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Historical region of Country

Territories with many cities usually had small but numerous bishoprics, as in N Africa and S-central Italy, while territories with few cities had vast bishoprics, as in N Italy, Gaul, Spain, the Danubian and Balkan provinces. The diocesan area usually coincided with the urban-administrative area and, through an intrinsic mechanism, the lesser dioceses usually gravitated toward the dioceses corresponding to the provincial capitals, with which they already had economic and political links. Residence was obligatory for bishops, though often disregarded, esp. in the 4th c., by Eastern courtier-bishops Council of Nicaea, can. 16; Council of Antioch, can. 3; Council of Serdica, cans. 7-8, 11-12; Council of Carthage 390, can. 7; 397, can. 56. In the East, the care of the rural population of a local church was entrusted to a cwrepi,skopoj or chorbishop, who was completely dependent on the urban bishop: thus the synods of Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Nicaea 4th c..

They later tended to be replaced by periodeuti visitatores, circuitores, i.e., simple itinerant priests Synod of Laodicea ca. 380, can. 57. The West, all civil order having been overturned by the barbarian invasions, turned to the pope for the founding of dioceses and the setting-up of the church hierarchy. Otherwise, the bishop of Rome did not as a rule intervene in the setting-up of new local churches. While the bishops of Africa, in the West, moved rather autonomously in bringing local Donatist churches within the orbit of the Catholic churches, in the East the state authority intervened or was drawn into the matter in cases of conflict. For Italy, 16 dioceses are documented at the end of the 3rd c.; 55 more arose in the 4th c.; another 155 in the 5th c.; in the 6th c., 57 more; and at the start of the 7th c., another 13. In all, at the start of the 7th c., peninsular and insular Italy counted 258 dioceses. The reasons for this increase include the freedom of the church Edict of Milan, 313, eminent episcopal figures such as St. Ambrose at Milan, St. Eusebius at Vercelli and St. Maximus at Turin, and the decisive role of the bishop of Rome.

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