Diocese of Bayeux
Coextensive with the Department of Calvados, is suffragan to the Archbishopric of Rouen
Bayeux (BAJOCAE), Diocese of, coextensive with the Department of Calvados, is suffragan to the Archbishopric of Rouen. At the time of the Concordat (1802) the ancient Diocese of Lisieux was united to that of Bayeux. A pontifical Brief, in 1854, authorized the Bishop of Bayeux to call himself Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux.
THE SEE OF BAYEUX.—A local legend, found in the breviaries of the fifteenth century, makes St. Exuperius, first Bishop of Bayeux, an immediate disciple of St. Clement, and his see a foundation of the first century. St. Regnobertus, the same legend tells us, was the successor of St. Exuperius. But the Bollandists and M. Jules Lair have shown how little ground there is for this legend; it was only towards the middle of the fourth century that St. Exuperius founded the See of Bayeux; after him the priest St. Reverendus did much for the propagation of the Faith in these parts. A certain number of the successors of St. Exuperius were saints: Rufinianus; Lupus (about 465); Vigor (beginning of the sixth century), who destroyed a pagan temple, then still frequented; Regnobertus (about 629), who founded many churches, and whom the legend, owing to an anachronism, made first successor to Exuperius; and Hugues (d. 730), simultaneously bishop of two other sees, Paris and Rouen. We may also mention Odon of Conteville (1050-97), brother of William the Conqueror, who built the cathedral, was present at the Battle of Hastings, intrigued for the tiara on the death of Gregory VII (1085), and died a crusader in Sicily; Cardinal Trivulce (1531-48), papal legate in the Roman Campagna during the siege and pillage of Rome by the Constable de Bourbon; Cardinal d’Ossat (1602-04), an illustrious diplomatist prominently identified with the conversion of Henry IV. Claude Fauchet, who after being court preacher to Louis XVI, became one of the “conquerors” of the Bastille, was chosen Constitutional Bishop of Bayeux in 1791, and was beheaded October 31, 1793. Msgr. Amette, coadjutor, with right of succession to the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris was, until 1905, Bishop of Bayeux. In the municipal Musee Archeologique is preserved the famous “Bayeux Tapestry“, one of the most remarkable relics of medieval textile art. Its contemporary embroideries reproduce scenes from the Norman Conquest of England (1066) and are valuable as illustrations of eleventh-century costume and life.
THE SEE OF LISIEUX.—The first known Bishop of Lisieux is Theudibaudes, mentioned in connection with a council held in 538. The most celebrated among his successors were Freculfus (d. 850), a pupil of the palace school founded by Charlemagne, and author of a universal history; Arnoul (1141-81), statesman and writer; Nicole Oresme (1378-82), philosopher, mathematician, and tutor to Charles V; Pierre Cauchon (1432-42), concerned in the condemnation of Joan of Arc; Thomas Basin (1447-74), the historian of Charles VII, and one of the promoters of the rehabilitation of Joan of Arc; Guillaume du Vair (1618-21), the well-known philosopher who left the bench for the Church.
In the Middle Ages both sees were very important. The Bishop of Bayeux was senior among the Norman bishops, and the chapter was one of the richest in France. The See of Lisieux maintained the College de Lisieux at Paris for poor students of the diocese. Important councils were held within this diocese, at Caen, in 1042 and 1061; in the latter was proclaimed “the Truce of God“. The statutes of a synod held at Bayeux about 1300, furnish a very fair idea of the discipline of the time.
Among the abbeys of the Diocese of Bayeux should be mentioned those of St. Stephen (Abbaye-aux-Hommes) and of the Trinity (Abbaye-aux-Dames), both founded at Caen by William the Conqueror (1029-87) and his wife Matilda, in expiation of their unlawful marriage. The former of these abbeys was governed by the celebrated Lanfranc, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. Other abbeys were those of Troarn of which Durand, the successful opponent of Berengarius, was abbot in the eleventh century, and the Abbaye du Val, of which Rance was abbot in 1661, prior to his reform of La Trappe. The Abbey of St. Evroul (Ebruiphus) in the Diocese of Lisieux, founded about 560 by St. Evroul, a native of Bayeux, is famous as the home of Ordericus Vitalis, the chronicler (1075-1141). Venerable Jean Eudes founded in 1641 in Caen the congregation of Notre Dame de Charite du Refuge, which is devoted to the protection of girls and includes 33 monasteries in France and elsewhere. At Tilly, in the Diocese of Bayeux, Michel Vingtras established, in 1839, the politico-religious society known as La Misericorde, in connection with the survivors of La Petite Eglise, which was condemned in 1843 by Gregory XVI. Daniel Huet, the famous savant (1630-1721) and Bishop of Avranches, was a native of Caen.
The cathedral of Bayeux (twelfth to fourteenth centuries) and of Lisieux (twelfth and thirteenth centuries) are inferior in point of interest to the church of St. Etienne at Caen, which is one of the most beautiful architectural monuments of Normandy (eleventh and twelfth centuries). The church of Notre-Dame de la Delivrande (the devotion to Our Lady of Deliverance dates back to the seventh century) is visited by the Bishops of Bayeux even before they enter their own cathedral.
At the close of the year 1905 the Diocese of Bayeux included a population of 410,178, 73 pastorates, 640 mission churches, and 120 curacies remunerated by the State. According to the latest statistics (1907) obtainable, the Diocese of Bayeux has 2 infant asylums, 16 infant schools, 1 deaf-mute institute, 1 orphanage where farming is taught, 9 girls’ orphanages, 4 industrial schools, 2 trades schools, 1 refuge for young women, 6 hospitals and hospices, 1 dispensary, 4 communities for the care of the sick in their homes, 3 private hospitals, 1 private insane asylum, 9 homes for the aged, all conducted by sisters; and 1 orphanage where farming is taught, conducted by brothers.
In 1900 the following congregations were represented in the diocese: the Franciscans at Caen and the Premonstratensians, who have an abbey at Juaye-Mondaye. Among the local congregations are the diocesan missionaries, stationed at the basilica of Notre Dame de la Delivrande, directors of several educational institutions throughout the diocese. In this diocese also was founded the congregation of Our Lady of Charity and Refuge established at Caen in 1641 by Venerable Jean Eudes for the preservation of young girls. This congregation has 33 monasteries in France and other countries.