Curia (Latin plural curiae) in ancient Rome referred to one of the original groupings of the citizenry, eventually numbering 30, and later every Roman citizen was presumed to belong to one. While they originally likely had wider powers,[1] they only came to meet for a few purposes by the end of the Republic: in order to confirm the election of magistrates with imperium, to witness the installation of priests, the making of wills, and certain adoptions.

The term is more broadly used to designate an assembly, council, or court, in which public, official, or religious issues are discussed and decided. Lesser curiae existed for other purposes. The word curia also came to denote the places of assembly, especially of the senate. Similar institutions existed in other towns and cities of Italy.

In medieval times, a king's council was often referred to as a curia. Today, the most famous curia is the Curia of the Roman Catholic Church which assists the Roman Pontiff in the hierarchical government of the Church.[2]


The word curia is thought to derive from Old Latin coviria, meaning "a gathering of men" (co-, "together" =vir, "man").[3] In this sense, any assembly, public or private, could be called a curia. In addition to the Roman curiae, voting assemblies known as curiae existed in other towns of Latium, and similar institutions existed in other parts of Italy. During the republic, local curiae were established in Italian and provincial municipia and coloniae. In imperial times, local magistrates were often elected by municipal senates, which also came to be known as curiae. By extension, the word curia came to mean not just a gathering, but also the place where an assembly would gather, such as a meeting house.[4]

Roman Curiae

In Roman times, "curia" had two principal meanings. Originally it applied to the wards of the comitia curiata. However, over time the name became applied to the senate house, which in its various incarnations housed meetings of the Roman senate from the time of the kings until the beginning of the seventh century AD.

Comitia Curiata

The most important curiae at Rome were the 30 that together made up the comitia curiata. Traditionally ascribed to the kings, each of the three tribes established by Romulus, the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, was divided into ten curiae. In theory, each gens (family, clan) belonged to a particular curia, although whether this was strictly observed throughout Roman history is uncertain.[4][5]

Each curia had a distinct name, said to have been derived from the names of some of the Sabine women abducted by the Romans in the time of Romulus. However, some of the curiae evidently derived their names from particular districts or eponymous heroes.[5] The curiae were probably established geographically, representing specific neighborhoods in Rome, for which reason curia is sometimes translated as "ward".[4] Only a few of the names of the 30 curiae have been preserved, including Acculeia, Calabra, Faucia, Foriensis, Rapta, Veliensis, Tifata, and Titia.[6][5]

The assertion that the plebeians were not members of the curiae, or that only the dependents (clients) of the patricians were admitted, and not entitled to vote, is expressly contradicted by Dionysius[7] This argument is also refuted by Mommsen.[8]

Each curia had its own sacra, in which its members, known as curiales, worshipped the gods of the state and other deities specific to the curia, with their own rites and ceremonies.[9] Each curia had a meeting site and place of worship, named after the curia.[4] Originally, this may have been a simple altar, then a sacellum, and finally a meeting house.[5]

The curia was presided over by a curio (plural, curiones), who was always at least 50 years old, and was elected for life.[4] The curio undertook the religious affairs of the curia. He was assisted by another priest, known as the flamen curialis.[5] When the 30 curiae gathered to make up the comitia curiata, they were presided over by a curio maximus, who until 209 BC was always a patrician.[4][5] Originally, the curio maximus was probably elected by the curiones, but in later times by the people themselves.[5] Each curia was attended by one lictor; an assembly of the comitia curiata was attended by thirty lictors.[5][10]

The comitia curiata voted to confirm the election of magistrates by passing a law called the lex curiata de imperio. It also witnessed the installation of priests, and adoptions, and the making of wills. The Pontifex Maximus may have presided over these ceremonies.[4] The assembly probably possessed much greater authority before the establishment of the comitia centuriata, which gradually assumed many of the curiate assembly's original functions.[4]

Senate House

Since the Roman Kingdom, the meeting-house of the Roman senate was known as the curia. The original meeting place was said to have been a temple built on the spot where the Romans and Sabines laid down their arms during the reign of Romulus (traditionally reigned 753–717 BC). The institution of the senate was always ascribed to Romulus; although the first senate was said to comprise 100 members, the earliest number which can be called certain is 300, probably connected with the three tribes and 30 curiae also attributed to Romulus.[4]

