Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo
Diocese of Lausanne and Geneva (Lausannensis et Genevensis).

Diocese in Switzerland, immediately subject to the Holy See.

I. LAUSANNE

According to the most recent investigations, particularly those of Marius Besson, the origin of the See of Lausanne can be traced to the ancient See of Windisch (Vindonissa). Bubulcus, the first Bishop of Windisch, appeared at the imperial Synod of Epao in Burgundy, in 517 ( Maassen, "Concilia ævi merov." in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Leg.", III, I, Hanover, 1893, 15-30). The second and last known Bishop of Windisch was Gramatius (Grammatius), who signed the decrees of the Synod of Clermont in 535 ( Maassen, 1. c., pp. 65-71) of Orléans, 541 ( Maassen, 1. c., 86-99), and that of Orléans, 549 ( Maassen 1. c., 99-112). Hitherto it has generally been believed that shortly after this the see was transferred from Windisch to Constance. Besson has made it probable that, between 549 and 585, the see was divided and the real seat of the bishops of Windisch transferred to Avenches (Aventicum), while the eastern part of the diocese was united with Constance. According to the Synod of Mâcon, 585 ( Maassen, 1. c., 163-73), St. Marius seems to have been the first resident Bishop of Avenches. The Chartularium of Lausanne (ed. G. Waitz in "Mon. Germ.: Scriptores", XXIV, Hanover, 1879, 794; also in "Mémoires et documents pull, par la Société de la Suisse Romande", VI, Lausanne, 1851, 29) affirms that St. Marius was born in the Diocese of Autun about 530, was consecrated Bishop of Avenches in May, 574, and died 31 December, 594. (For his epitaph in verse, formerly in the church of St. Thyrsius at Lausanne, see "Mon. Germ.: Script.", XXIV, 795.) To him we are indebted for a valuable addition (455-581) to the Chronicle of St. Prosper of Aquitaine (P. L. LXXII, 793-802; also in "Mon. Germ.: Auctores Antiquissimi", XI, Berlin, 1894,232-39). The See of Avenches may have been transferred to Lausanne by Marius, or possibly not before 610.

Lausanne was originally a suffragan of Lyons (certainly about the seventh century), later of Besançon, from which it was detached by the French Concordat of 1801. In medieval times the diocese extended from the Aar, near Soleure, to the northern end of the Valley of St. Imier, thence along the Doubs and the ridge of the Jura to where the Aubonne flows into the Lake of Geneva, and thence along the north of the lake to Villeneuve whence the boundary-line followed the watershed between Rhône and Aar to the Grimsel, and down the Aar to Attiswil. Thus the diocese included the town of Soleure and part of its territory that part of the Canton of Berne which lay on the left bank of the River Aar, also Biel, the Valley of St. Imier, Jougne, and Les Longevilles in the Franche-Comté, the counties of Neuchâtel and Valangin, the greater part of the Canton de Vaud, the Canton of Fribourg, the county of Gruyère, and most of the Bernese Oberland. The present Diocese of Lausanne includes the Cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, and Neuchâtel.

Of the bishops who in the seventh century succeeded St. Marius almost nothing is known. Between 594 and 800 only three bishops are known: Arricus, present at the Council of Chalon-sur-Saône ( Maassen, 1. c., 208-14), Protasius, elected about 651, and Chilmegisilus, about 670. From the time of Charlemagne until the end of the ninth century the following bishops of Lausanne are mentioned: Udalricus (Ulrich), a contemporary of Charlemagne ; Fredarius (about 814); David (827-50), slain in combat with one of the lords of Degerfelden; Hartmann (851-78); Hieronymus (879-92). The most distinguished among the subsequent bishops are: Heinrich von Lenzburg (d. 1019), who rebuilt the cathedral in 1000; Hugo (1019-37), a son of Rudolf III of Burgundy, in 1037 proclaimed the "Peace of God" ; Burkart von Oltingen (1057-89), one of the most devoted adherents of Henry IV, with whom he was banished, and made the pilgrimage to Canossa ; Guido von Merlen (1130-44), a correspondent of St. Bernard; St. Amadeus of Hauterive, a Cistercian (1144-59), who wrote homilies in honour of the Blessed Virgin (P. L., CLXXXVIII, 1277-1348); Boniface, much venerated (1231-39), formerly a master in the University of Paris and head of the cathedral school at Cologne, resigned because of physical ill-treatment, afterwards auxiliary bishop in Brabant (see Ratzinger in "Stimmen aus Maria-Laach", L, 1896, 10-23, 139-57); the Benedictine Louis de la Palud (1432-40), who took part in the Councils of Constance (1414), Pavia-Siena (1423), Basle (1431--) and at the last-named was chosen, in January, 1432, Bishop of Lausanne, against Jean de Prangins, the chapter's choice; Palud was later vice-chamberlain of the conclave whence Amadeus VIII of Savoy emerged as the antipope, Felix V , by whom he was made a cardinal ; George of Saluzzo, who published synodical constitutions for the reform of the clergy ; Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere (1472-76), who in 1503 ascended the papal throne as Julius II.

