Diocese of Liege
First capital of this diocese was Tongres, northeast of Liege; its territory originally belonged to the Diocese of Trier
Liege, DIOCESE or (LEODIENSIS).—Liege (VICUS LEUDICUS; LEODIUM; LEGIA) is now the capital of a Belgian province of the same name.
The first capital of this diocese was Tongres, northeast of Liege; its territory originally belonged to the Diocese of Trier, then to Cologne; but after the first half of the fourth century Tongres received autonomous organization. The boundaries were those of the Civitas Tungrorum, and they remained unchanged until 1559. These boundaries were, on the north, the Diocese of Utrecht; east, that of Cologne; south, the Dioceses of Trier and Reims; west, that of Cambrai. Thus Tongres extended from France, in the neighborhood of Chimay, to Stavelot, Aachen, Gladbach, and Venlo, and from the banks of the Semois as far as Eeckeren, near Antwerp, to the middle of the Isle of Tholen and beyond Moerdyck, so that it included both Latin and Germanic populations. In 1559, its 1656 parishes were grouped in eight archdeaconries, and twenty-eight councils, chretientes, or deaneries. Some trace the bishops of Tongres to the first century, but the first Bishop was St. Servais, installed in 344 or 345, assisted at the Council of Rimini (359-60), and died in 384 (?). The invasion of 406 shattered the diocese, and its restoration required a long time. The conversion of the Franks began under Falco (first half of the sixth century) and continued under Sts. Domitian, Monulphus, and Gondulphus (sixth and seventh centuries). St. Monulphus built over the tomb of St. Servais a sumptuous church, near which his successors often resided. During the whole of the seventh century the bishops had to struggle against paganism. St. Amandus (647-50) abandoned the episcopal chair in discouragement, and built monasteries. St. Remaculus (650-60) did the same. St. Theodard (660-69), died a martyr.
St. Lambert (669-705?) completed the conversion of the pagans; probably about 705 he was murdered at Vicus Leudicus, for his defense of church property against the avarice of the neighboring lords, and he was popularly regarded as a martyr. His successor, St. Hubert, built, to enshrine his relics, a basilica which became the true nucleus of the city, and near which the residence of the bishops was fixed.
Those bishops, nevertheless, continued to use the style of Bishop of the Church of Tongres, or Bishop of Tongres and of Liege. Agilbert (768-84), and Gerbald (785-810) were both placed in the see by Charlemagne. Hartgar built the first episcopal palace. Bishop Franco, who defeated the Normans, is celebrated by the Irish poet Sedulius. Stephen (903-20), Richaire (920-45), Hugh (945-47), Farabert (947-53), and Rathier were promoted from the cloister. To Stephen, a writer and composer, the Church is indebted for the feast and the Office of the Blessed Trinity. Rathier absorbed all the learning of his time. Heraclius, who occupied the see in 959, built four new parish churches, a monastery, and two collegiate churches. He inaugurated in his diocese an era of great artistic activity.
The domain of the Church of Liege had been developed by the donations of sovereign princes and the acquisitions of its bishops. Notger (972-1008), by securing for his see the feudal authority of a countship, became himself a sovereign prince. This status his successors retained until the French Revolution; and throughout that period of nearly eight centuries the Prince-Bishopric of Liege, with a temporal jurisdiction of less extent than its spiritual, succeeded in maintaining its autonomy, though theoretically attached to the Empire. This virtual independence it owed largely to the ability of its bishops, under whom the Principality of Liege, placed between France and Germany, on several occasions played an important part in international politics. Notger, the founder of this principality, was also the second founder of his episcopal city. He rebuilt the cathedral of St. Lambert and the episcopal palace, finished the collegiate church of St. Paul, begun by Heraclius, facilitated the erection of Sainte-Croix and Saint-Denis, two other collegiate churches, and erected that of St. John the Evangelist. This bishop also strengthened the parochial organization of the city. He was one of the first to spread the observance of All Souls’ Day, which he authorized for his diocese. But the most notable characteristic of Notger’s administration was the development which, following up the work of Heraclius, he gave to education: thanks to these two bishops and to Wazo, “Liege for more than a century occupied among the nations a position in regard to science which it has never recovered”. “The schools of Liege were, in fact, at that time one of the brightest literary foci of the period.” Balderic of Looz (1008-18), Walbodon (1018-21), Durandus (1021-25), Reginard (1025-38), Nitard (1038-42), the learned Wazo, and Theoduin (1048-75) valiantly sustained the heritage of Notger. The schools went on forming many brilliant scholars, and gave to the Catholic Church Popes Stephen IX and Nicholas II.
In the reign of Henry of Verdun (1075-91) a tribunal was instituted (tribunal de la paix) to take cognizance of infractions of the Peace of God. Otbert (1091-1119) increased the territory of the principality. He remained faithful to Henry IV, who died as his guest. The violent death of Henry of Namur (1119-21) won for him veneration as a martyr. Alexander of Juliers (1128-34) received at Liege the pope, the emperor, and St. Bernard. The episcopate of Raoul of Zachringen was marked by the preaching of the reformer, Lambert le Begue, who is credited with founding the beguines. The time at length came when the schools of Liege were to yield to the University of Paris, and the diocese supplied that university with some of its first doctors—William of Saint-Thierry, Gerard of Liege, Godfrey of Fontaines.
