholic Church, it is the title of certain prelates called prothonotaries apostolic (Latin protonotarii apostolicii). In the Middle Ages the prothonotaries were very high papal officials, and were often raised directly from this office to the cardinalate. Originally numbering seven, Pope Sixtus V (1585-90) increased their number to twelve. Their importance gradually diminished, and at the time of the French Revolution the office had almost entirely disappeared. On 8 February 1838, Pope Gregory XVI re-established the college of real prothonotaries with seven members called protonotarii de numero participantium, also known as numerary protonotaries. They are officials of the Roman Chancery.

Supernumerary prothonotaries are honorary priests of the pontifical household (monsignors) of the highest degree. The title is awarded to priests by the pope, however the title is purely honorary and is not attached to any duties in the Curia.


The title is derived from a Late Classical imperial tittle formed from the Greek πρότος + The Latin notorarius and awarded to certain high-ranking notaries.

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain.

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