Meanwhile the bishops of Lausanne, who had been Counts of Vaud since the time of Rudolf III of Burgundy (1011), and until 1218 subject only to imperial authority, were in 1270 made princes of the Holy Roman Empire, but their temporal power only extended over a small part of the diocese, namely over the city and district of Lausanne, as well as a few towns and villages in the Cantons of Vaud and Fribourg; on the other hand, the bishops possessed many feoffees among the most distinguished of the patrician families of Western Switzerland. The guardians of the ecclesiastical property ( advocati, avoués ) of the see were originally the counts of Genevois, then the lords of Gerenstein, the dukes of Zähringin, the of Kyburg, lastly, the counts (later dukes) of Savoy. These guardians, whose only duty originally was the protection of the diocese, enlarged their jurisdiction at the expense of the diocesan rights and even filled the episcopal see with members of their families. Wearisome quarrels resulted, during which the city of Lausanne, with the aid of Berne and Fribourg, acquired new rights, and gradually freed itself from episcopal suzerainty. When Bishop Sebastian de Montfaucon (1517-60) took sides with the Duke of Savoy in a battle against Berne, the Bernese used this as a pretext to seize the city of Lausanne. On 31 March, 1536, Hans Franz Nägeli entered Lausanne as conqueror, abolished Catholicism, and began a religious revolution. The bishop was obliged to fly, the ecclesiastical treasure was taken to Berne, the cathedral chapter was dissolved (and never re-established), while the cathedral was given over to Protestantism. Bishop Sebastian died an exile in 1560, and his three successors were likewise exiles. It was only in 1610, under Bishop Johann VII of Watteville, that the see was provisionally re-established at Fribourg, where it has since remained. The Cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Berne, were entirely lost to the See of Lausanne by the Reformation. By the French Constitution Civile du Clergé (1790) the Parishes of the French Jura fell to the Diocese of Belley, and this was confirmed by the Concordat of 1801. In 1814 the parishes of Soleure, in 1828 those of the Bernese Jura, and in 1864 also that district of Berne on the left bank of the Aar were attached to the See of Basle. In compensation, Pius VII assigned, in a papal brief of 20 September, 1819, the city of Geneva and twenty parishes belonging to the old Diocese of Geneva (which in 1815 had become Swiss ) to the See of Lausanne. The bishop (in 1815 Petrus Tohias Yenni) retained his residence at Fribourg, and since 1821 has borne the title and arms of the Bishops of Lausanne and Geneva. His vicar general resides at Geneva, and is always parish priest of that city.

