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Diocese of Pamiers

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A Diocese comprising the Department of Ariège, and suffragan of Toulouse. The territory forming it was united to the Archbishopric of Toulouse on the occasion of the Concordat of 1801 ; the Concordat of 1817 re-established at Pamiers a diocese which existed only in September, 1823, uniting the ancient Dioceses of Pamiers and Couserans, the larger portion of the former Dioceses of Mirepoix and Rieux and a deanery of the former Diocese of Alet (See CARCASSONNE). A decree of the Holy See 11 March, 1910, re-established the titles of the former Sees of Couserans and Mirepoix.

A. -- Diocese of Pamiers

The traditions of the diocese mention as its first Apostle of Christianity, St. Antoninus, born at Fredelacum near Pamiers, an apostle of the Rouergue, martyred in his native country (date uncertain). The Abbey of St. Antonin was founded near Fredelacum about 960; in 1034 it passed under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Girone and was annexed in 1060 to the Congregation of Cluny. A castle built on the site of the abbey by Roger II, Count of Foix (1070-1125), was called Appamia; hence the name of Pamiers which passed to the neighbouring small town. Boniface VIII created a see at Pamiers by the Bull "Romanus Pontifex" 23 July, 1295, and made it a suffragan of Narbonne. He named Bernard Saisset Abbot of St. Antonin, and by a decree 18 April, 1296, settled the boundaries of the new diocese dismembered from that of Toulouse. The opposition of Hughes Mascaron, Bishop of Toulouse, and the conflict between Saisset and Roger Bernard III, Count of Foix, prevented Saisset from taking immediate possession of his diocese ; Abbé Vidal has proven that it is not true, as had long been thought, that St. Louis of Anjou, who became Bishop of Toulouse at the death of Mascaron, had been appointed provisional administrator of the Diocese of Pamiers. Saisset took possession of his see on 19 April, 1297; having sided with Boniface VIII (1301), he was imprisoned by order of Philip the Fair.

After careful investigation, Clement V , 3 August, 1308, complied with certain demands of Toulouse concerning the decree of Boniface VIII, and the Diocese of Pamiers remained, but with poorer resources than those assigned it by Boniface VIII. However, when John XXII raised Toulouse to an archbishopric, 22 Feb., 1318, he also extended the Diocese of Pamiers which he made suffragan of Toulouse. Saisset's successor was Jacques Fournier (1317-26), subsequently pope under the name of Benedict XII. Vidal discovered in the Vatican Library the record of the procedure of the Inquisition tribunal created at Pamiers, by Jacques Fournier in 1318, for the extirpation of the remnants of Albigensianism in the Foix region; this document is most important for the history of the Inquisition, representing as it does, and perhaps in this instance only, that particular tribunal in which the monastic inquisitor and the diocesan bishop had almost equal power, as decreed in 1312 by the Council of Vienna. In this new regime the traditional procedure of the Inquisition was made milder by temporizing with the accused who persisted in error, by granting defendants a fair amount of liberty, and by improving the prison regime. Among the noteworthy bishops of Pamiers were Cardinal Arnaud de Villemur (1348-50); Cardinal Amanieu d'Albret (1502-06); John of Barbançon (1550-55), who became a Calvinist ; Robert of Pellevé (1557-79), during whose episcopate the religious wars gave rise to cruel strife: Protestants destroyed every church in Pamiers, among them the magnificent cathedral of Notre-Dame du Camp, and three times they demolished the episcopal palace of the Mas Saint-Antonin. Henry of Sponde (1626-42), Spondanus, who summarized and continued the Ecclesiastical Annals of his friend Baronius ; the Jansenist François Etienne de Caulet (1644-1680).

B. -- See of Couserans or Conserans

According to St. Gregory of Tours , the first bishop was St. Valier. (Valerius) before the sixth century. Bishop Glycerius was present at the Council of Agde in 506. According to Mgr Duchesne he should be identified with a certain Licerius (St. Lizier) whom the "Gallia Christiana" places lower in the list of bishops ; he was patron saint of St-Lizier, the episcopal residence of the bishops of Couserans, suffragans of Auch. The historian Bishop Pierre de Marca (1643-52) president of the Parliament of Navarre, was subsequently Bishop of Toulouse and Archbishop of Paris.

C -- See of Rieux

A See erected by John XXII in 1317, as suffragan to the archiepiscopal See of Toulouse. Among its bishops were: Cardinal de Rabastens (1317-21); Cardinal de St-Martial (1359-72).

D. -- See of Mirepoix

A See erected by John XXII in 1317 as suffragan of the Archbishop of Toulouse. Among its bishops were Jacques Fournier (1326-1327); David Béthon, Cardinal de Balfour (1537-46); Innocent, Cardinal de Monti (1553-1555); Jean Suavius, Cardinal de Mirepoix (1555-60); the academician Boyer, preceptor to the Dauphin, father of Louis XVI (1730-1736).

The Diocese of Pamiers specially honours St. Gerontius, martyr (date unknown) who gave his name to the city of St-Girons. The Council of Pamiers in 1212 drew up forty-nine articles concerning the police of the States of Simon de Montfort, and of the other seigneurs to whom had been given the lands of the defeated Albigensian noblemen. In a council held at Foix in 1226, Cardinal de Saint-Ange, Honorius III 's legate, absolved Bernard, Count of Foix, who had become a follower of the Albigenses, of the crime of heresy. The celebrated Guy de Levis who had the title of "Maréchal de la foi et des croisés", received in acknowledgement of his conduct in the Albigensian war, the city of Mirepoix which remained the property of the house of Levis until the revolution. Aside from the pilgrimage of St. Antonin at Pamiers, the chief pilgrimage centres are: Notre-Dame d'Ax les Thermes; Notre-Dame du Camp at Pamiers; Notre-Dame de Celles at Celles; Notre-Dame de l'Isard in the valley of Aran ; Notre-Dame du Marsan at St-Lizier, pilgrimage centre dating back to the tenth century; Notre-Dame de Sabart, established after a victory won by Charlemagne over the Saracens ; Notre-Dame du Val d'Amour, at Belesta; Notre-Dame de Vals; Notre-Dame de Varilhes. Pilgrims are also attracted to St-Martin of Oydes by the relics of St. Anastasius, by St. Anthony's at Lezat, and by the miraculous fountain of Eycheil, which according to tradition, gushed forth after St. Lizier had been praying to St. John the Baptist. Prior to the enforcement of the Law of 1901, the Diocese of Pamiers had Dominicans, Carmelite monks and teaching Brothers. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the religious congregations of the diocese had charge of 19 day nurseries, 2 orphanages for girls, 4 industrial rooms, 2 sheltering houses, 10 hospitals, 1 insane asylum, 2 houses of nuns for the care of the sick in their own homes. In 1905 (last year of the period covered by the Concordat ) the Diocese of Pamiers had a population of 210,527, with 22 parishes, 321 mission churches, 20 vicariates subventioned by the State.

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