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Diocese of Périgueux

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Comprises the Department of Dordogne and is suffragan to the Archbishopric of Bordeaux. By the Concordat of 1801, the Dioceses of Périgueux and Sarlat were united to the See of Angoulême ; in 1821 Périgueux was again the seat of a bishopric which united the former Dioceses of Périgueux and Sarlat, excepting 60 parishes given to Agen and Angoulême and 49 parishes which had once belonged to Limoges, Cahors, and Tulle.

The Martyrology of Ado gives St. Front as the first Bishop of Périgueux; St. Peter is said to have sent him to this town with the St. George to whom later traditions assign the foundation of the church of Le Puy. Subsequent biographies, which appeared between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, make St. Front's life one with that of St. Fronto of Nitria, thereby giving it an Egyptian colouring. At all events we know by the Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus that a Bishop of Périgueux, Paternus, was deposed for heresy about 361. Among the bishops are: Raymond V, Cardinal of Pons (1220-1223); the future cardinal, Blessed Elie de Bourdeilles (1447-1468); Claude de Longwy, Cardinal of Givry (1540-1547); the future Cardinal Gousset (1836-1840), subsequently Archbishop of Reims.

The Abbey of Saint-Sauveur of Sarlat, later placed under the patronage of St. Sacerdos, Bishop of Limoges, seems to have existed before the reigns of Pepin the Short and Charlemagne who came there in pilgrimage and because of their munificence deserved to be called "founders" in a Bull of Eugene III (1153). About 936 St. Odo, Abbot of Cluny, was sent to reform the abbey. The abbey was made an episcopal see by John XXII, 13 Jan., 1318.

Among the bishops of Sarlat were Cardinal Nicolas de Gaddi (1535-1546) and the preacher Jean de Lingendes (1639-1650).

Vesuna (subsequently Périgueux) was in the fifth century the site of an important school ; it had distinguished professors: Paulinus the rhetorician; his son Paulinus the poet, who wrote (between 465 and 470) a poem on the life of St. Martin and another poem on the miraculous cure of his grandson by St. Martin; two named Anthedius; and Lupus, poet, rhetorician, and mathematician. Two provincial synods of Bordeaux were held at Périgueux in 1368 and 1856.

The history of the church of St. Front of Périgueux gave rise to numerous discussions between archæologists. Félix de Verneihl claims that St. Front was a copy of St. Mark's (Venice); Quicherat, that it was copied from the church of the Holy Apostles of Constantinople. M. Brutails is of opinion that if St. Front reveals an imitation of Oriental art, the construction differs altogether from Byzantine methods. The dates 984-1047, often given for the erection of St. Front, he considers too early; he thinks that the present church of St. Front was built about 1120-1173, in imitation of a foreign monument by a native local school of architecture which erected the other domed buildings in the south-west of France.

St. Vincent de Paul was ordained priest 23 Sept., 1600, by Bourdeilles, Bishop of Périgueux. Fénelon, born in the Diocese of Sarlat, was titular of the priory of Carinac which his uncle François de Salignac, Bishop of Sarlat, had given him. The Church of Périgueux is the only one in France to celebrate the feast of Charlemagne (28 Jan.). This Church has a special veneration for Saints Silanus, Severinus, Severianus, and Frontasius, martyrs, disciples of St. Front; St. Mundana, martyr, mother of St. Sacerdos, Bishop of Limoges (sixth century); the Benedictine St. Cyprian, Abbot of the Périgueux monastery (sixth century); St. Sour (Sorus), a hermit who died about 580, founder of the Abbey of Terrasson. The Carmelite monk St. Peter Thomas (1305-1366), a native of Salles in the Diocese and Patriarch of Constantinople, died in Cyprus during the crusade which for a short time gave Alexandria to the Christians.

The Diocese of Périgueux has a remarkable relic : Pierre Raoul or Gérard, a parish priest in Périgord, brought back after the First Crusade the Holy Shroud of Christ, entrusted to him by a dying ecclesiastic of Le Puy, who himself obtained this relic from the legate Adhémar de Monteil. The Cistercians who founded the monastery of Cadouin in 1115 had a church erected in honour of this relic ; its cloister, a marvel of art, was consecrated in 1154. Notwithstanding the strict rules of the order interdicting the use of gold vases, the Chapter of Cîteaux permitted a gold reliquary for the Holy Shroud. As early as 1140, the Holy See instituted a confraternity in honour of the Holy Shroud, thought to be the oldest in France. St. Louis in 1270 venerated the Holy Shroud at Cadouin; Charles VI had it exposed for one month in Paris ; Louis XI founded at Cadouin in 1482 a daily Mass. Bishop Lingendes in 1444 held an official investigation which asserted the authenticity of the relic. The other chief places of pilgrimage are: at Belvès, a shrine of Notre-Dame de Capelou, mentioned in 1153 in a Bull of Eugene III . Notre-Dame de Fontpeyrines; Notre-Dame du Grand Pouvoir at Périgueux, dating back to 1673; Notre-Dame des Vertus, dating back to 1653; Notre-Dame de Temniac, near Sarlat, a shrine where Clement V established a priory ; Notre-Dame de Coulaures; Notre-Dame des Ronces at Nontron, dating back to the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Prior to the enforcement of the Law of 1901, there were in the Diocese of Périgueux, Capuchins, Carthusians, Trappists, Sulpicians, and various orders of teaching Brothers. The Congregation of Sisters of St. Martha, founded in 1643 (mother-house at Périgueux), is an important nursing and teaching order. The convent of Clarisses of Notre-Dame de la Garde, at Périgueux, was founded by two nuns whom St. Clare had personally sent from Assisi. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Diocese of Périgueux had the following religious institutions: 15 infant schools, 1 orphanage for boys, 5 orphanages for girls, 4 houses of shelter, 25 hospitals or asylums, 3 houses of visiting nurses, 1 house of retreat. In 1905 (the end of the period covered by the Concordat ) the diocese had a population of 452,951 inhabitants, with 69 parishes, 467 succursal parishes, and 45 vicariates supported by the State.

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