The Diocese of Bayonne comprises the Department of Basses-Pyrenees. Reorganized in 1802, it included, besides certain parishes of the Diocese of Dax and Tarbes, the Diocese of Oloron and Lescar. It was suffragan to the Archiepiscopal See of Toulouse from 1802 to 1822, thereafter to that of Auch.
Local tradition maintains that St. Leo, the martyr, with whose memory is associated a miraculous fountain, was the first Bishop of Bayonne. No bishop is historically known prior to the sixth century, although some think that Bayonne, designated as civitas in the Treaty of Andelot (587), must have had a bishop at that time, whilst others couple the foundation of the See of Bayonne with the establishment of the Kingdom of Aquitaine (778). Until 1655, the Diocese of Bayonne included much Spanish territory, i.e. the four Archpresbyteries of Bastan, Lerin, Cinco Villas in Navarre, and Fontarabia in Guipuzcoa, a remnant of Charlemagne's conquests beyond the Pyrenees. Christopher de Beaumont, afterwards Archbishop of Paris, occupied the See of Bayonne from 1741 to 1745 and Astros occupied it from 1820 to 1830.
A local legend recorded in the great "Breviaire de Lescar" of 1541, and patterned after the Limousin legend of St. Martial, holds that St. Julian, sent from Bordeaux by St. Leontius, was the first Bishop of Lescar; but according to history, St. Galactorius, martyred perhaps by the Visigoths after their defeat at Vouille, and St. Gratus, both mentioned in the Council of Agde (506), were respectively the first incumbents of the See of Lescar and the See of Oloron known to history. Until 1789 the Bishops of Lescar presided by right over the Assembly of the States of Bearn. Amongst those who occupied the See of Oloron was Roussel, the Dominican (1536-50), protégé of Margaret of Navarre and a convert to Calvinism.
Sponde (Spondanus, 1568-1643), Bishop of Pamiers, who carried on the work of Baronius ; Duvergier de Hauranne (1581-1643), Abbé de St. Cyran, the second founder of Jensenism, and Cardinal Lavigerie were born in territory now included in the Diocese of Bayonne. Betharram is celebrated as a place of pilgrimage as also are Notre Dame de Pietat, at Paradies, and Notre Dame de Sarrance, visited by King Louis XI. In 1899 the following institutions were to be found in the diocese : 1 infant asylum, 38 infant schools, 2 orphanages where farming is taught, 10 girls' orphanages, 5 gratuitous industrial schools, 2 houses of refuge for young girls, 2 patronages , 1 temporary home for servants, 4 hospitals or hospices, 1 insane asylum, 6 homes for the aged, and 1 private hospital, all conducted by Sisters, and 2 orphanages where farming is taught, conducted by Brothers, and 4 patronages for young people conducted either by priests or brothers. At the close of 1905 the Diocese of Bayonne contained 426,347 inhabitants, 43 pastorates, 449 succursales or mission churches, and 91 curacies.
In 1900 the following religious orders were represented in the diocese : the Jesuits and Franciscans at Pau, and the Capuchins at Bayonne. Among the local congregations are: the Auxiliary Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, devoted to teaching and missionary work, founded at Betharram in 1841. They have missions at Bethlehem, Buenos Ayres, and Montevideo. The Servants of Mary, who teach and serve in hospitals ; their mother-house is at Anglet. The Bernardines, with mother-house also at Anglet, were founded in 1846; they keep perpetual silence and divide their time between prayer and work of sewing and embroidery.
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