Pontifex Maximus

A title of the pope. The Latin word pontifex is of obscure etymology; it may be derived from:

  • pons (bridge) and facere (to make), a bridge-builder, or possibly one who offered sacrifice on the sacred Sublician bridge
  • pompa (a solemn procession) and facere
  • puntis (Oscan-Umbrian, propitiatory offering) and facere

The term was used in Roman antiquity to designate the head of the principal college of priests, and was a also the translation of the Hebrew term signifying high priest. Roman emperors added it to their titles until the reign of Theodosius. At present the title is applied to the pope as head of the hierarchy.