Lerida, Diocese of (ILERDENSIS), suffragan of Tarragona. La Canal says it was erected in 600, but others maintain it goes back to the third century, and there is mention of a St. Lycerius, or Glycerius, as Bishop of Lerida in A.D. 269. The signatures of other bishops of Lerida are attached to various councils up to the year 716, when the Moors took possession of the town, and the see was removed to Roth; in 1101 it was transferred to Barbastro. An unbroken list of bishops of Lerida goes back to the year 887. Lerida, the Roman Ilerda, or Herds, the second city in Catalonia, is built on the right bank of the River Segra, about 100 miles from Barcelona. During the Punic wars it sided with the Carthaginians; near it Hanno was defeated by Scipio in 216 B.C., and Julius Caesar defeated Pompey’s forces in 49 B.C. The Moors took possession of it in 716, and in 1149 Berenger of Catalonia drove them out, and it became the residence of the kings of Aragon. During the Peninsular War the French held it (1810), and in 1823 Spain once more obtained possession of it. Owing to its natural position its strategic value has always been very great, and it is now strongly fortified. The town is oriental in appearance, and its streets are narrow and crooked. The population in 1900 was 23,683. The old Byzantine-Gothic Cathedral, of which the ruins are to be seen on the citadel, dates from 1203. During the Middle Ages the University of Lerida was famous; in 1717 it was suppressed, and united with Cervara.
In 514 or 524 a council attended by eight bishops passed decrees forbidding the taking up of arms or the shedding of blood by clerics. A council in 546 regulated ecclesiastical discipline. Another in 1173 was presided over by Cardinal Giacinto Bobone, who afterwards became Celestine III. A council in 1246 absolved James I of Aragon from the sacrilege of cutting out the tongue of the Bishop of Gerona. The cathedral chapter prior to the concordat consisted of 6 dignities, 24 canons, 22 benefices, but after the concordat the number was reduced to 16 canons and 12 beneficed clerics. The seminary, founded in 1722, accommodates 500 students. The Catholic population of the diocese is 185,000 souls scattered over 395 parishes and ministered to by 598 priests. Besides 395 churches for public worship, there are in the diocese five religious communities of men, six of women, and several hospitals in charge of nuns. Former bishops of Lerida include Cardinal de Rom, Cardinal Cerdan, and Inquisitor General Martinez de Villatoriel. The present bishop, Msgr. J. A. Ruano y Martin, was born at Gijude del Barro, in the Diocese of Salamanca, November 3, 1848, appointed titular bishop of Claudiopolis, and Administrator of Barbastro, November 3, 1898, and transferred to Lerida, December 14, 1905, when he succeeded Msgr. Jose Meseguer y Costa.
J. C. GREY