« Diocese of Vizagapatam Vizeu St. Vladimir the Great »




Diocese in north central Portugal. The bishopric dates from the sixth century and including the doubtful prelates and those elected but not confirmed, it has had eighty- three bishops. The list begins with Remissol (572-585) who attended the Second Council of Braga, but was exiled by the Arian King Leovigild. Tunila succeeded him and abjured Arianism at the Third Council of Toledo; bishops of Viseu were present at the fourth, sixth, eighth, twelfth, and thirteenth councils of Toledo. There was a vacancy of fifteen years from 665 to 680; Theofredo was bishop in 693. Then, owing to the invasion of the Saracens, Vizeu remained without a bishop for nearly two centuries. Theodomiro assisted at the consecration of the church of Santiago de Compostella in 876, and at the Council of Oviedo in 877 and was followed by Gundemiro in 905. In this century Vizeu was occupied by the Moors during seventy-six years and at first had no bishop, but afterwards its prelates, Gomes and Sisnando (1020-1064), resided in Oviedo. From 1110 to 1144 the diocese was governed by priors appointed by the bishops of Coimbra, in virtue of a Bull of Paschall II; among them was Saint Theotonio, afterwards patron of the city. The line of bishops began again with Odorio.

Nicolau (1193), a future canon regular, studied in Paris and there met the future Innocent III, who after his election to the papacy received him at Rome and recommended him to the queen for his learning and modesty. Martinho was appointed in 1230; after his death the see remained vacant until 1250, when Pedro Gonvalves was confirmed in it. Matheus I (1254) took part in the long conflicts between Crown and Church, which had begun in the reign of King Alfonso II, and in defence of ecclesiastical immunities went with other bishops to Rome, dying at Vitebo. After eight years, during which Portugal was under interdicts, Matheus II filled the see, and he was followed by Egas I (1259), an active reformer, and Martinho II (1313). This prelate carried out important work in the cathedral, which dates at least from 830, when King Ferdinand the Great recaptured the city from the Moors; it was almost reconstructed early in the twelfth century. Gonçalo de Figueiredo (1323), who had been married before entering the church, is remembered as the founder of many noble families; his successor Miguel Vivas (1330) served as chancellor to Alfonso IV.

After João III (1375), "of good memory", came two prelates, Pedro II and João IV, whose rule was brief on account of the Great Schism, the former being deposed by Urban VI. A fifth João followed in the see in 1392 and, being highly esteemed by the king, was chosen godfather of Prince Henry the Navigator, and received from the monarch the gift of a Roman tower for the cathedral bells. Luiz do Amaral, the only bishop native of the city, represented Portugal at the Council of Basel, and, embracing the cause of the antipope Felix V, was sent on various embassies; he returned however to the lawful obedience before his death. Luiz Coutinho II (1438) was promoted to Coimbra in 1446, being followed by João Vicente (founder of the Loyos, a congregation of secular canons of St. John), who was known as "the holy bishop". He reformed the Order of Christ and gave it new statutes by order of Prince Henry, Duke of Vizeu, the grand-master. Cardinal d'Alpedrinha, the richest and most influential of Portuguese prelates, lived at Rome from 1479 and dying there in 1508 was buried in his splendid chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. Diego Ortiz de Vilhegas (1507), a Castilian, was confessor of three kings and renowned as a theologian, orator, and astrologer. He took part in the Junta called by King Manuel to consider the offer Columbus had made to discover the Indies by sailing west and procured its rejection, which transferred from Portugal to Spain the glory of finding America. He built a new and splendid front to the cathedral and consecrated it in June, 1516. In 1520 Alfonso, sixth son of King Manuel, became Bishop of Vizeu at the age of eleven, and in his time books began to be kept for the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, a custom afterwards enjoined by the Council of Trent. He was followed, among others, by Cardinal Miguel da Silva (1527), and Cardinal Alexander Farnese (1547), who never came to the diocese, which he renounced in 1552. Gonçalo Pinheiro (1553), famous classical scholar, ambassador to France, and subsequently bishop, held a synod in 1555, and made notable additions to the cathedral. Jorge de Athaide (1568) assisted at the Council of Trent and in the reform of the Missal and Breviary and built the cathedral sacristy and part of the bishop's palace; of noble family and a pious prelate, he refused four archbishoprics and left his residuary estate to the poor.

