A chartophylax, Greek: χαρτοφύλαξ - from χάρτα, "document" + φύλαξ, "guard, keeper"), also chartoularios, was the title of ecclesiastical officers of the Church of Constantinople in charge of official documents and records in the church during the time of the Eastern Roman empire. The position among the offices of the Patriarch was particularly influential.
The position of chartophylax existed in the provincial dioceses as well as in Constantinople. The incumbents of the position were responsible for the archives and chancery of their respective institutions. The records at some monasteries were also maintained by a chartophylax who at women's monasteries was called a chartophylakissa.
As the office of chartophylax of the Patriarchate of Constantinople gained in importance, the Chartophylax rose to become one of the most important officials in the patriarchal clergy, despite his nominally low rank. As the Grand Chartophylax, he came to be the judge of all causes and the patriarch's right arm, as noted by George Kodinus, a fourteenth century author. He further noted that the patriarchal chartophylax was the keeper of all the charters relating to the ecclesiastical rights that were stored in the chartophylakeion (archives).
Additionally, the Chartophylax presided over matrimonial causes, and was the principal intermediary between the clergy and the patriarch, controlling his correspondence and access to him. He drew up all sentences and decisions for the patriarch, who then signed and sealed them. During absences of the patriarch, he presided in meetings of the synods and took cognizance of all ecclesiastical and civil matters and causes, whether among the clergy, the monks, or the people. The patriarchal Chartophylax took precedence over all the bishops, although he was only a deacon. On occasion, he even discharged the functions of the priests. The Chartophylax had twelve notaries reporting to him. The patriarchal Chartophylax was analogous to the papal chartularius, anglicized chartulary, of Rome, but far more powerful.
With the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, the position of the Chartophylax fell in importance as the administration of the patriarchate changed greatly. Thus, while the title chartophylax has survived into the modern times it has become purely honorific.
- The Chartophylax: Archivist and Librarian to the Patriarch in Constantinople". Libraries and Cultures, 1997.