Curia Hostilia

After the original temple was destroyed by fire, it was replaced by a new meeting house by Tullus Hostilius, the third King of Rome (traditionally reigned 673–642 BC). The Curia Hostilia stood on the north end of the comitium, where the comitia curiata and other Roman assemblies met, and was oriented along the four cardinal points. After more than 500 years of service, the building was restored and enlarged by the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 80 BC. Sulla had doubled the senate's membership from 300 to 600, necessitating a larger building, which retained the original orientation of the Curia Hostilia, but extended further south into the comitium. In 52 BC, following the murder of Publius Clodius Pulcher, his clientes set fire to the senate house, which was rebuilt by Faustus Cornelius Sulla, son of the dictator. Following this reconstruction, the building came to be called the Curia Cornelia.[4]

Curia Julia

Curia Iulia
The Curia Julia, as restored from 1935 to 1937

A generation after Sulla enlarged the senate from 300 members to 600, Julius Caesar increased its membership to 900, necessitating the construction of a larger meeting house. The Curia Cornelia was demolished, and shortly before his death in 44 BC, Caesar began the construction of a new building, which became known as the Curia Julia. This structure covered most of the comitium, and abandoned the original orientation of the previous curiae, pointing slightly northwest. The building featured a large central hall with a daïs for magistrates, and marble benches on one side. There was also a record office on one side. The building was completed by Caesar's grandnephew, Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, in 29 BC, although he reduced the senate itself to its former number of 600.[4]

In AD 94, the Curia Julia was rebuilt along Caesar's original plan by the emperor Domitian, who also restored the former orientation of the Curia Hostilia. The building was damaged by fire during the reign of Carinus in 283, and again restored under his successor, Diocletian.[4] The Roman Senate is last mentioned in AD 600. In 630, Pope Honorius I transformed the senate house into the church of Sant'Adriano al Foro, preserving the structure at its full height. In 1923, the church and an adjacent convent were bought by the Italian government. The building was further restored from 1935 to 1937, removing various medieval additions, to reveal the original Roman architecture.[4]

Curiae Veteres

The Curiae Veteres was the earliest sanctuary of the thirty curiae. It is discussed by both Varro and by Tacitus, who mentions it as one point of the Palatine pomerium of Roma quadrata.[11] It is likely that this shrine was located at the northeast corner of the Palatine Hill. As the Republic continued, the curiae grew too large to meet conveniently at the Curiae Veteres, and a new meeting place, the Curiae Novae, was constructed. A few of the curiae continued to meet at the Curiae Veteres due to specific religious obligations.[12][13]

Municipal curiae

In the Roman Empire a town council was known as a curia, or sometimes an ordo, or boule. The existence of such a governing body was the mark of an independent city. Municipal curiae were co-optive, and their members, the decurions, sat for life. Their numbers varied greatly according to the size of the city. In the Western Empire, one hundred seems to have been a common number, but in the East five hundred was customary, on the model of the Athenian Boule. However, by the fourth century, curial duties had become onerous, and it was difficult to fill all the posts; often candidates had to be nominated. The emperor Constantine exempted Christians from serving in the curiae, which led to many rich pagans claiming to be priests in order to escape these duties.[14]

Other curiae

The concept of the curia as a governing body, or the court where such a body met, carried on into medieval times, both as a secular institution, and in the church.

Medieval Curiae

In medieval times, a king's court was frequently known as the curia regis, consisting of the king's chief magnates and councilors. In England, the curia regis gradually developed into Parliament. In France, the curia regis or Conseil du Roi developed in the twelfth century, with the term gradually becoming applied to a judicial body, and falling out of use by the fourteenth century.

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic Church, the administrative body of the Holy See is known as the Roman Curia. It is through this Curia that the Roman Pontiff conducts the business of the Church as a whole.[2]

Modern usage

Emblem of the Court of Justice of the European Union
Emblem of the Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice of the European Union uses "CURIA" (in roman script) in its official emblem.

The term curia may refer to separate electoral colleges in a system of reserved political positions (reserved seats), e.g. during the British mandate of Palestine at the third election (1931) of the Asefat HaNivharim there were three curiae, for the Ashkenazi Jews, the Sephardi Jews and for the Yemeni Jews.[15][16][17][18]

In the United States Supreme Court an interested third party to a case may file a brief as an amicus curiae.[19]

The Federal Palace of Switzerland, the seat of the Swiss Confederation, bears the inscription Curia Confœderationis Helveticæ.