Miguel de Castro (1579), also a noble, was Viceroy of Portugal under the Spanish domination, and renowned for almsdeeds. On his transfer to Lisbon, Nuno de Noronha, son of the Count of Odemira, became bishop (1585) and built the seminary, doing the same for Guarda to which he was promoted. He was a notable reformer of the clergy, and lived like the great fidalgo he was. The virtuous Dominican and Greek scholar Antonio de Sousa (1595) ruled only two years, being followed by João de Braganza, a model courtier and prelate, who gave his wealth to the poor. João Manual (1610) son of the Count of Castanheira, after a personal visitation of the diocese in 1611, drew up constitutions which were approved at a synod in 1614 and he subsequently became Archbishop of Lisbon and viceroy. João de Portugal (1626), a Dominican of noble birth and saintly life, made a visitation of the diocese and finding most of his people ignorant of Christian doctrine, wrote and distributed a summary of it. It was remarked that he gave nothing to his relations, saying that the income of the diocese should be spent upon it and its children, the poor. Bernardino de Senna (1629), a Franciscan, had held important posts in his order in different parts of Portugal, whither he travelled on foot begging alms, and he had refused two mitres. Becoming general he lived at Madrid with free entry to the palace, although dressed in rags. Urban VIII named him minister general, and at the age of fifty-eight when he had visited and governed 6000 convents and 280,000 subjects, King Philip presented him to the See of Vizeu. Miguel de Castro IV (1633) never took possession, but Diniz de Mello e Castro (1636) in his two years' rule was diligent in his pastoral office, especially in visitations, and was a great benefactor of the Misericordias of the diocese. For the next thirty-two years the see remained vacant, owing to the war with Spain following on the proclamation of Portuguese independence. Through Spanish pressure, the popes refused to confirm the prelates named by King João IV and during eleven years Portugal and colonies had only one bishop, the others, appointed under the Philips, having died. This energetic man, who lived until one hundred and nine, is said to have ordained 20,000 priests and confirmed a million persons. Finally peace was made with Spain and in 1671 Manuel de Saldanha became bishop but died three months later and in 1673 João de Mello, a noble and man of greatest austerity, succeeded. He rebuilt the chancel of the cathedral, convened a synod in 1681, added to the constitutions of the diocese, and employed the Oratorians in giving missions. Ricardo Russell, an Englishman, chaplain to Queen Catherine, wife of Charles II, was translated from Portalegre in 1685 and established that congregation in Vizeu. He left the reputation of being a man of zeal and illustration, and though a severe disciplinarian, of ready wit.

Jeronymo Soares (1694), a generous benefactor of the Misericordia, convoked a synod in 1699 and reformed the diocesan constitutions and those of many brotherhoods and confraternities. After his death the see remained vacant twenty years owing to differences between King João V and Rome. In 1740 Julio Francisco de Oliveira was appointed. José do Menino Jesus (1783), a Carmelite, was a lover of art, as he showed by the statues he presented to the cathedral. He made two visitations of the diocese and was succeeded by Francisco de Azevedo (1792), a prelate of great modesty and charity, who instituted five suburban parishes annexed to the cathedral and subsidized the rectors out of his own funds. He gave a new organ costing 20,000 crusados to the cathedral and laid the foundation-stone of the new hospital of the Misericordia. This rule was troubled by the Peninsular War and in 1810 British troops occupied his palace and other ecclesiastical buildings. Francisco Alexandre Lobo (1810), famous for his learning and writings, was minister under King Miguel and, when the Liberals triumphed in 1834, had to emigrate to France where he remained ten years. The new Government refused to recognize the vicar-general to whom he had confided the diocese, naming another, which gave rise to a schism and cruel persecution of the faithful. José Xavier da Cerveira e Sousa (1859) abandoned the diocese through his inability to secure obedience from his priests in the matter of clerical dress and was followed by Antonio Alves Martins (1862), a Franciscan who espoused the Liberal cause and fought in the civil war against King Miguel. A talented, energetic, and charitable man and a great orator, he gave his life to politics and was journalist, deputy, peer, and prime minister. He was a strong opponent of the Infallibility decree at the Vatican Council and his independence gained him the admiration of the Portuguese Liberals, who have recently erected a statue of him in Vizeu. He was followed by José Dias Correa de Carvalho (1883), translated from the See of Cabo Verde, where he was the first bishop to visit all the churches of the archipelago. The present prelate, Mgr. Antonio Alves-Ferreira dos Sontos, is his immediate successor.

PINHO LEAL, Portugal antigo e moderno, XII, s.v. Vizeu. Apontamentos historicos (Vizeu, 1895).


« Diocese of Vizagapatam Vizeu St. Vladimir the Great »
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