Diocese of Verdun
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Comprises the Department of the Meuse. Suppressed by the Concordat of 1802, and subsequently united to the Diocese of Nancy , Verdun was re-established by the Bull of 27 July, 1817, and by the Royal Decree of 31 October, 1822. It was formed practically of the entire ancient Diocese of Verdun, portions of the ancient Dioceses of Trier, Châlons, Toul, Metz, and Reims, and became suffragan of the Archdiocese of Besançon. For the late tradition attributing the foundation of the Church of Verdun to St. Sanctinus, disciple of St. Denis the Areopagite, after he had founded the Church of Meaux, see MEAUX. Certain local traditions state that Sts. Maurus, Salvinus, and Arator were bishops of Verdun after St. Sanctinus, but the first bishop known to history is St. Polychronius (Pulchrone) who lived in the fifth century and was a relative and disciple of St. Lupus de Troyes. Other bishops worthy of mention are: St. Possessor (470-86); St. Firminus (486-502); Vitonus (Vanne) (502-29); St. Désiré (Desideratus) (529-54), St. Agricus (Airy) (554-91), friend of St. Gregory of Tours and of Fortunatus ; St. Paul (630-48), formerly Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Tholey in the Diocese of Trier ; and St. Madalvaeus (Mauve) (753-76). The legend according to which Peter, successor of Madalvaeus, received the Diocese of Verdun from Charlemagne as a reward for the cession of the town of Pavia or Treviso to the Franks, is no longer accepted. Peter became Bishop of Verdun in 781, named to that office by Adrian I at the request of Charlemagne ; shortly afterwards he was accused of conspiring against the emperor but was cleared of the accusation at the Synod of Frankfort (794). Bishop Dado (880-923) caused the "Gesta episcoporum Virodunensium" to be begun by Bertharius, a Benedictine of Saint-Vanne, afterwards continued down to 1250 by Lawrence, another monk of Saint-Vanne, and later by an anonymous writer.
Verdun, which had been originally a Roman civitas , shared the destiny of Lorraine in the Middle Ages and formed part of Lower Lorraine. The counts of Verdun belonged to the family of Ardennes of which Godfrey of Bouillon, the hero of the First Crusade, was an illustrious member. The Emperor Otto III in 997 conferred on Bishop Haymon of Verdun and his successors the titles of counts of their episcopal city and princes of the Holy Roman Empire with all the rights of sovereigns, especially that of naming for life a count subject to the commands of the bishop ( Comte viager ). These "episcopal counts" also called voués ( advocati ) continued to be selected by the bishops of Verdun from the family of Ardennes, and there were frequent quarrels between the bishops and the voués. Thus Godfrey of Bouillon, Voué of Verdun, was in conflict with Thierry the Great, Bishop of Verdun from 1047 to 1088, before leaving for the Crusade, and renounced his rights to the countship. During the first half of the twelfth century, Renauld le Borgne, Count de Bar and Voué of Verdun, governed the town as a tyrant and resisted the authority of the bishops for thirty-five years. The feast entitled "Commemoration of the Miracles of the Virgin Mary" is celebrated in the diocese on 20 October, in honour of the final victory of Bishop Albero (1131-56) over "le Borgne" to whom the former ceded Clermontois and Vienne-le-Château. From this time the voués of Verdun were suppressed. The concessions obtained from the Emperor Louis of Bavaria in 1227 by the people of Verdun were the cause of a two-years' war between them and Bishop Raoul de Torote (1224-45). Jacques de Troyes, later pope under the name of Urban IV, was Bishop of Verdun from 1252-1255. Among other bishops are: Liébauld de Cusance (1379-1403), who signed a treaty with King Charles VI of France by which French dominion was established in Verdun; Cardinal Louis de Bar (1419-30); Guillaume de Fillastre (1437-49), historian of the Golden Fleece ( Toison d'Or ); and Cardinal Jean de Lorraine (1523-44). Nicolas Psaulme (1548-75) successfully withstood the inroads of Protestantism in the diocese. At the Council of Trent he vigorously attacked the system of commendatory abbots. It was during his episcopate that the Constable de Montmorency conquered in the name of Henry II, King of France, the "Three Bishoprics " of Metz, Toul, and Verdun (1552), though theoretically they remained territories of the empire until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Other incumbants of the see were Charles de Lorraine, Cardinal de Vaudemont (1585-87), and Eric de Lorraine Vaudemont (1593-1610) to whom, at the end of 1603, after many difficulties, Clement VIII gave full power to legalize the marriage of the Catholic Henry, heir to the Duchy of Lorraine, to his Calvinist cousin Catherine, sister of Henry IV.