Albert of Louvain was elected Bishop of Liege in 1191, but Emperor Henry VI, on the pretext that the election was doubtful, gave the see to Lothair of Hochstadt. Albert‘s election was confirmed by the pope, and he was consecrated, but was assassinated at Reims, in 1192 by three German knights. It is probable that the emperor was privy to this murder, the victim of which was canonized. In 1195, Albert de Cuyck (1195-1200) formally recognized the franchises of the people of Liege. In the twelfth century the cathedral chapter assumed a position of importance in relation to the bishop, and began to play an important part in the history of the principality.
The struggles between the upper and lower classes, in which the prince-bishops frequently intervened, developed through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, to culminate, in the fifteenth, with the pillage and destruction of the episcopal city. In the reign of Robert of Thourotte, or of Langres (1240-46), St. Juliana, a religious of Cornillon, Liege, was led by certain visions to the project of having a special feast established in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. After much hesitation, the bishop approved of her idea and caused a special office to be composed, but death prevented his instituting the feast. The completion of the work was reserved for a former prior of the Dominicans of Liege, Hugh of Saint-Cher, who returned to the city as papal legate. Hugh, in 1252, made the feast one of obligation throughout his legatine jurisdiction. John of Troyes, who, after having been archdeacon at Liege, was elected pope as Urban IV, caused an office to be composed by St. Thomas, and extended the observance of the feast of Corpus Christi to the whole Church. Another archdeacon of Liege, becoming pope under the name of Gregory X, deposed the unworthy Henry of Gueldres (1247-74). The Peace of Fexhe, signed in 1316, in the reign of Adolph of La Marck (1313-44), regulated the relations of the prince-bishop and his subjects; nevertheless the intestinal discord continued, and the episcopate of Arnould of Homes (1378-89) was marked by the triumph of the popular party. Louis of Bourbon (1456-82) was placed on the throne by the political machinations of the dukes of Burgundy, who coveted the principality. The destruction of Dinant, in 1466, and of Liege, m 1468, by Charles the Bold, marked the ending of democratic ascendancy.
Erard de la Marck brought a period of restoration; he was an enlightened protector of the arts. He it was who commenced that struggle against the Reformation, which his successors maintained after him, and in which Gerard of Groesbeeck (1564-80) was especially distinguished. With the object of assisting in this struggle, Paul IV, by the Bull “Super Universi” (May 12, 1559), created the new bishoprics of the Low Countries. This change was effected largely at the expense of the Diocese of Liege; many of its parishes were taken from it to form the entire Dioceses of Ruremonde, Bois-le-Duc (Hertogenbosch), and Namur, as well as, in part, those of Mechlin and Antwerp. The number of deaneries in the Diocese of Liege was reduced to thirteen.
Most of the bishops in the seventeenth century were foreigners, many of them holding several bishoprics at once. Their frequent absences gave free scope for those feuds of the Chiroux and the Grignoux to which Maximilian Henry of Bavaria (1650-88) put a stop by the Edict of 1684. In the middle of the eighteenth century the ideas of the French encyclopedistes began to be received at Liege; Bishop de Velbruck (1772-84), encouraged their propagation and thus prepared the way for the Revolution, which burst upon the episcopal city on August 18, 1789, during the reign of Bishop de Hoensbroech (1784-92). At last the territory of the principality was united to France, and thenceforward shared the destines of the other Belgian provinces. The diocese, too, disappeared in the Revolution.
The new diocese, erected April 10, 1802, included the two Departments of Ourte and Meuse-Inferieure, with certain parishes of the Forest districts. In 1818 it lost a certain number of cantons, ceded to Prussia. After the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the diocese comprised the Provinces of Liege and Limburg. On May 6, 1833, Msgr. Van Bommel divided the Province of Liege into two deaneries. In 1839 the diocese lost those parishes which were situated in Dutch Limburg. The present Diocese of Liege, suffragan to Mechlin, consists of 670 parishes, grouped in 40 deaneries, and has (1909) a population of 1,152,151, the majority (Walloons) speaking French; the minority, Flemish or German. Diocesan statistics (1909): deaneries, 40; curacies, 44; succursal parishes, 620; chapels, 30; vicariates paid by the State, 307; annexes, 22. After the Concordat, the diocese was governed by Zaepffel (1802-08); after him, Lejeas, nominated in 1809 by Napoleon, failed to obtain canonical institution, and the diocese was administered successively by the two vicars-capitular, Henrard (1808-14) and Barrett (1814-29). The succeeding bishops have been: Corneille Van Bommel (1829-52), Theodore de Montpellier (1852-79), Victor Joseph Doutreloux (1879-1901). Msgr. Martin-Hubert Rutten, the present bishop was instituted in 1901. On account of the Law of Separation, a number of French religious communities have settled in the diocese.