PROVINCIAL (provincialis superior): The regular ecclesiastic who presides over a number of cloisters which collectively form a province. The monks constitute a peculiar hierarchy, which, while not in all points alike in the various orders, essentially conforms to the following gradation. Within any given district the cloisters of an order constitute a department, which among the Franciscans is termed custodia. Several of these compose a province, in charge of a provincial; whereas the entire order is under the general. The province may embrace one or several countries, according to circumstances. Notwithstanding the obedience commanded by the hierarchical organization of the cloister system, the superior's authority is limited through the necessity of conference with ecclesiastics of the order when important objects are under advisement. Thus the prior of the separate cloister is offset by the fathers of the same; the superior of the province by the superiors of the separate cloisters; the general of the order by the provincials. The provincials, who at the same time are superiors of some chief cloister of their province, appear in still other connections as members of the chapter general of an entire order.