Hierarchy in simple terms can be defined as an arrangement of objects, items, people or anything in an increasing or decreasing order. The entities in a hierarchy can be linked directly, indirectly, horizontally or vertically depending on the type of relation being created through hierarchy between the entities.
Hence hierarchy refers to an organized structure of ecclesiastical officials in decreasing rank or order from top to bottom. We can visualize hierarchical structure as a triangle where the base is broader, and the top is always a single point. Hierarchies are also compared with the structures of pyramids where the lower level is always broader then the upper level, and this scrutinizing reaches to top in the similar way, where there is always a single entity on the top.
Hierarchy can be visualized as an inverted tree structure where the root is on the top, and then are the branches which are directly connected to the root, after which are the branches which are directly connected to the first level branches. In this way this tree kind structure keeps on getting broader with the addition of branches on every lower level. All the entities on the same level are known as siblings.
All the entities in a hierarchical arrangement are linked together either directly or indirectly. But the direct connections are possible between the two consecutive levels in the hierarchy. This implies that the communication in a hierarchy is not possible in informal manner, but one has to pass on different levels to communicate between two indirectly connected levels. For example, let us consider an organizational hierarchy, where a low level skilled worker cannot talk to a line manager directly. He has to pass on the communication to his immediate supervisor, who will convey the message to the manager and then the communication will finally reach the line manager, for whom it was intended.
We all are aware of hierarchies and have witnessed them in our day to day lives, like the structures in offices or schools, where every official reports to the one above him/ her in the hierarchy, till the level reaches to the top most official. Hierarchies ease the process of distributing responsibilities, powers and also help in segregating the entities in levels. Hierarchies are always preferred where one needs to define certain levels and to distinguish between powers & responsibilities among the levels. Whenever we think of hierarchies, the most common example that comes to our mind is arrangement of officials in companies or organizations. Like companies, where there is a top most authority, then there are general managers below it, after the general managers are the specific department managers, and then the officials below them. This way if we draw this authority tree, it will take the shape of a triangle.
A similar arrangement is also followed in catholic churches. The Catholic Church also has a hierarchy and maintains a structured environment. They also distribute power, responsibilities and authority in an hierarchical structural form, starting from Pope on the top.