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Diocese of Le Mans

Comprises the entire Department of Sarthe, France

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Le Mans, Diocese of (CENOMANENSIS), Comprises the entire Department of Sarthe. Prior to the Revolution it included 636 parishes and was one of the most extensive dioceses of France; at the time of the Concordat of 1801, it lost some parishes in Vendemois and Normandy, and acquired some in Anjou. The Diocese of Le Mans embraced 665 communes from then up to the year 1855, when the Department of Mayenne was detached from it to form the Diocese of Laval. The origin of the Diocese of Le Mans has given rise to very complicated discussions among scholars, based on the value of the “Gesta domni Aldrici”, and of the “Actus Pontificum Cenomannis in urbe degentium”, both compiled during the episcopate of Aldric (832-857). The “Gesta” relate that Aldric had the bodies of Saints Julianus, Turibius, Pavatius, Romanus, Liborius, and Hadoindus, first bishops of Mans, brought to his cathedral the Acts make St. Julianus one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ and state that he arrived at be Mans with two companions: Turibius, who became bishop under Antoninus (138-161), and Pavatius who was bishop under Maximinus (235-238) and under Aurelian 270-275), in which event, Pavatius would have lived over two hundred years. Liborius, successor of Pavatius, would have been the contemporary of Valentinian (364-375). These chronological absurdities of the Acts have led Msgr. Duchesne to conclude that the first Bishop of be Mans whose episcopate can be dated with certainty is Victurius, who attended the Councils of Angers and of Tours, in 453 and 461, and to whom Gregory of Tours alludes as “a venerable confessor”. Turibius who, according to the Acts, was the successor of Julianus, was, on the contrary, successor to Victurius and occupied the see from 490 to 496.

Among the subsequent bishops of Le Mans are mentioned the following saints: Principius (497-511), Innocentius (532-43), Domnolus (560-81), Bertechramnus or Bertram (587-623), founder of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de la Couture, Hadoindus (623-54), Berecharius or Beraire (655-70), and Aldric (832-57). If we admit the theory according to which the False Decretals were compiled at Le Mans by the author of the “Actus pontificum”, then Aldric must have used these false documents as a weapon against the institution of the chorepiscopi and also against the pretensions of the Breton usurper Nomenoe to the ecclesiastical province of Tours. It was Aldric who had the relics of St. Liborius conveyed to Paderborn. Other bishops were: Blessed Geoffroy de Loudun (1234-55), whom Gregory IX made papal legate for the entire Kingdom of France, and who, in 1254, consecrated the cathedral of be Mans and founded the superb monastery of Notre-Dame du Pare d’Orques, where he was interred and where miracles were wrought at his tomb; and Martin Berruyer (1452-67), who left a memoir written in defense of Joan of Arc. From 1468 to 1519 the See of be Mans was occupied by prelates of the House of Luxemburg, and from1519 to 1537 by their cousin, Louis de Bourbon. Jean, Cardinal du Bellay, Dean of the Sacred College, was bishop from 1546 to 1556; and Bouvier, the theologian, from 1834 to 1854.

During the episcopate of St. Berecharius (655-70) the body of St. Scholastica was brought from the monastery of Fleury to Le Mans; the monastery erected to shelter the remains of the saint was destroyed by the Northmen in the second half of the ninth century. A portion of her relics was brought in 874 by the Empress Richilda to the monastery of Juvigny les Dames. The remaining portion was conveyed to the interior of the citadel and placed in the apse of the collegiate church of St. Pierre la Cour, which served the counts of Maine as a domestic chapel. The fire that destroyed Le Mans September 3, 1134, also consumed the shrine of St. Scholastica, and only a few calcined bones were left. On July 11, 1464, a confraternity was erected in honor of St. Scholastica, and on November 23, 1876, she was officially proclaimed patroness of Le Mans. The Jesuit college of La Fleche, founded in 1603 by Henry IV, enjoyed a great reputation for a century and a half, and Marshal de Guebriant Descartes, Father Mersenne, Prince Eugene of Savoy, and Seguier were all numbered among its students. The Dominican convent of Le Mans, begun about 1219, in fact during the lifetime of St. Dominic, was eminently prosperous, thanks to the benefactions of John of Troeren, an English lord; the theologian Nicolas Coeffeteau, who died in 1623, was one of its glories, prior to becoming Bishop of Marseilles. The Revolution swept away this convent.

