A patriarchate is the office or jurisdiction of a patriarch. A patriarch, as the term is used here, is either one of the highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, of whom there were originally four, but now nine; one of the ten highest-ranking bishops of Roman Catholicism – the Roman Pope, the seven "patriarchs of the east ", and the bishops of Lisbon and Venice; or one of the specific patriarchs of the various Oriental Orthodox and Nestorian churches.
The original four Catholic patriarchs of the east, and the original four Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, sat in Constantinople (now called Istanbul for secular purposes, but still called Constantinople in this ecclesiastical context), Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The Patriarch of Antioch moved to Damascus in the 13th century, during the reign of the Egyptian Mamelukes, conquerors of Syria. In Damascus a Christian community had flourished since apostolic times (Acts 9). However, the patriarchate is still called the Patriarch of Antioch. Eastern Orthodoxy recognizes not only its own patriarchs, but also the Pope, in his role as Christian patriarch of Rome, as among the patriarchs whose presence at an ecumenical council is a necessary condition for the council's ecumenicity and infallibility.
A patriarchate has "legal personality" in some legal jurisdictions, that means it is treated as a corporation. For example, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem filed a lawsuit in New York, decided in 1999, against Christie's Auction House, disputing the ownership of the Archimedes Palimpsest.