II. GENEVA

Geneva (Genava of Geneva, also Janua and Genua), capital of the Swiss canton of the same name situated where the Rhône issues from the Lake of Geneva ( Lacus Lemanus ), first appears in history as a border town, fortified against the Helvetians, which the Romans took in 120 B.C. In A.D. 443 it was taken by Burgundy, and with the latter fell to the Franks in 534. In 888 the town was part of the new Kingdom of Burgundy, and with it was taken over in 1033 by the German Emperor. According to legendary accounts found in the works of Gregorio Leti ("Historia Genevrena", Amsterdam, 1686) and Besson ("Memoires pour l'histoire ecclésiastique des diocèses de Genève, Tantaise, Aoste et Maurienne", Nancy, 1739; new ed. Moutiers, 1871), Geneva was Christianised by Dionysius Areopagita and Paracodus, two of the seventy-two disciples, in the time of Domitian ; Dionysius went thence to Paris, and Paracodus became the first Bishop of Geneva. The legend, however, is fictitious, as is that which makes St. Lazarus the first Bishop of Geneva, an error arising out of the similarity between the Latin names Genara (Geneva) and Genua (Genoa, in Italy ). The so-called "Catalogue de St. Pierre", which gives St. Diogenus (Diogenes) as the first Bishop of Geneva, is untrustworthy. A letter of St. Eucherius to Salvius makes it almost certain that St. Isaac (c. 400) was the first bishop. In 440 St. Salonius appears as Bishop of Geneva; he was a son of St. Eucherius , to whom the latter dedicated his Instructiones'; he took part. in the Councils of Orange (441), Vaison (442), and Arles (about 455), and is supposed to be the author of two small commentaries, "In parabolas Salomonis", and on Ecclesisastis (published in P. L., LII, 967 sqq., 993 sqq. as works of an otherwise unknown bishop, Salonius of Vienne). Little is known about the following Bishops Theoplastus (about 475), to whom St. Sidonius Apollinaris addressed a letter; Dormitianus (before 500),under whom the Burgundian Princess Sedeleuba, a sister of Queen Clotilda, had the remains of the martyr and St. Victor of Soleure transferred to Geneva, where she built a basilica in his honour ; St.. Maximus (about 512-41), a friend of Avitus, Archbishop of Vienne and Cyprian of Toulon, with whom he was in correspondence (Wawra in "Tubinger Theolog. Quartalschrift", LXXXV, 1905, 576-594). Bishop Pappulus sent the priest Thoribiusas his substitute to the Synod of Orléans (541). Bishop Salonius II is only known from the signatures of the Synods of Lyons (570) and Paris (573), and Bishop Cariatto, installed by King Guntram in 584, was present at the two Synods of Valence and Mâcon in 585.

From the beginning the See of Geneva was a suffragan of Vienne. The bishops of Geneva had been princes of the Holy Roman Empire since 1154, but, had to maintain a long struggle for their independence against the guardians ( advocari ) of the see, the counts of Geneva and, later, the counts of Savoy. In 1290 the latter obtained the right of installing the vice-dominus of the diocese -- the official who exercised minor jurisdiction in the town in the bishop's name. In 1387 Bishop Adhémar Fabry granted the town its great charter, the basis of its communal selfgovernment, which every bishop on his accession was expected to confirm. When the line of the count of Geneva became extinct, in 1394, and the House of Savoy came into possession of their territory, assuming, after 1416, the title of Duke, the new dynasty sought by every means to bring the city of Geneva under their power, particularly by elevating members of their own family to the episcopal see. The city protected itself by union with the Swiss Federation ( Eidgenossenschaft ), uniting itself, in 1526, with Berne and Fribourg. The Reformation plunged Geneva into new entanglements: while Berne favoured the introduction of the new teaching, and demanded liberty of preaching for the Reformers Farel and Froment, Catholic Fibourg, in 1511, renounced its allegiance with Geneva. Calvin went to Geneva in 1536 and began systematically to preach his doctrine there. By his theocratic "Reign of Terror" he succeeded in forcing himself upon Geneva as absolute ruler, and converted the city into a Protestant. Rome, as early as 1532 the bishop had been obliged to leave his residence, never to return; in 1536 he fixed his see at Gex, in 1535 at Annecy. The Apostolic zeal and devotion of St. Francis de Sales, who was Bishop of Geneva from 1602 to 1621, restored to Catholicism a large part of the diocese.

