pontifex maximus (pŏnˈtĭfĕks măkˈsĭməs) [key], highest priest of Roman religion and official head of the college of pontifices. As the chief administrator of religious affairs he regulated the conduct of religious ceremonies, consecrated temples and other holy places, and controlled the calendar. During the time of the empire, and until Christianity became firmly established, the emperor was designated pontifex maximus. After the supremacy of Christianity, the popes assumed the title.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on pontifex maximus from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient Religion