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Diocese of Nantes (Nanceiensis).
This diocese, which comprises the entire department of Loire Inférieure, was re-established by the Concordat of 1802, and is suffragan of Tours. According to late traditions, St. Clarus, first Bishop of Nantes, was a disciple of St. Peter. De la Borderie, however, has shown that the ritual of the Church of Nantes, drawn up by precentor Helius in 1263, ignores the apostolic mission of St. Clarus; that St. Peter's nail in the cathedral of Nantes was not brought thither by St. Clarus, but at a time subsequent to the invasions of the Northmen in the tenth century; that St. Flix of Nantes, writing with six other bishops in 567 to St. Radegond, attribute to St. Martin the chief rôle in the conversion of the Nantais to Christianity ; that the traditions concerning the mission of St. Clarus are later than 1400. The earliest list of the bishops of Nantes (made, according to Duchesne, at the beginning of the tenth century) does not favour the thesis of a bishop of Nantes prior to Constantine. The author of the Passion of the Nantes martyrs, Sts. Donatian and Rogatian, places their death in the reign of Constantius Chlorus, and seems to believe that Rogatian could not be haptized, because the bishop was absent. Duchesne believes that the two saints suffered at an earlier date, and disputes the inference of the ancient writer concerning the absence of the bishop. He believes that the first bishop of Nantes, whose date is certain, is Desiderius (453), correspondent of Sulpicius Severus and St. Paulinus of Nola. Several bishops, it is true, occupied the see before him, among others St. Clarus and St. Similianus, but their dates are uncertain. Mgr Duchesne considers as legendary the St. Æmilianus supposed to have been Bishop of Nantes in Charlemagnes reign and to have fought the Saracens in Burgundy.
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Among the noteworthy bishops are: St. Felix (550-83), whose municipal improvements at Nantes were praised in the poems of Fortunatus, and who often mediated between the people of Brittany and the Frankish kings; St. Pacharius (end of seventh century); St. Gohard (Gohardus), martyred by the Northmen in 843, with the monks of the monastery of Aindre; Actardus (843-71), during whose time the Breton prince Nomenoé, in his conflict with the metropolitan see of Tours, created a see at Guérande, in favour of an ecclesiastic of Vannes, in the heart of the Diocse of Nantes; the preacher Cospeau (1621-36). The diocese venerates: the monk St. Hervé (sixth century); the hermits Sts. Friard and Secondel of Besné (sixth century); St. Victor, hermit at Cambon (sixth or seventh century); the English hermit Vital, or St. Viaud (seventh or eighth century); the Greek St. Benoît, Abbot of Masserac in Charlemagne's time ; St. Martin of Vertou (d. 601), apostle of the Herbauges district and founder of the Benedictine monastery of Vertou; St. Hermeland, sent by St. Lambert, Abbot of Fontenelle, at the end of the seventh century to found on an island in the Loire the great monastery of Aindre (now Indret); the celebrated missionary St. Amand, Bishop of Maastricht (seventh century), a native of the district of Herbauges. Blessed Franoise d'Ambroise (1427-85), who became Duchess of Brittany in 1450, had a great share in the canonization of St. Vincent Ferrier, rebuilt the choir of the collegiate church of Notre-Dame, and founded at Nantes the monastery of the Poor Clares. Widowed in 1457, she resisted the intrigues of Louis XI, who urged her to contract a second marriage, and in 1468 became a Carmelite nun at Vannes. In 1477, at the request of Sixtus IV, she restored the Benedictine monastery of Couëts, near Nantes. The philosopher Abelard was a native of the diocese. The Abbey of La Meilleraye, founded in 1132, was the beginning of an establishment of Trappist Fathers, who played a most important part in the agricultural development of the country. The crusades were preached at Nantes by Blessed Robert of Arbrissel, founder of Fontevrault. Venerable Charles of Blois won Nantes from his rival Jean de Montfort in 1341. On 8 August, 1499, Louis XII married Anne of Brittany at Nantes-a marriage which later led to the annexation of the Duchy of Brittany to the Crown of France (1532). Chateaubriant, a town of the diocese, was a Calvinistic centre in the sixteenth century. For the Edict of Nantes (1595), which granted Protestants religious freedom and certain political prerogatives, see HUGUENOTS.
In 1665, by order of Louis XIV, Cardinal Retz was imprisoned in the castle of Nantes, from which he contrived to escape. A college was created at Nantes in 1680 for the education of Irish ecclesiastics. Certain regions of the diocese were, during the Revolution, the scene of the War of La Vendée, waged in defence of religious freedom and to restore royalty. At Savenay in December, 1793, succumbed the remains of the Vendean army, already defeated in the battle of Cholet. The atrocities committed at Nantes by the terrorist Carrier are well-known. Four councils were held at Nantes, in 600, 1127, 1264, and 1431. The mausoleum of Francis II, last Duke of Brittany, executed in 1507 by Michel Colomb, is one of the finest monuments of the Renaissance. The chief places of pilgrimage of the diocese are: Notre-Dame de Bon Garant at Orvault, a very old pilgrimage, repeatedly made by Francis II, Duke of Brittany; Notre-Dame de Bon Secours at Nantes, a pilgrimage centre which dates back to the fourteenth century ; Notre-Dame de Toutes Aides. Notre-Dame de Miséricorde became a place of pilgrimage in 1026 in memory of the miracle by which the country is said to have been freed from a dragon; the present seat of the pilgrimage is the Church of St. Similien at Nantes. Before the law of 1901 against congregations, the diocese counted Capuchins, Trappists, Jesuits, Missionary Priests of Mary, Augustinians, Franciscans, Missionaires of Africa, Premonstratensians, Sulpicians, and several orders of teaching brothers. The Ursulines of Nantes were established by St. Angela of Merici in 1640.
Among the congregations for women originating in the diocese are: the Sisters of Christian Instruction, a teaching order founded in 1820 at Beignon ( Diocese of Vannes ) by Abbé Deshayes, of which the mother-house was transferred to St-Gildas des Bois in 1828; Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, a teaching and nursing order, founded in 1853 (mother-house at La Haye Mahéas) ; Franciscan Sisters, founded in 1871 (mother-house at St-Philbert de Grandlieu); Oblate Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, founded in 1875 by Mlle Gazeau de la Brandannière (mother-house at Nantes). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the religious congregations of the diocese conducted three crèches, 44 day nurseries, 3 homes for sick children, 1 institution for the blind, 1 deaf and dumb institution, 6 boys' orphanages, 17 girls' orphanages, 3 homes for poor girls, 1 institution for the extinction of mendicity, 2 houses of mercy, 1 house to supply work to the unemployed, 1 vestiary, 10 houses of visiting nurses, 7 homes for invalids and for retirement, 23 hospitals or asylums. The Diocese of Nantes has 664,971 Catholics, 52 parishes, 209 succursal parishes.
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