Diocese of Vich
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Suffragan of Tarragona, bounded on the north by Gerona, on the east by Gerona and Barcelona, on the south by Barcelona and Tarragona, on the west by Tarragona and Lérida. It lies within the four Catalonian provinces, but the greater part of it in that of Barcelona. The capital has 9500 inhabitants. Vich is of very ancient origin; it was called Ausa by the Romans, and Iberian coins bearing this name have been found there. The Goths called it Ausona. After its destruction by the Moors only one quarter (Vicus) was rebuilt, and this was called Vicus Ausonensis, from which the name Vich was derived. The introduction of Christianity was undoubtedly very remote, as martyrs of Ausa are recorded in the time of Decius, and in the earliest records of the Tarraconensian sees the Bishop of Vich is one of the very first mentioned. None, however, is mentioned by name until 516 when Cinidius is named as assisting at the provincial Council of Tarragona and Gerona. Aquilinus (589-99) attended the third Council of Toledo; Esteban, the fourth and one at Egara; Dominus, the sixth of Toledo; Guericus, the eighth; Wisefredus sent his vicar to the thirteenth, and attended in person the fifteenth and sixteenth. With this bishop ends the history of the Church of Ausona before the Saracen invasion. The reconquest of Vich was begun in the time of Louis the Pious, who confided the civil government to Borrell, Count of Ausona, all ecclesiastical matters being under the direction of the Archbishop of Narbonne. In 826 Vich fell once more into the hands of the Moors and was finally reconquered by Wilfred the Hairy, independent Count of Barcelona.
Wilfred dedicated to the Blessed Virgin the famous monastery of Ripoli, which was already in existence in 888, and obtained form the Archbishop of Narbonne the consecration of Godmarus as Bishop of Vich. The bishops and the family of Moncada disputed the right of sovereignty over the city until 1315, when the Bishop Berenguer Gaguardia ceded his rights to the king, James II, who also purchased the rights of the Moncadas. It is disputed whether the Church of San Pedro Apóstol or S. Maria la Rotonda was the first cathedral church. For centuries the bishops celebrated the first Christmas Mass in this church, and the third in that of San Pedro. The very ancient Church of S. Maria was rebuilt from the foundations by Canon Guillermo Bonfil in 1140, and consecrated forty years later by Bishop Pedro Retorta. In 1787 it was demolished to make room for the new Cathedral. Bishop Jorge (915- 38) reconsecrated the Church of Ripoli and also consecrated that of S. Maria de Manresa. Bishop Atton (960-72) is worthy of mention as a great promoter of studies. Many persons availed themselves of the advantages offered by his reforms, among them Gerbert, the monk of Orléans, afterwards Pope Sylvester II, who was distinguished for his learning. Another of the most illustrious bishops of Vich was Oliva (1018-46), son of the Count of Besahi, and Abbot of Ripoli where he reconstructed and richly decorated the church. The dedication took place 15 January, 1032. He also, with the help of Ermesinda, Countess of Barcelona, reconstructed the cathedral and dedicated it to Sts. Peter and Paul on 31 August, 1038. In the time of his successor Guillermo I the relics of its patron saints, the martyrs Lucianus and Marcianus, were found at Vich, and a council was held for the restoration of peace among the faithful. Berenguer Seniofredo reformed the chapter, expelling lax members and introducing regular observance. Berenguer obtained for himself the dignity of Archbishop of Tarragona, which was contested by the Bishop of Narbonne. Among the Spanish bishops who attended the Council of Trent was Acisclo Moya de Contreras, Bishop of Vich, who was accompanied by the theologian Pedro Mercado.
Of the more recent bishops, José Morgades y Gili deserves special mention. He restored the monastery of Ripoli, destroyed and pillaged by the revolutionists, and reconsecrated its church on 1 July, 1893. He also established at Vich an archaeological museum where he collected many treasures of medieval art which had been dispersed among the ancient churches of the diocese. The present Bishop of Vich is José Torras y Bages, a man of great culture and learning. The greatest glory of Vich of modern times is Jaime Balmes, the foremost Spanish philosopher of the nineteenth century, whose remains are interred in the cloister of the cathedral. His first centenary was celebrated at Vich by a Catholic Congress. The original cathedral, which had but a single nave, thick walls, and few windows, was replaced by that built by Bishop Oliva. As early as the thirteenth century Bishop Raimundo de Anglesola wrote a pastoral letter exhorting his people to contribute towards repairing the cathedral. In 1401 Bishop Diego de Heredia added a transept, and in 1585 the door of San Juan was added, but the necessity of a complete reconstruction was soon recognized, and towards the end of the eighteenth century the building was torn down, and the corner stone of the new one was laid on 24 September, 1781. It was consecrated on 15 September, 1803. It is classic in design, a combination of Doric and Tuscan, with a façade of white stone enriched with a beautiful balustrade. It has three entrances, corresponding to the three naves, and colossal statutes of its six patrons. The interior is Corinthian. All the monuments and altars were destroyed when the old church was demolished, except the high altar which is of alabaster, in the Gothic style, and was given early in the fifteen century by D. Bernardo Despujol. Among the chapels that of S. Bernardo Calvo (1233-43), who assisted Jaime I in the conquest of Valencia, deserves special mention. The two-storied Gothic cloister is exceedingly beautiful. A handsome Gothic doorway leading to the chapter house has been preserved.
The conciliar seminary was begun in 1635 by Gaspar Gil and was finally finished, by command of Benedict XIV, by Manuel Munoz in 1748. The present seminary is located in the former Jesuit College. It has sent out many famous men, among them Balmes and the poet Mosén Jacinto Verdager, author of "La Atlantida". The episcopal palace was destroyed in the wars of 1640 and rebuilt by degrees, being completed by Bishop Veyan. The archaeological museum is in this building. the University of Vich never attained to any great importance; it is not known when or by whom it was founded. Philip III granted it the privilege of conferring degrees, but only in philosophy and the arts (1599). Philip V, in the Cortes of Barcelona (1702), granted it the power to confer degrees in theology and other higher sciences. Manresa, where St. Ignatius Loyola wrote his Spiritual, is situated in the Diocese of Vich. His memory is venerated in the Santa Cueva, which has been converted into a church, and a magnificent college of the Jesuits built near it. Among the celebrated natives of Vich should be mentioned the Trinitarian St. Miguel de los Santos and Padre Claret, confessor of Isabella II and founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
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