PREBENDARY (Lat. praebendo = give or grant, through Low Lat. praebenda), one who holds a prebend, namely an endowment in land, or pension in money, given to a cathedral or conventual church in praebendam that is, for the maintenance of a secular priest or regular canon. In the early Church the title had a more general signification. The word praebenda originally signified the daily rations given to soldiers, whence it passed to indicate daily distributions of food and drink to monks, canons, etc. It became a frequent custom to grant such a prebend from the resources of a monastery to certain poor people or to the founder. Such persons were, literally, prebendaries. At a later date, when the custom in collegiate churches of living in common had become less general, a certain amount of the church revenue was divided among the clergy serving such a church, and each portion (no longer of meat or drink only) was called a prebend. The clergy of such churches were generally canons, and the titles canon and prebendary were, and are, sometimes used as synonymous. A member of such a college is a canon in virtue of the spiritual duties which he has to perform, and the assignation to him of a stall in choir and a place in chapter; he is a prebendary in virtue of his benefice. In the Roman Catholic Church the duties of a prebendary as such generally consist in his attendance at choral office in his church. In the Anglican Church he usually bears his part in the conducting of the ordinary church services, except when he has a vicar, as in the old cathedral foundations (see CATHEDRAL). A prebendary may be either simple or a dignitary. In the former case he has no cure and no more than his revenue for his support ; in the latter he has always a jurisdiction annexed. In the Anglican Church the bishop is of common right patron of all prebends, and if a prebend is in the gift of a lay patron he must present his candidate to the bishop who institutes as to other benefices. No person may hold more than one prebend in the same church; therefore, if a prebendary accepts a deanery in his church his prebend becomes void by cession. A prebend is practically a sinecure, and the holder has no cure of souls as such. He may, and often does, accept a parochial office or chaplaincy in addition.
In the middle ages there were many less regular kinds of prebends: e.g. praebenda doctoralis, with which teaching duties were connected, praebenda lectoralis, praebenda missae, to which the duty of saying a certain number of masses was attached, praebenda mortuaria, founded for the saying of masses for the dead. Chantries belonged to this class. All these prebends were generally assigned to special holders, but there were also praebendae currentes, which were not held by any persons in particular. Sometimes prebends were held by boys who sang in choir, praebendae pueriles. Occasionally the name of prebendary was applied to those servants in a monastery who attended to the food. In England the word prebendary was sometimes used as synonymous with prebend, as prebend was occasionally used for prebendary.
Du Cange, Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, ed. L. Favre (Niort, 1883, etc.); Migne, Encyclopedie theologique, 1st series, vol. x. (s. Droit Canon) ; Sir R. J. Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law of the Church of England (2nd ed., 1895). (E. O'N.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)