See also


  1. ^ See Palmer, Robert E. A. (1970). The Archaic community of the Romans. Cambridge: University Press. |access-date= requires |url= (help) for an ambitious reconstruction.
  2. ^ a b Code of Canon Law, can. 360
  3. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1966).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (1970).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, Second Edition, Harry Thurston Peck, Editor (1897)
  6. ^ Marcus Terentius Varro, De Lingua Latina libri XXV.
  7. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia iv. 12, 20.
  8. ^ Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen, Römische Forschungen.
  9. ^ Sextus Pompeius Festus, epitome of Marcus Verrius Flaccus, De Verborum Significatu.
  10. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Lege Agraria contra Rullum
  11. ^ Tac. Annales 12.24
  12. ^ CIL VI.975
  13. ^ A.F. Ferrandes, 2013. "Il ripristino delle Curiae Veteres." In Scavare nel centro di Roma. Storia, uomini, paesaggi, edited by C. Panella, 118-23. Rome.
  14. ^ A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, p. 724.
  15. ^ Fannie Fern Andrews, The Holy Land under mandate, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company – The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1931, 2 vol. (ch. XIV – Building a Jewish corporate life, vol. II, 1–32)
  16. ^ Moshe Burstein, Self-government of the Jews in Palestine since 1900, Tel Aviv, Hapoel Hatzair, 1934
  17. ^ ESCO Foundation for Palestine, Inc., Palestine. A study of Jewish, Arab and British policies, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1947, 2 vol. (The growth and organization of the Jewish community, vol.II, 404–414)
  18. ^ Jacob C. Hurewitz, The struggle for Palestine, New York, Norton and Company, 1950 (ch. 3 – The political structure of the Yishuv, 38–50)
  19. ^

External links


Chur or Coire (German: [ˈkuːr] or [ˈxuːr]; Romansh: Cuira [ˈkwerɐ] or [ˈkwoi̯rɐ]; Italian: Coira [ˈkɔi̯ɾa]; French: Coire [ˈkwaʁ]) is the capital and largest town of the Swiss canton of Grisons and lies in the Grisonian Rhine Valley, where the Rhine turns towards the north, in the northern part of the canton. The city, which is located on the right bank of the Rhine, is reputedly the oldest town of Switzerland.

The official language of Chur is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the main spoken language is the local variant of the High Alemannic Swiss German dialect.

Congregation (Roman Curia)

There are currently nine congregations (Italian: Sacræ Cardinalium Congregationes) of the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Catholic Church. They are second highest-ranking departments, below the two Secretariats, and above the pontifical councils, pontifical commissions, tribunals and offices.Originally, congregations were selected groups of cardinals drawn from the College of Cardinals, commissioned to take care of some field of activity that concerned the Holy See. Today, as a result of a decision of the Second Vatican Council, members include diocesan bishops from diverse parts of the world who are not cardinals. Each congregation also has a permanent staff.

Each congregation is led by a Prefect, who is usually a cardinal. Until recently, a non-cardinal appointed to head a congregation was styled pro-prefect until made a cardinal. This practice has been abandoned.

Congregation for the Causes of Saints

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Latin: Congregatio de Causis Sanctorum) is the congregation of the Roman Curia that oversees the complex process that leads to the canonization of saints, passing through the steps of a declaration of "heroic virtues" and beatification. After preparing a case, including the approval of miracles, the case is presented to the Pope, who decides whether or not to proceed with beatification or canonization. This is one of nine Vatican Curial congregations.


Courland (; Latvian: Kurzeme; Livonian: Kurāmō; German and Scandinavian languages: Kurland; Latin: Curonia/Couronia; Russian: Курляндия; Lithuanian: Kuršas; Polish: Kurlandia), is one of the historical and cultural regions in western Latvia. The largest city is Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland as they were formerly held by the same duke.

Curia (Catholic Church)

A curia is an official body that governs a particular Church in Roman Catholicism. These curias range from the relatively simple diocesan curia, to the larger patriarchal curias, to the Roman Curia, which is the central government of the Catholic Church. Other Roman Catholic bodies, such as religious institutes, may also have curias. For example, the Legion of Mary has a rank called the Curia. It stands above the Praesidium but below the Regia. The Curia is responsible for several Praesidia.