Formerly the Diocese of Geneva extended well into Savoy, as far as Mont Cenis and the Great St. Bernard. Nyon, also, often erroneously considered a separate diocese, belonged to Geneva. "Under Charlemagne Taraittaise was detached from Geneva and became a separate diocese. Before the Reformation the See of Geneva ruled over 8 chapters, 423 parishes, 9 abbeys, and 68 priories. In 1802 the diocese was united with that of Chambéry. At the Congress of Vienna the territory of Geneva was extended to cover 15 Savoyard and 6 French parishes, with more than 16,000 Catholics ; at the same time it was admitted to the Swiss Federation. The Congress expressly provided -- and the same proviso was included in the Treaty of Turin (16 March, 1816) -- that in these territories transferred to Geneva the Catholic religion was to be protected, and that no changes were to he made in existing conditions without agreement with the Holy See. Pius VII next (1819) united the city of Geneva and 20 parishes with the Diocese of Lausanne, while the rest of the ancient Diocese of Geneva (outside of Switzerland ) was reconstituted, in 1822, as the Diocese of Annecy . The Great Council of Geneva (cantonal council) afterwards ignored the responsibilities thus undertaken; in imitation of Napoleon's "Organic Articles", it insisted upon the "Placet", or previous approval of publication, for all papal documents. Catholic indignation ran high at the civil measures taken against Marilley, the parish priest of Geneva, and later bishop of the see. Still greater indignation was aroused among the Catholics by the injustice created by the Kulturkanmpf , which obliged them to contribute to the budget of the Protestant Church and to that of the Old Catholic Church, while for their own religious needs they did not receive the smallest pecuniary aid from the public treasury. On 30 June, 1907, most of the Catholics of Geneva voted for the separation of Church and State . By this act of separation they were assured at least a negative equality with the Protestants and Old Catholics. Since then the Canton of Geneva has given aid to no creed out of either the state or the municipal revenues. The Protestants, however, have been favoured, for to them a lump compensation of 800,000 francs (about $160,000) was paid at the outset, whereas the Catholics, in spite of the international agreements assuring financial support to their religion -- either from the public funds or from other sources -- received nothing.

III. LAUSANNE AND GENEVA

Bishop Yenni's (d. 8 December, 1845) successor was Etienne Marilley. Deposed, in 1848, by the Cantons of Berne, Geneva, Vaud, and Neuchâtel, owing to serious differences with the Radical regime at Fribourg, he was kept a prisoner for fifty days in the castle of Chillom, on the Lake of Geneva, and then spent. eight years in exile at Divonne ( France ); he was allowed to return to his diocese 19 December, 1856. In 1864 Pius IX appointed the vicar-general of Geneva, Gaspard Mermillod, auxiliary bishop, and in 1873 Vicar Apostolic, of Geneva, thus detaching the Genevese territory from the diocese and making it a vicariate. This new Apostolic vicariate was, however, not recognized by either the State Council of Geneva or the Swiss Federal Council, and Mermillod was banished from Switzerland by a decree of 17 February, 1873. When the Holy See condemned this measure, the Government answered on 12 December, 1873, by expelling the papal nuncio. After Bishop Marilley had resigned his diocese (1879) Monsignor Cossandey, provost of the theological seminary at Fribourg, was elected Bishop of Lausanne and Geneva, and after his death, Mermillod. Thus the Apostolic Vicariate of Geneva was given up, the conflict with the Government ended, and the decree of expulsion against Mermillod was revoked. When, in 1890, Leo XIII made Mermillod a cardinal, he removed to Rome. The Holy See then appointed the present bishop, Monsignor Joseph Deruaz, and he was consecrated at Rome, 19 March, 1890, by his predecessor. Mgr. Deruaz was born 13 May, 1826, at Choulex in the Canton of Geneva, studied theology at Fribourg and he was vicar at Grand Sacconex near Geneva, and then curé at Rolle, in the Canton of Vaud, and at Lausanne. Hew was present at the Vatican Council with Bishop Marilley. As bishop he worked in the spirit of conciliation, and was successful in remedying the ills of the Kulturkamf in the Canton of Geneva.

