Diocese of Luçon (Lucionensis).
Embraces the Department of La Vendée. It was suppressed by the Concordat of 1801 and annexed to the Diocese of La Rochelle ; however, its re-establishment was urged upon in the Concordat of 1817 and came into effect in 1821. The new Diocese of Luçon comprised the territory of the ancient diocese (minus a few parishes incorporated in the Diocese of Nantes ) and almost all the former Diocese of Maillezais.
The monastery of Luçon was founded in 682 by Ansoald, Bishop of Poitiers, who placed it under the government of St. Philbert (616-684). The latter, being expelled from Jumièges, established the monastery of the Black Benedictines on the Isle of Her (Noirmoutiers), of which Luçon was at first a dependency, probably as a priory. The list of the abbots of Luçon begins about the middle of the eleventh century. In 1317 John XXII erected the Bishopric of Luçon and among the occupants of the see were Nicolas Cœur (1441-51), brother of the celebrated financier Jacques Cœur; Cardinal Jean de Lorraine (1523-4); Cardinal Louis de Bourbon (1524-7); Jacques Duplessis-Richelieu (1584-92); and Armand Duplessis-Richelieu, the famous cardinal (1606-23); Nicolas Colbert, brother of the great minister (1661-71); De Mercy (1775-90), who emigrated during the Revolution and became illustrious through the excellent instructions sent to his priests ; and René-François Soyer (1821-45), famed for the activity with which, even as a young priest, he had assumed various disguises and, during the most perilous hours of the Revolution exercised his ecclesiastical functions in the suburbs of Poitiers. Bishop Soyer had for a very short time as his vicar-general the Abbé Affre, who subsequently, as Archbishop of Paris, fell in 1848 on the barricades in an effort to make peace.
The Benedictine monastery of Maillezais was founded about 989 by Gauzbert, Abbot of St-Julien de Tours, urged thereto by William IV, Duke of Aquitaine, and his wife Emma. Abbot Pierre (about 1100), who followed Richard Cœur de Lion to the crusade, composed two books on the construction and transfer of the Abbey of Maillezais. In 1317 John XXII erected the Bishopric of Maillezais and among its bishops were Guillaume de Lucé (1421-38) and Thibaud de Lucé (1438-55), political counsellors of Charles VII, King of France. In 1631 Urban VIII, with a view to a more active struggle against Protestantism, transferred the residence of the Bishop of Maillezais to Fontenay-le-Comte; in 1648 the see itself was suppressed by Innocent X and its territory annexed to the Aunis district and the Isle of Ré, both of which had been detached from the Diocese of Saintes in order to form that of La Rochelle ; this condition lasted until 1821. Besides St. Philbert the principal saints honoured in the Diocese of Luçon are: St. Benedict of Aizenay, a contemporary of St. Hilary, the apostle of Bas Poitou (fourth century); St. Macarius , disciple of St. Martin, apostle of the land of the Mauges (fourth century); St. Viventianus (d. 413); and St. Martin of Vertou (d. 601), apostle of the country of the Herbauges; St. Florent, of the Isle of Yeu, disciple of St. Martin and founder of the monastery of St. Hilaire on the Isle of Yeu (fourth century); St. Lienne, disciple of St. Hilary, Abbot of St. Hilaire le Grand of Poitiers, in whose honour a monastery was erected at La-Roche-sur-Yon (fourth century); St. Senoch of Tiffauges, hermit and miracle-worker (sixth century); St. Amandus, of the Isle of Yeu (d. 675), monk at St. Hilaire on the Isle of Yeu and later Bishop of Maastricht; St. Vitalis or Viaud, hermit (seventh or eighth century); St. Adalard who died at Noirmoutiers and, because of his virtue, was called by his contemporaries "Antoine des Gaules"; and Blessed Louis-Marie-Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716).
Rabelais was a Franciscan at Fontenay-le-Comte and a monk in the monastery of Maillezais and was honoured with the friendship of Geoffroy d'Estissac (1518-43), Bishop of Maillezais. The Diocese of Luçon was violently disturbed at the time of the Reformation. In 1568 a canon who fortified himself in the cathedral and sustained a long siege against the Protestants, was captured and hanged, and the Catholics who had shut themselves up in the church with him were massacred. During the Revolution this diocese was the centre of the War of La Vendée. The chief places of pilgrimage are: Notre-Dame de Garreau in the Hermier chapel, visited probably by Louis XIII at the time of his wars against the Huguenots ; La Sainte Famille du Chêne at La Rabatelière (since 1874); since the beatification of Grignion de Montfort (22 January, 1888) his tomb and the calvary that he established at Saint-Laurent sur Sèvre, attract over 20,000 pilgrims yearly.
The Diocese of Luçon was the nursery of very important congregations; among the congregations of men dispersed by the Association law of 1901, the following merit mention: the Missionary Priests of the Society of Mary (Compagnie de Marie); and the Christian Brothers of St. Gabriel (Frères de l'instruction chrétienne de Saint Gabriel ) founded in 1705 at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre by Blessed Louis-Marie-Grignion de Montfort and whose numbers increased greatly since 1820 under the direction of Père Gabriel Deshayes. In 1901 the Missionary Priests had establishments in ten French dioceses, also in England, Canada, Holland, and Haiti, while the brothers, devoted to teaching, had a membership of 1420 and 165 establishments, some of them in Canada, England, Belgium, and the French Congo. There were also the Sons of Mary Immaculate (Enfants de Marie Immaculée), missionaries and teachers, founded early in the nineteenth century at Chavagnes en Paillers by Venerable Louis-Marie Baudouin, with missionary houses in the English Antilles. Among the congregations of women we must mention: Sisters of Christian Union (Sœurs de l'Union chrétienne), a teaching order founded in 1630 by Marie Lumague with a mother-house at Fontenay-le-Comte; Daughters of Wisdom (Filles de la Sagesse), devoted to nursing and teaching, founded in 1703 by Blessed Grignion de Montfort and having in 1901 a membership of 4800, with 360 establishments in France and 43 in Haiti ; Ursulines of Jesus ( Ursulines de Jésus), a teaching order founded in 1802 at Chavagnes en Paillers by Venerable Louis-Marie Baudouin with houses in England ; Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of Mary (Sœurs du Sacré Cœur de Jésus et de Marie), teachers, founded by the Abbé Moreau in 1818, with mother-house at Mormaison to which in 1900 were subject over 1033 members in 154 institutions.
At the end of 1907 there remained in the diocese eleven religious communities of women. At the close of the nineteenth century the diocese could boast of the following establishments conducted by religious: 42 infant schools, 1 boys' orphanage, 5 girls' orphanages, 1 alms-house, 15 hospitals or hospices, and 13 communities for the care of the sick in their homes. At the end of 1907 the Diocese of Luçon had a population of 441,311, 36 canonical parishes, 262 "succursales" parishes, 154 curacies, 12 chapels-of-ease, and 633 priests.
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