In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop (then more precisely called metropolitan archbishop) of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.
Before the establishment of patriarchs (beginning in AD 325), metropolitan was the highest episcopal rank in the Eastern rites of the Church. They presided over synods of bishops, and were granted special privileges by canon law and sacred tradition.
The Early Church structure generally followed the Roman imperial practice, with one bishop ruling each city and its territory. The bishop of the provincial capital, the metropolitan, enjoyed certain rights over other bishops in the province, later called suffragans.
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