These curias are historically descended from the Roman Curiae, and they keep that name even though they now have very different functions. When the Roman Empire collapsed, many of the administrative functions previously done by the state were subsumed by the only solid institution left, which was the church. The Bishop and curia took the place of the government officials, often to the point of sitting at the same chair in the same building. The Curia therefore passed into religious hands, and afterwards changed functions many times but always keeping its traditional name, at least in those Christian denominations that keep a strong continuity with the Apostolic tradition.

Curia Julia

The Curia Julia (Latin: Curia Iulia, Italian: Curia Iulia) is the third named Curia, or Senate House, in the ancient city of Rome. It was built in 44 BC, when Julius Caesar replaced Faustus Cornelius Sulla's reconstructed Curia Cornelia, which itself had replaced the Curia Hostilia. Caesar did so to redesign both spaces within the Comitium and the Roman Forum. The alterations within the Comitium reduced the prominence of the Senate and cleared the original space. The work, however, was interrupted by Caesar's assassination at the Theatre of Pompey, where the Senate had been meeting temporarily while the work was completed. The project was eventually finished by Caesar's successor, Augustus Caesar, in 29 BC.The Curia Julia is one of a handful of Roman structures that survive mostly intact. This is due to its conversion into the basilica of Sant'Adriano al Foro in the 7th century and several later restorations. However, the roof, the upper elevations of the side walls and the rear façade are modern and date from the remodeling of the deconsecrated church, in the 1930s.

Curia regis

Curia regis is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court". It was the name given to councils of advisors and administrators who served early French kings as well as to those serving Norman and later kings of England.


A dicastery (from Greek δικαστήριον, law-court, from δικαστής, judge/juror) is a department of the Roman Curia, the administration of the Holy See through which the pope directs the Roman Catholic Church. The most recent comprehensive constitution of the church, Pastor bonus (1988), includes this definition:

By the word "dicasteries" are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices, namely, the Apostolic Camera, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

History of the Roman Curia

The history of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus responsible for managing the affairs of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, can be traced to the 11th century when informal methods of administration began to take on a more organized structure and eventual a bureaucratic form. The Curia has undergone a series of renewals and reforms, including a major overhaul following the loss of the Papal States, which fundamentally altered the range and nature of the Curia's responsibilities, removing many of an entirely secular nature.

In camera

In camera (; Latin: "in a chamber") is a legal term that means in private. The same meaning is sometimes expressed in the English equivalent: in chambers. Generally, in-camera describes court cases, parts of it, or process where the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure or process. In-camera is the opposite of trial in open court where all parties and witnesses testify in a public courtroom, and attorneys publicly present their arguments to the trier of fact.

Manorial court

The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period. They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geography. They dealt with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction, primarily torts, local contracts and land tenure, and their powers only extended to those who lived within the lands of the manor: the demesne and such lands as the lord had enfeoffed to others, and to those who held land therein. Historians have divided manorial courts into those that were primarily seignorial – based on feudal responsibilities – and those based on separate delegation of authority from the monarch. There were three types of manorial court: the court of the honour; the court baron; and the court customary, also known as the halmote court.Each manor had its own laws promulgated in a document called the custumal, and anyone in breach of those laws could be tried in a manorial court. The earlier Anglo-Saxon method of trial by ordeal or of compurgation was modified by the Normans into trial by a jury made up of 12 local freemen. The lord or his steward would be the chairman, whilst the parish clerk would write the record on the manorial rolls.

Moderator of the curia

A moderator of the curia, under the authority of the bishop of a diocese in the Catholic Church, coordinates the exercise of the administrative duties and oversees those who hold offices and minister in diocesan administration. He must be a priest. The office has been variously described as equivalent to a chief operating officer (COO). Although the office was first included in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the concept is much older.The bishop is not required to appoint a moderator of the curia and may exercise the office himself or delegate its functions to others. Usually, the vicar general, or one of them, is appointed to this office.The moderator of the curia is bound with the bishop to the general principle "that diocesan structures should always be at the service of the good of souls and that administrative demands should not take precedence over the care of persons. Therefore, he should see that the operation is smooth and efficient, avoiding all unnecessary complexity or bureaucracy, and always directed towards its proper supernatural end."


