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Diocese in Spain, suffragan of Tarragona ; bounded on the N. by France ; E. by the Provinces of Gerona, Barcelona, and Lérida ; S. and W. by Lérida, which includes most of the diocese, the latter, however, extends to some towns of Gerona, Huesca, and the valleys of Andorra. The capital, Seo de Urgel, is situated in the northern part of Lérida, between the Segre and Balira, and has 4000 inhabitants. The city, one of the most ancient of Spain, belonged to the Ilergetas and is called Orgia or Orgelia on the Iberian coins.

Christianity was introduced into Urgel at a very early period. St. Justus , Bishop of Urgel, attended the Second Council of Toledo in 527. He also attended the First Council of Lérida, 546, and wrote on the Canticle of Canticles a work dedicated to Sergius, Archbishop of Tarragona. St. Isidore mentions him and his three brothers in his "Varones ilustres". Simplicius, Bishop of Urgel, figures in the Third Council of Toledo and the names of his successors, in later councils of Tarragona, and the Second Council of Barcelona. Lubericus, at the time of the Mohammedan invasion, attended the Sixteenth Council of Toledo. The line of bishops continued uninterruptedly during the period of the Mohammedan dominion. The city, however, was totally destroyed, a district called Vicus Urgelli alone surviving. Reconquered and taken possession of by the French the see was governed by Felix who with Elipandus of Toledo propagated Adoptionism, a heresy in which it appears he died, notwithstanding the fact that he had several times abjured it. Learned and except for his heretical tendencies, virtuous, he died in exile in León, 804, and for this reason the people of Urgel in ancient times venerated him as one of their seven holy bishops. About 885 Bishop Ingobert was expelled from his see by the intruder Selva, who, under the protection of the Count of Urgel, was consecrated in Gascony. This usurper also unlawfully placed Hermemiro over the See of Gerona. In 892 a synod was held in the Church of Santa María in Urgel; the two usurpers were deposed, their vestments rent, their crosiers broken over their heads, and they were deprived of their sacerdotal faculties. Bishop Saint Amengol died on 3 Nov., 1035. Another saint and Bishop of Urgel was Odo, son of Count de Pallas (1095-1122). Arnaldus of Perexens retired to the monastery of Bellpuig in 1194. His successor Bernardo de Castelló attended the Third Council of the Lateran, and in 1198 retired to the monastery of Aspir in the Diocese of Elne. In the last century José Caixal, who distinguished himself at the Vatican Council and was so cordially detested by the Liberals, was Bishop of Urgel (1853-79). When Seo de Urgel was captured by Martínez Campos during the civil war the bishop was taken prisoner, exiled and died at Rome.

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The bishops of Urgel have from very ancient times been sovereign princes of the Andorra valleys. When Charlemagne liberated the City of Urgel from the Saracen yoke he conferred on its bishop Posidonius I the right to one tenth of the tithes of the valleys. When the territory was reconquered and colonized by Louis the Pious he conferred the sovereignty on the Count of Urgel. These counts and the bishop contended for the rights over the Andorran valleys until 26 Oct., 1040, when on the occasion of the dedication of the cathedral of Urgel the Countess Constancia accompanied by her son Armengol, a minor, ceded to Bishop Eribaldus her right of sovereignty over Andorra. The contentions, however, were renewed between Count Armengol and Bishop Bernardo de Castelló. The latter had recourse to Raimundo Roger I, Count of Foix, promising to share with him the government of Andorra. Relying on this agreement Roger Bernardo III, Count of Foix, in 1264, invaded the estates of the Bishop of Urgel. This war was ended by arbitration. Jatvert, Bishop of Valencia, acting with the other arbitrators, drew up an agreement known as the "Pariatges", which was accepted by the Count de Foix on 7 Sept., 1278, and later confirmed by Martin IV. This convention still forms the Constitution of Andorra, a neutral territory, known as a republic. According to it the valleys recognized as their lawful sovereigns the Count de Foix and the Bishop of Urgel, each of whom appointed a veguer (vicar), who jointly administered the government. The rights of the counts of Foix passed to the Bourbons, kings of France, and subsequently to the French Government; the bishops of Urgel still retain a nominal suzerainty and the title of "principes soberanos" of Andorra.

The ancient cathedral of Andorra was destroyed; the present cathedral dates from the time of Bishop Eribaldus and was consecrated in 1040, although the building was continued until late into the thirteenth century. It is an example of the Romanesque of the second period resembling the transition period architecture of France. Adjoining the church is a twelfth-century cloister, restored in the sixteenth century. The cathedral possesses a rich collection of ancient jewelled altar-vessels and ornaments. The archives contain a famous collection of very ancient documents, some of which date from the time of the Frankish kings. Inside the cathedral is the parish of St. Odo, and outside are the churches of San Miguel and San Augustín. To the east of the city are situated the citadel, the castle, and the tower of Solsona, which figured prominently in the late civil wars. The first seminary was erected by a Bull of Clement VIII, 13 August, 1592; the new seminary was built by Bishop Caixal and is one of the finest buildings in the city. The episcopal palace is also striking. There are two hospitals, military and civil, the latter being installed in the former Convent of the Augustinians. There is a convent of sisters devoted to Christian education, a foundling and an orphan asylum. The cathedral was declared a minor basilica on 9 Dec., 1905. The diminutive republic (6000) is governed by a popularly elected council of ex-members and a syndic or president, elected by the council for life. Its inhabitants are mostly shepherds, and speak Catalan.


The present Bishop of Urgel is Mgr. Juan Bennloch y Vivo, b. at Valencia, Spain, 30 Dec., 1864 ; ordained, 25 Feb., 1888; Vicar-General of Segovia in 1899; named titular Bishop of Hermopolis Major, 12 Dec., 1901, and Apostolic Administrator of Solsona, consecrated, 2 Feb., 1902, and transferred to Urgel, 6 Dec., 1906, in succession to Mgr. Juan José Lagnarda y Fenollera. There are about 100,000 Catholics ; 19 archpriests ; 600 priests ; 395 parishes ; 400 churches ; 575 chapels. The religious (male) include the Franciscans, Trappists, Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception, and Piarists (with 3 colleges ). Among the nuns there are: Carmelites, Poor Clares, Little Sisters of the Poor, Dominican Tertiaries, Carmelite Sisters of Charity, and Sisters of the Holy Family (with 14 schools ), of the Holy Guardian Angel, and of St. Joseph; there are 3 hospitals in care of nuns.

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