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Archdiocese of Cambrai

Comprises the entire Departement du Nord of France

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Cambrai, Archdiocese of (CAMERACENSIS), comprises the entire Departement du Nord of France. Prior to 1559 Cambrai was only a bishopric, but its jurisdiction was immense and included even Brussels and Antwerp. The creation of the new metropolitan See of Malines in 1559 and of eleven other dioceses was at the request of Philip II of Spain in order to facilitate the struggle against the Reformation. The change greatly restricted the limits of the Diocese of Cambrai which, when thus dismembered, was made by way of compensation an archiepiscopal see with St. Omer, Tournai, and Namur as suffragans. By the Concordat of 1802 Cambrai was again reduced to a simple bishopric, suffragan to Paris, and included remnants of the former dioceses of Tournai, Ypres, and St. Omer. In 1817 both the pope and the king were eager for the erection of a see at Lille, but Bishop Belmas (1757-1841), a former constitutional bishop, vigorously opposed it. Immediately upon his death, in 1841, Cambrai once more became an archbishopric with Arras as suffragan.

For the first bishops of Arras and Cambrai, who resided at the former place, see Diocese of Arras (Atrebatum). On the death of St. Vedulphus (545-580) the episcopal residence was transferred from Arras to Cambrai. Among his successors were: St. Gaugericus (580-619); St. Berthoaldus (about 625); St. Aubert (d. 667); St. Vindicianus (667-693), who brought King Thierri to account for the murder of St. Leger of Autun; St. Hadulfus (d. 728); Alberic and Hildoard, contemporaries of Charlemagne, and who gave to the diocese a sacramentary and important canons; Hahtgarius (817-831), an ecclesiastical writer and apostle of the Danes; St. John (866-879); St. Rothadus (879-886); Wiboldus (965-966), author of the ludus secularis which furnished amusement to clerkly persons; Gerard the Great (1013-1051), formerly chaplain to St. Henry II, Emperor of Germany, and helpful to the latter in his negotiations with Robert the Pious, King of France; (Gerard also converted by persuasion the Gondulphian heretics, who denied the Blessed Eucharist); St. Lietbertus (1057-1076), who defended Cambrai against Robert the Frisian; Blessed Odo (1105-1113), celebrated as a professor and director of the school of Tournai, also as a writer and founder of the monastery of St. Martin near Tournai; Burchard (1115-1131), who sent St. Norbert and the Premonstratensians to Antwerp to combat the heresy of Tanquelin’s disciples concerning the Blessed Eucharist; Robert II of Geneva (1368-1371), antipope in 1378 under the name of Clement VIII; Jean IV T’serclaes (1378-1389), during whose episcopate John the Fearless, son of the Duke of Burgundy, married Margaret of Bavaria at Cambrai (1385); the illustrious Pierre d’Ailly (1396-1411); the celebrated Fenelon (1695-1715); and Cardinal Dubois (1720-1723), minister to Louis XV.

In the Middle Ages the Diocese of Cambrai was included in that part of Lorraine which, after various vicissitudes, passed under German rule in 940, and in 941 the Emperor Otto the Great ratified all the privileges that had been accorded the Bishop of Cambrai by the Frankish kings. Later, in 1007, St. Henry II invested him with authority over the countship of Cambresis; the Bishop of Cambrai was thus the overlord of the twelve “peers of Cambresis”. Under Louis XIV (1678) the Bishopric of Cambrai once more became French. The councils of Leptines, at which St. Boniface played an important role, were held in what was then the Belgian part of the former Diocese of Cambrai. Under the old regime the Archdiocese of Cambrai had forty-one abbeys, eighteen of which belonged to the Benedictines. Chief among them were the Abbey of St. Gery, founded near Cambrai about the year 600 in honor of St. Medard by St. Gery (580-619), deacon of the church of Treves, and who built a chapel on the bank of the Senne, on the site of the future city of Brussels; the Abbey of Hautmont, founded in the seventh century by St. Vincent, the husband of St. Wandru, who was foundress of the chapter at Mons; the Abbey of Soignies, founded by the same St. Vincent, and having for abbots his son Landri and, in the eleventh century, St. Richard; the Abbey of Maubeuge, founded in 661 by St. Aldegonde the sister of St. Wandru and a descendant of Clovis and the kings of Thuringia, among whose successors as abbesses were her niece, St. Aldetrude (d. 696) and another niece, St. Amalberte (d. 705), herself the mother of two saints, one of whom, St. Gudule, was a nun at Nivennes and became patroness of Brussels, and the other, St. Raynalde, are artyr; the Abbey of Lobbes which, in the seventh and eighth centuries, had as abbots St. Landelin, St. Ursmar, St. Ermin, and St. Theodulph, and in the tenth century, Heriger, the ecclesiastical writer; the Abbey of Crespin, founded in the seventh century by St. Landelin, who was succeeded by St. Adelin; the Abbey of Maroilles (seventh century), of which St. Humbert I, who died in 682, was abbot; the Abbey of Elnon, founded in the seventh century by St. Amandus and endowed by Dagobert; the Abbey of St. Ghislain, founded in the seventh century by the Athenian philosopher, St. Ghislain, and having as abbots St. Gerard (tenth century) and St. Poppo (eleventh century); the Abbey of Marchiennes, founded by St. Rictrudes (end of the seventh century); the Abbey of Liessies (eighth century) which, in the sixteenth century, had for abbot Ven. Louis de Blois (1506-1566); author of numerous spiritual writings (see Francois-Louis Blosius); the Abbey of St. Sauve de Valenciennes (ninth century), founded in honor of the itinerant bishop St. Sauve (Salvius), martyred in Ilainault at the end of the eighth century; and the Abbey of Oysoing, founded about 854 by St. Evrard, Count of Flanders and son-in-law of Luis the Debonair.

