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Head or deputy head of a monastery. During the early Middle Ages the word was used in a vague sense and could be applied to secular officials. Under Benedictine influence the title “prior” (or “claustral prior”) came to denote the monk who ranked next to the abbot, deputizing for him and generally concerned with discipline. With the formation of the Cluniac Order in the tenth century there appeared the “conventual” prior who ruled as head of the monastery. The Canons Regular (Augustinians), Carthusians, Carmelites, Servites, and Dominicans so used the title. There is also the “obedientary” or “simple” prior, the ruler of a dependent priory.

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