Under the old regime the bishops of Verdun were suffragans of Trier. Eugene III visited Verdun to consecrate the new cathedral on 11 November, 1147. This cathedral was built at the order of Bishop Albero by the architect Garin, its cloister being a masterpiece of flamboyant Gothic, built from 1509 to 1517. The Abbey of Tholey was given in 634 to the church of Verdun by the rich deacon Adalgisus, its founder, out of esteem for his friend Bishop Paul. Until the time of Charlemagne it was the chief ecclesiastical school for the clergy of Verdun. The Benedictine Abbey of Vasloge, later Beaulieu, founded in 642 by St. Rouyn, numbered among its abbots in the eleventh century Blessed Richard (d. 1046), Abbot of Saint-Vanne, who reformed it, and St. Poppon, who died in 1048. The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Vanne de Verdun was founded in 952 to replace a community which had established in the same church by St. Vitonus. Among the abbots of Saint-Vanne may be mentioned the aforesaid Blessed Richard, who dissuaded the Emperor St. Henry from becoming a monk of Saint-Vanne when he came to Verdun for that purpose about the year 1024; also Abbot Conon, who played an important part in the conflict of investitures , and who died in 1178. For the important monastic reforms of the beginning of the seventeenth century, which, thanks to the prior Dom Didier de la Cour, emanated from the Abbey of Saint-Vanne, see BENEDICTINE ORDER. The superb Church of Saint-Vanne was destroyed in 1832 and its cloister, which had been converted into barracks, was burned in 1870. The Abbey of Saint-Paul de Verdun was founded (970-973) by Bishop Viefrid. It was originally occupied by Benedictines, but in 1135 by Premonstratensians, and was finally destroyed in 1552. The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Airy de Verdun, founded between 1025 and 1042, opened public schools about the year 1100, which enjoyed renown for a number of years. In 709 a monastery dedicated to St. Michael was established on Mount de Châtillon by Vulfoad, mayor of the palace under Childeric, King of Austrasia. Abbot Maragdus, a friend of Charlemagne, transferred it in 819 to the borders of the Meuse, thus founding the town of Saint-Mihiel. The reform inaugurated by the congregation of Saint Vanne was introduced into this monastery in 1606 by Cardinal Charles de Lorraine, one of its abbots. Cardinal de Retz was also an abbot of Saint-Mihiel and occupied the castle of Commercy, where he wrote his "Memoirs on the Fronde", and which castle he restored and afterwards sold to Charles IV of Lorraine.
The castle and town of Vaucouleurs belonged to the lords of Joinville, one of whom wrote the life of St. Louis. At this town Joan of Arc presented herself to Robert de Baudricout, offering her services against the English who were then besieging Orléans. Before the foundation of the Fortress of Montmedy there existed, on the rock dominating the town, a chapel under the protection of the Blessed Virgin which in the sixth century had replaced a statue of the Gaulish Mercury. The Diocese of Verdun figures largely in the history of art, owing to the sculptor Ligier Richier (1500-72), a pupil of Michelangelo. His mausoleum of Rene de Châlons, Prince of Orange, at Bar-le-Duc and his Holy Sepulchre in the church of Saint-Mihiel are admirable works of art. A council held at Verdun in 947 dealt with the conflict between Hugues and Artaud both of whom claimed the See of Reims, finally retained by Artaud. At Tusey (Tusiacum) near Vaucouleurs, a council, convened by Charles the Bald and Lothaire, was held in 860. The synodal letter despatched by the council and revised by Hincmar, dealt with usurpers of ecclesiastical benefices and maintained against the doctrine of Gottschalk that Jesus died for all men without exception. The Treaty of Verdun signed in 843 by the three Kings, Lothaire, Charles the Bald, and Louis the German, definitively confirmed the division of Charlemagne's empire. A number of saints are connected with the history of the diocese of whom the following are worthy of mention: St. Euspicius, who during the siege of Verdun in 502 by Clovis, prevailed on him to spare the town and received the territory of Micy near Orléans on which to build an abbey ; he was an uncle of St. Vanne (Vitonus), Bishop of Verdun, and of St. Mesmin (Maximinus) from whom the Abbey of Micy received its name. St. Wandrille (Wandregesilus), b. in Verdun in 570, founder of the Monastery of Fontenelle and his nephew St. Gou, also born in Verdun and a monk of Fontenelle ; St. Rouyn (Rodingus) of Irish origin, who founded the Abbey of Beaulieu in the episcopate of St. Paul and died in 708 at the age of 117; also Blessed Pierre of Luxembourg (1369-1387), Bishop of Metz and cardinal, son of Gui de Luxembourg, Count de Ligny. Father Gerbillon (1634-1707), a Jesuit, who played an important part in the Chinese Missions, came originally from Verdun, and the celebrated and learned Dom Calmet (1672-1757) was born at Mesnil la Horgne.
The chief pilgrimages of the diocese are: Notre Dame d'Avioth, near Montmédy, dating from the twelfth century, with a sanctuary dating from the fourteenth to the fifteenth centuries; Notre Dame de Benoite Vaux; Notre Dame de la Belle Epine, at Bouchon; Notre Dame du Guet, at Bar-le-Duc, dating from 1130; Notre Dame des Vertus, at Ligny; St. Anne d'Argonne, dating from 1338; and Notre Dame of La Voûte at Vaucouleurs. Before the application of the law of 1901 regarding the associations, the following orders were represented in the Diocese of Verdun: Capuchins ; Clerks Regular of our Saviour and several orders of teaching brothers. Among orders for women were: Canonesses Regular of St. Augustine of the Congregation of Our Lady, founded at Corbeil (Seine et Oise) in 1643, in 1816 they were charged with the education at Versailles of the daughters of the Chevaliers de St. Louis and were transferred to Verdun in 1839; also the Sisters of Compassion, a teaching order founded in 1846 with a mother-house at St-Hilaire-en-Woevre. At the end of the nineteenth century the religious congregations directed: 64 infant schools, 7 orphan asylums for girls, 2 houses of charity, 1 dispensary, 3 houses for nursing the sick in their homes, 1 house of retreat, 1 lunatic asylum, and 18 hospitals. In 1905 at the end of the concordatory regime there were 283,480 inhabitants, 30 first-class parishes, 444 succursals and 34 vicariates.
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