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DIOCESE OF TARBES (TARBIA)

The Diocese of Tarbes comprises the Department of the Hautes-Pyrenees (ancient territory of Bigorre), included in 1802 in the Diocese of Bayonne, re-established theoretically by the Concordat of 1817 and actually by the Bull of 6 October, 1822.

The new Diocese of Tarbes lost twenty-one parishes which were added to the Diocese of Bayonne, and twenty to the Archdiocese of Auch ; but the parishes of the country of the Quatre Valees and of the Vallee de Louron, formerly part of the archdiocese of Auch and the bishopric of Comminges, were reunited to the Diocese of Tarbes, suffragan of Auch.

Tradition has preserved the names of St. Girinus and St. Evex or Erex, as the first martyrs of Bigorre. The district was laid waste by the Vandals, who were afterwards put to flight by St. Missolinus, a priest ; it was disturbed by the Priscillianist heresy and finally terrorized by the Arian Visigoths, who, in the reign of Ewarik, waged a bloody persecution against the clergy.

Mgr Duchesne considers St. Justin whom the "Gallia Christiana" cites as the first in the list of bishops of Tarbes, to have been only a priest, and excludes from the list St. Faustus of Riez. He considers Aper, represented at the Council of Agde in 506, as the first historically known bishop of the see. Among the successors are cited: St. Landeolus, bishop in 870; William I (1120-41) who helped draw up the ancient "For de Bigorre," one of the oldest and most curious monuments of the law of the middle Ages ; Pierre de Foix (1462-64), cardinal in 1437; Gabriel de Gramont (1524-34), cardinal in 1531, who attempted to negotiate between Henry VIII and the Holy See to prevent a rupture.

The Benedictine monastery of St. Savin of Lavedan was founded by Charlemagne and shortly took the name of the hermit and miracle worker, St. Savin, who was one of its monks and died before 840; the abbot was lord of the territory and the villages under his obedience were called a republic. The Benedictine Abbeys of St. Orens of Larreule and of St. Orens of Lavedan were founded, one in 970 and the other before the eleventh century in honour of St. Orens, Bishop of Auch, who had first lived as a hermit in the Lavedan. The monastery of St-Pe de Generes, was founded about 1032 by Sanche, Duke of Gascony; it was the cradle of the town of Saint-Pe. The priory of Sarrancolin was founded about 1050 in memory of St. Ebbons, who fought against the Moors in Catalonia and died at Sarrancolin. The Abbey of Escale Dieu was founded in 1140; it was the daughter of the Cistercian Abbey of Morimond. St. Bertrand of Comminges was one of its monks ; another, St. Raymond, was sent to Spain in 1158, where he founded the Abbey of Fitere, and the celebrated semi-religious, semi-military order of Calatrava. St. Bertrand, Bishop of Comminges (1073-1123), preached the Gospel in the Vallee d'Azun in the Diocese of Tarbes. To make amends for the hostile reception that had been given him, the inhabitants pledged themselves to give the See of Comminges all the butter that should be produced in the territory of Azun during the week preceding Pentecost; this impost was paid down to 1789. As natives of Bigorre may be cited: Cardinal Arnaud d'Ossat (1536-1604), born at Larroque Magnoac, who played an important part in the reign of Henry IV ; Bernard pierre Carasse, born at Tarbes at the opening of the sixteenth century, who, from being a warrior, became general of the Carthusians, revised the constitutions of the order, and was so illustrious in his day, that in 1582 Catherine de Medici visited La Chartreuse to see him.

The fame of the Diocese of Tarbes has been spread throughout the Christian world since 1858 by the pilgrimages and the miracles of Lourdes. Mention must also be made of the pilgrimage of Notre Dame de Garraison at Monleon, dating back to the fifteenth century; that of Notre Dame de Poueylahun near Eaux Bonnes, dating back to the sixteenth century; the pilgrimage to Mazeres, near the vacant shrine of St. Liberata, perhaps a martyr under Julian the Apostate ; the pilgrimage to Arreau, to the chapel of St. Exuperius , friend of St. Jerome , who died Archbishop of Toulouse, about 417, after combating the heresy of Vigilantius.

Before the application of the law of 1901 against the congregations there were in the Diocese of Tarbes, the Priests of the Immaculate Conception at Lourdes, Carmelites, and various teaching orders of brothers. Several congregations of nuns were originally founded in the diocese : the Sisters of St. Joseph, hospitallers and teachers, with their mother-house at Cantaous; the Sisters of Notre-Dame des Douleurs, hospitallers, with their mother-house at Tarbes, and a branch house in Cairo; the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Notre-Dame de Lourdes, with their mother-house at Lourdes.

At the close of the nineteenth century the religious congregations directed in the diocese : 5 schools, 1 home for sick children, 1 school for the deaf and dumb, 6 girls' orphanages, 6 workshops, 3 homes for the poor, 12 hospitals or hospices, 3 houses of retreat, 6 houses of nuns devoted to nursing the sick in their own homes. At the time of the abrogation of the Concordat (1905) the Diocese of Tarbes contained 215,546 inhabitants, 28 cures, 300 succursal churches, and 135 vicariates towards the support of which the State contributed.


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