Monsignor (; Italian: monsignore [monsiɲˈɲoːre]) is an honorific form of address for some members of the clergy, usually of the Roman Catholic Church, including bishops, honorary prelates and canons. In some cases, these ecclesiastical honorific titles derive from the pope, but in other cases it is simply a customary or honorary style belonging to a prelate or honorary prelate. These are granted to individuals who have rendered valuable service to the church, or who provide some special function in church governance, or who are members of bodies such as certain chapters. Although in some languages the word is used as a form of address for bishops, which is indeed its primary use in those languages, this is not customary in English. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, from the French mon seigneur, meaning "my lord". It is abbreviated Mgr or Mons, Msgr, or Mons."Monsignor" is a form of address, not an appointment: properly speaking, one cannot be "made a monsignor" or be "the monsignor of a parish". The title or form of address is associated with certain papal awards, which Pope Paul VI reduced to three classes: those of Protonotary Apostolic, Honorary Prelate, and Chaplain of His Holiness.

Apart from those working in the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See, it is usually on the proposal of the local bishop that the Pope grants this title to Catholic diocesan clergy. The grant is subject to criteria of the Holy See that include a minimum age.

Soon after his election in March 2013, Pope Francis suspended the granting of the honorific title of Monsignor except to members of the Holy See's diplomatic service. In December of the same year he communicated his definitive decision to accept no further requests from bishops for appointments to any class but that of Chaplain of His Holiness, the lowest of the three classes, and that candidates presented must be at least 65 years old. He himself, during his 15 years as archbishop of Buenos Aires, never asked that any of his priests receive the title, and he was understood to associate it with clerical "careerism". Grants already made were not revoked.Appointments to all three classes of awards continue to be granted to officials of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See, and there was no revocation of privileges granted to certain bodies such as chapters of canons whereby all their members or some of them have the rank of Protonotary Apostolic, Honorary Prelate or Chaplain of His Holiness.Also unaffected is the association of the style with the office of vicar general, an appointment made by the bishop of the diocese, not by the Pope. Without necessarily being a protonotary apostolic, a diocesan priest has that titular rank as long as he remains in office.

Pastor bonus

Pastor bonus (Latin: "The Good Shepherd") is an apostolic constitution promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988. It instituted a number of reforms in the process of running the central government of the Roman Catholic Church, as article 1 states "The Roman Curia is the complex of dicasteries and institutes which help the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the whole Church and of the particular Churches. It thus strengthens the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the Church in the world".

Pontifical council

The pontifical councils are a group of several mid-sized dicasteries, each led by a cardinal or archbishop as president, which are part of the larger organization called the Roman Curia. The Roman Curia is charged with helping the Pope in his governance and oversight of the Roman Catholic Church.

Prefecture of the Pontifical Household

The Prefecture of the Papal Household is the office in charge of the Papal Household, a section of the Roman Curia that comprises the Papal Chapel (Cappella Pontificia) and the Papal Family (Familia Pontificia).

The current Prefect of the household is Archbishop Georg Gänswein, appointed on 7 December 2012.

Roman Curia

The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope’s name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the central organization for the Church to advance its objectives.The structure and organization of responsibilities within the Curia are at present regulated by the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus, issued by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988, which Pope Francis has decided to revise.Other bodies that play an administrative or consulting role in Church affairs are sometimes mistakenly identified with the Curia, such as the Synod of Bishops and regional conferences of bishops. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in 2015 that "the Synod of Bishops is not a part of the Roman Curia in the strict sense: it is the expression of the collegiality of bishops in communion with the Pope and under his direction. The Roman Curia instead aids the Pope in the exercise of his primacy over all the Churches."

Section for Relations with States (Roman Curia)

The Section for Relations with States or Second Section of the Secretariat of State is the body within the Roman Curia charged with dealing with matters that involve relations with civil governments. It has been part of the Vatican Secretariat of State since 1909.

It is analogous to the foreign ministry of a state.

Titular bishop

A titular bishop in various churches is a bishop who is not in charge of a diocese.

By definition, a bishop is an "overseer" of a community of the faithful, so when a priest is ordained a bishop, the tradition of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches is that he be ordained for a specific place. There are more bishops than there are functioning dioceses. Therefore, a priest appointed not to head a diocese as its diocesan bishop but to be an auxiliary bishop, a papal diplomat, or an official of the Roman Curia is appointed to a titular see.

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