The list of the saints of the Diocese of Cambrai is very extensive, and their biographies, although short, take up no less than four volumes of the work by Canon Destombes. Exclusive of those saints whose history would be of interest only in connection with the Belgian territory formerly belonging to the diocese, mention may be made of St. Eubertus, an itinerant bishop, martyred at Lille (third century); St. Chrysole, martyr, patron of Comines, and St. Piat, martyr, patron of Tournai and Seclin (end of third century); St. Pharailde, patron of Bruay near Valenciennes (eighth century); the Irish missionaries Fursy, Caidac, Fricor, and Ultan (seventh and eighth centuries); St. Winnoc, Abbot of Bergues (end of seventh century); Blessed Evermore, disciple of St. Norbert and Bishop of Ratzburg in Germany (twelfth century); Blessed Charles le Bon, Count of Flanders, son of King Canute of Denmark and assassinated at Bruges in 1127; and Blessed Beatrice of Lens, a recluse (thirteenth century). The Jesuits Cortyl and du Beron, first apostles of the Pelew (Caroline) Islands, were martyred in 1701, and Chome (1696-1767), who was prominent in the Missions of Paraguay, and the Oratorian Gratry (1805-1872), philosopher and member of the French Academy, were natives of the Diocese of Cambrai. The English college of Douai, founded by William Allen in 1568, gave in subsequent centuries a certain number of apostles and martyrs to Catholic England. Since the promulgation of the law of 1875 on higher education, Lille has been the seat of important Catholic faculties. (See Louis Baunard; Lille.)

The principal places of pilgrimage are: Notre-Dame de la Treille at Lille, a church dedicated in 1066 by Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, visited by St. Thomas of Canterbury, St. Bernard, and Pope Innocent III, and where, on June 14, 1254, fifty-three cripples were suddenly cured; Notre-Dame de Grace at Cambrai, containing a picture ascribed to St. Luke; Notre-Dame des Dunes at Dunkerque, where the special object of interest is a statue which, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, was discovered near the castle of Dunkerque; the feast associated with this, September 8, 1793, coincided with the raising of the siege of this city by the Duke of York; Notre-Dame des Miracles at Bourbourg, made famous by a miracle wrought in 1383, an account of which was given by the chronicler Froissart, who was an eyewitness. A Benedictine abbey formerly extant here was converted by Marie Antoinette into a house of noble canonesses. Until a comparatively recent date, the great religious solemnities in the diocese often gave rise to ducasses, sumptuous processions in which giants, huge fishes, devils, and representations of heaven and hell figured prominently. Before the law of 1901 was enforced there were in the diocese Augustinians, English Benedictines, Jesuits, Marists, Dominicans, Franciscans, Lazarists, Redemptorists, Camillians, Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul, and Trappists; the last-named still remain. Numerous local congregations of women are engaged in the schools and among the sick, as, for instance: the Augustinian Nuns (founded in the sixth century, mother-house at Cambrai); the Bernardines of Our Lady of Flines (founded in the thirteenth century); the Daughters of the Infant Jesus (founded m 1824, mother-house at Lille); the Bernardines of Esquernes (founded in 1827); the Sisters of Providence, or of St. Therese (mother-house at Avesnes); the Sisters of Our Lady of Treille (mother-house at Lille), and the Religious of the Holy Union of the Sacred Hearts (mother-house at Douai).

In 1900 the religious institutions of the archdiocese included 7 foundling asylums, 260 infant schools, 4 infirmaries for sick children, 2 schools for the blind, 2 schools for deaf-mutes, 19 boys’ orphanages, 57 girls’ orphanages, 20 industrial schools, 1 trades’ school, 3 schools of domestic economy, 5 reformatories, 89 hospitals and hospices, 32 houses of religions nutses, 7 houses of retreat, 2 insane asylums, and 177 conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This development of charitable establishments, to which should be added many institutions founded by Catholic employers for their workmen, may be accounted for by the immense laboring class in the Archdiocese of Cambrai. The retreats of Notre-Dame de Hautmont are well patronized by the working Catholics of the district. Statistics for the end of 1905 (close of the Concordat period) show a population of 1,866,994 with 67 pastorates, 599 succursales, or second-class parishes, and 157 curacies then remunerated by the State.


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