The diocese honors in a special manner as saints: Peregrinus, Marcoratus, and Viventianus, martyrs; Hilary of Oise, nephew of St. Hilary of Poitiers (in the fifth century); Bommer, Almirus, Leonard, and Ulphace, hermits; Gault, Front, and Brice, solitaries and previously monks of Micy; Fraimbault, hermit, founder of a small monastery in the valley of Gabrone; Calais, hermit and founder of the monastery of Anisole, from whom the town of Saint-Calais took its name; Laumer, successor to St. Calais; Guingalois or Guenole, founder of the monastery of Landevenec in Brittany, whose relics are venerated at Chateau du Loir; all in the sixth century: Rigomer, monk at Souligne, and Tenestine, his penitent, both of whom were acquitted before Childebert, through the miracle of Palaiseau, of accusations made against them (d. about 560); Longis, solitary, and Onofletta, his penitent; Siviard, Abbot of Anisole and author of the life of St. Calais (d. 681); the Irish St. Cerota, and her mistress Osmana, daughter of a king of Ireland, died a solitary near St-Brieuc, in the seventh century; Menele, and Savinian (d. about 720), natives of Precigne, who repaired to Auvergne to found the Abbey of Menat, on the ruins of the hermitage where St. Calais had formerly lived; there is also a particular devotion in Le Mans to Blessed Ralph de La Fustaye, monk (twelfth century), disciple of Blessed Robert d’Arbrissel and founder of the Abbey of St. Sulpice, in the forest of Nid de Merle in the Diocese of Rennes. The celebrated Abbot de Rance made his novitiate at the Abbey of Persaigne in the Diocese of Le Mans. Also there may be mentioned as natives of the diocese, L7rbain Grandier, the celebrated cure of Loudun, burned to death for sorcery in 1634; and Mersenne, the Minim (d. 1648), philosopher and mathematician and friend of Descartes and Pascal. The cathedral of St. Julian of Mans, rebuilt towards the year 1100, exhibits specimens of all styles of architecture up to the fifteenth century, its thirteenth-century Coir being one of the most remarkable in France.

The church of Notre-Dame de la Couture elates from the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. The Abbey of Solesmes, founded by Geoffroy de Sable had preached the crusade. Prior to the application of the Associations law of 1901, there were in the Diocese of Le Mans, Capuchins, Jesuits, and the monks of Solesmes, where, through the efforts of Dom Gueranger, a Benedictine house of the Congregation of France was founded in 1833. Several congregations of women originated in the diocese; the nuns of Notre-Dame de l’Ave at La Fleche, a teaching order, founded in 1622; the Sisters of the Visitation Sainte Marie, at Le Mans, a contemplative order founded in 1634; the Sisters of St. Joseph at La Fleche, a nursing order, founded in 1636; the Sisters of Charity of Providence, devoted to teaching and hospital work, founded in 1806 by Abbe Dujarie, the motherhouse being at Ruille-sur-Loir; the Sisters of the Child Jesus, teachers and nurses, founded in 1835, with their motherhouse at Le Mans; the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross, founded in 1841, with their motherhouse at Le Mans and important educational institutions in New York and Louisiana; the Benedictine nuns of the Congregation of France known as the Benedictines of St. Cecilia, founded at Solesmes in 1867 by Dom Gueranger and Mother Cecilia. At the close of the nineteenth century the following institutions in the diocese were under the direction of religious: 3 infants’ asylums, 39 infants’ schools, 1 boys’ orphanage, 10 girls’ orphanages, 3 industrial schools, 2 houses of shelter, 2 reformatories, 32 hospitals or hospices, 12 private hospitals and retreats, 1 asylum for idiots, 1 asylum for the blind, 1 asylum for insane women and 8 homes for the aged. In 1905 (the last year of the concordatory regime), the Diocese of Le Mans had a population of 422,699, with 38 parishes, 350 chapels of ease, and 111 curacies subventioned by the State.


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