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Diocese of Mende

Diocese of Mende


This diocese includes the department of Lozère, in France. Suffragan of Bourges under the old régime, it was re-established by the Concordat of 1801 as a suffragan of Lyons and united with the department of Ardèche. The See of Mende lost this second department in 1822 by the creation of the Diocese of Viviers and became a suffragan of Albi. According to late legends belonging to the Limousin cycle of legends relating to St. Martial, he passed through the territory of the Gabali (Gévaudan) of which Mende is the capital, and appointed as its first bishop, St. Severian his disciple, about the beginning of the first century. (See LIMOGES.) The first bishop known to history is Saint Privatus, who according to Gregory of Tours, died in a grotto of Mount Mimmat, a victim of the ill treatment he suffered at the time of the invasion of the Alamanni under their King Chrocus. Gregory of Tours places this event about 260; though Fredegarius puts the invasion of Chrocus at 407. Mgr. Duchesne places the invasion of Chrocus and the death of St. Privatus at the beginning of the reign of Constantine, perhaps before the Council of Arles. It is certain that there was an organized church in the country of the Gabali from about 314, since in that year it was represented at the Council of Arles. We do not know the exact date of the episcopate of Saint Firminus whom the church of Mende honours to-day. Other bishops of the Gabali, who doubtless resided at Javoulx, near Mende, were: Saint Hilary, present at the Council of Auvergne in 535, and founder of the monastery of Canourgue, and whose personality has been wrongly described in certain traditions concerning Saint Illier, and St. Frézal of Canourgue (ninth century) assassinated, it is said, under Louis le Débonnaire.

Towards the year 1000 Mende became the seat of the bishopric. Under Venerable Aldebert III (1151-86), Alexander III passed some days at Mende in 1162; Aldebert Wrote two works, on the passion and on the miracles of St. Privatus whose relics were discovered at Mende in 1170. M. Leopold Delisle has shown us the historical interest of these two works of this bishop. Mende had later as bishops, Guillaume Durand (1285-96), the author of "Speculum juris", and of the "Rationale divinorum officiorum", who was secretary of the general council of Lyons in 1270, and his nephew, Durand le Jeune (1296-1328) who by the act called "Paringe", agreed upon with Philippe le Bel, definitively settled in Gévaudan the respective rights of king and bishop, and who left a work on the general councils and on the reform of abuses. Guillaume de Grimoard, born about 1310 at the castle of Grisac near Mende, was sickly and deformed, but was restored at the prayer of his godfather, St. Elzéar de Sabran, who had come to baptise him. Elected pope in 1362 under the name of Urban V, he administered the Diocese of Mende himself from 1368 to 70 as it had been left vacant by the removal of his nephew to the See of Avignon.

Among the bishops of Mende were: Guillaume de Chanac, who occupied the see but a few months, when he became cardinal in 1371; Pietro Riario (1473-74), nephew of Sixtus IV and a cardinal; Giuliano della Rovere (1478-83) later pope under the name of Julius II; and his nephews, Cardinal Clement della Rovere (1483-1504) and Francesco della Rovere (1504-24); Castellane (1768-92) massacred at Versailles, 9 Sept., 1792.

Urban II visited the Diocese of Mende in 1095 and had consecrated in his presence the church of the monastery of Saint Sauveur de Chirac or of Monastier founded in 1062 and dependent on the Abbey of Saint Victor. Mende was captured for the first time by the Huguenots in 1562; the celebrated adventurer Merle from 1573-81 led into the region bands of Protestants who were masters of Mende for eighteen months, and destroyed a great part of the cathedral that Urban V had caused to be rebuilt. The Diocese of Mende was one of the regions where the insurrection of the Camisards (q. v.) broke out at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Cardinal Dominique de la Rochefoucauld, Archbishop of Rouen, who presided in 1789 over the last assembly of the clergy of France, was born in 1712 at Saint Chély d'Apcher, in the diocese. The chemist Chaptal (1756-1832) was one of the last of those who profited by the scholarships founded by Urban V for twelve young students at Montpellier.

The following saints are specially venerated in the diocese: St. Ilpide, martyr (third century); the preacher St. Veran, Bishop of Cavaillon, a native of Gévaudan (sixth century); St. Lupentius, abbot of the basilica of St. Privatus, beheaded by order of Brunehaut whom he reproached for the irregularities of her life (sixth century); the nun St. Enimie, daughter of Clotaire II and sister of Dagobert (seventh century), foundress of a monastery of Benedictine nuns in the present St. Enimie. The principal pilgrimages of the diocese are: at Mende itself, Notre Dame de Mende where the statue of the Black Virgin was brought, perhaps in 1213, by the Crusaders of Gévaudan, and the hermitage of Saint Privatus; Notre Dame de la Carce, the origin of the city of Marvéjols; Notre Dame de Quézac, a pilgrimage dating from 1052 and where Urban V founded a chapter-house of eight canons, and Our Lady All-powerful, at Langogne. There were in the diocese, before the application of the law of associations of 1901, various teaching orders of brothers and several teaching orders of nuns of a local origin: the Sisters of Christian Unity (L'Union chrétienne), founded in 1696 (mother-house at Mende); the United Sisters of the Holy Family, founded at Palhers in 1750, transferred to Mende in 1824; the Sisters of Christian Doctrine (mother-house at Meyrueis) founded in 1837. The religious congregations in 1900 directed in the diocese fifteen infant schools, one orphan asylum for boys, four orphan asylums for girls, nine hospitals and almshouses, twelve religious houses for the care of those ill at home, and one insane asylum. In 1905 at the end of the régime of the Concordat, the diocese had 128,866 inhabitants, 26 parishes, 191 succursal churches, and 135 vicarages, supported by the state.

Gallia christiana (nova 1715), I, 83-110, 295-6; instrumenta, 23-7, 202-3; DUCHESNE, Fastes épiscopaux, II, 54-5 and 124-6; PASCAL, Gabalum christianum (Paris, 1853); CHARBONNEL, Origine et histoire abrégée de l'église de Mende (Mende, 1859); LÉOPOLD DELISLE, Un manuscrit de la cathédrale de Mende in Journal des Savants (Oct., 1908); OLLIER, Notice historique sur le Gévaudan, ed. REMIZE (Mende, 1908); IDEM, Histoire des guerres de religion en Gévaudan aux 16 e, 17 e et 18 e siècles (Tours, 1886); CHEVALIER, Topobibl., 1902-3.


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