Statistics

The present Diocese of Lausanne-Geneva comprises the Cantons of Fribourg, Geneva, Vaul, and Neuchâtel, with the exception of certain parishes of the right bank of the Rhône belonging to the Dioecse of Sion (Sitten). According to Büchi (see bibliography) and the "Dictionnaire géographique de la Suisse" (Neuchâtel, 1905), III, 49 sqq., the diocese numbers approxunately 434,049 Protestants and 232,056 Catholics ; consequently, the latter form somewhat more than one-third of the whole population of the bishopric. The Catholics inhabit principally the Canton of Fribourg (excepting the Lake District) and the country parishes transferred to Geneva in 1515, four communes in the Canton of Neuchâtel, and ten in the Canton of Vaud. The Catholic population in the Cantons of Fribourg and Geneva consists principally of farmers, in both of the other cantons it is also recruited from the labouring classes. The Catholics are distributed among 193 parishes, of which 162 are allotted to Lausanne, 31 to Geneva. The number of secular priests is 390, those belonging to orders 70. The religious orders and congregatoints are almost entirely in the Canton of Fribourg. The Capuchins have monasteries at Fribourg and bulle, and hospices at Romont and Landeron; since 1861, the Carthusians have been in possession of their old convet of Val-Sainte, suppressed in the 2eighteenth century. The Franciscans conduct the German classes in the Fribourg Gymnasium. The Marists and the Congregation of the Divine Saviour (Societas Divini Salvatoris) have establishments at Fribourg. The female congregations represented in the diocese are: Cistercians at Maigrauge, near Fribourg, and Fille-Dieu near Romont; Dominicans at Estavayer; Sisters of Charity (Hospital Sisters) at Fribourg, Estavayer, and Neuchâtel, (Theodosia's of the Holy Cross) at Fribourg, Ueberstorf, St. Wolfgang and Neuchâtel, (of St. Vincent de Paul ) at Fribourg, Chatel-St-Denis, Billens, and Tafers; Capucines at Montorge, near Fribourg. The Visitandines and the Ursulines conduct each a girls' school at Fribourg; the Teaching Sisters of the Holy Cross, of Menzingen and Ingenbohl, conduct several schools for girls (among them the Academy of the Holy Cross at Fribourg attached to the university ); they are also employed as teachers in many of the village schools. The Filles de L'Ouvre de St. Paul (not properly religious) have, among other works, a Catholic bookstore at Fribourg, and a well-arranged printing house. Among the more important. educational establishments of diocese, besides those already mentioned, are: the University of Fribourg [see Fribourg (Switzerland). University of]; the theological seminary of St. Charles at Fribourg, with seven ecclesiastical professors; the cantonal school of St. Michel, also at Fribourg, which comprises a German and French gymnasium, a Realschule (corresponding somewhat to the English first-grade schools ) and commercial school, as well as a lyceum, the rector of which is a clergyman. This school has at present (1910) about 800 pupils, with 40 ecclesiastical and as many lay professors. Three other cantonal universities exist in the diocese : Geneva (founded by Calvin in 1559, and in 1873 raised to the rank of a university with five faculties); Neuchâtel (1866, academy; 1909, university ); Lausanne (1537, academy; university since 1890, with five faculties). Geneva and Lausanne both have cantonal Protestant theological faculties, Neuchâtel a "Faculté de théologie de l'église indépendante de l'état". For the government of the diocese there are, besides the bishop, two vicars-general, one of whom lives at Geneva, the other at Fribourg. There are, moreover, a provicarius generalis , who is also chancellor of the diocese, and a secretary. The cathedral chapter of Lausanne (with 32 canons was suppressed at the time of the reformation, and has never been re-established, in consequence of which the choice of a bishop rests with the Holy See. In 1512 Julius II established a collegiate chapter in the church of St. Nicholas at Fribourg, which is immediately subject to the Holy See, with a provost appointed by the Great Council, also a dean, a cantor, and ten prebends. This collegiate church takes the place of the diocesan cathedral, still lacking, since the cathedral of St. Pierre at Geneva and that of Notre-Dame at Lausanne were given over to Protestantism at the time of the Reformation.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Second Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 128:1-2, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents] How blessed are all who fear ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:27-32
27 'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 27th, 2014 Image

St. Monica
August 27: St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter