Literally chiefs of the deacons. The office traces its origins to the New Testament church, where the ministry of Stephen and others is described in the Acts of the Apostles as their diaconia. As dioceses were established and grew in size, their bishops delegated administrative authority in a specified area to an archdeacon, thus giving him a territorial title, a practice discernible in England by the late 12th cent. From the mid‐12th cent. archdeacons held regular visitations, and following the third Lateran Council they became responsible for ensuring that church buildings in their jurisdiction were kept in repair.