Limoges, DIOCESE of (LEMOVICENSIS), comprises the Departments of Haute Vienne and Creuse in France. After the Concordat of 1801, the See of Limoges lost twenty-four parishes from the district of Nontron which were annexed to the Diocese of Perigueux, and forty-four from the district of Confolens, transferred to the Diocese of Angouleme; but until 1822 it included the entire ancient Diocese of Tulle, when the latter was reorganized.
Gregory of Tours names St. Martial, who founded the Church of Limoges, as one of the seven bishops sent from Rome to Gaul in the middle of the third century. An anonymous life of St. Martial (Vita primitiva), discovered and published by Abbe Arbellot, represents him as sent to Gaul by St. Peter. A great deal of controversy has arisen over the date of this biography. The discovery in the library at Carlsruhe of a manuscript copy written at Reichenau by a monk, Regimbertus, who died in 846, indubitably places the original before that date. From the fact that it is in rhythmical prose, Msgr. Bellet thinks it belongs to the seventh century. Pere de Smedt and Msgr. Duchesne question this conclusion and maintain that the “Vita primitiva” is much later than Gregory of Tours. M. de Lasteyrie gives 800 as the date of its origin. In addition to the manuscript already cited, the Abbey of St. Martial at the beginning of the eleventh century possessed a circumstantial life of its patron saint, according to which, and to the cycle of later legends derived from it, St. Martial was one of the seventy-two disciples who witnessed the Passion and Ascension of Our Lord, was present on the first Pentecost and at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, after which he followed St. Peter to Antioch and to Rome, and was sent to Gaul by the Prince of the Apostles, who assigned Austriclinian and Alpinian to accompany him. The three were welcomed at Tulle and turned away from Ahun. They set out towards Limoges, where, on the site of the present cathedral, St. Martial erected a shrine in honor of St. Stephen. A pagan priest, Aurelian, wished to throw St. Martial into prison, but was struck dead, then brought to life, baptized, ordained, and later consecrated bishop by the saint. Aurelian is the patron of the guild of butchers in Limoges. Forty years after the Ascension, Our Lord appeared to Martial, and announced to him the approach of death. The churches of Limoges celebrate this event on June 16. After laboring for twenty-eight years as a missionary in Gaul, the saint died at the age of fifty-nine, surrounded by his converts of Poitou, Berri, Auvergnet and Aquitaine.
The writer of this “Life” pretends to be Aurelian, St. Martial’s disciple and successor in the See of Limoges. Msgr. Duchesne thinks it not unlikely that the real authorship of this “apocryphal and lying” work should be attributed to the chronicler Adhemar de Chabannes, noted for his fabrications; but M. de Lasteyrie is of opinion that it was written about 955, before the birth of Adhemar. Be that as it may, this “Vita Aureliana” played an important part at the beginning of the eleventh century, when the Abbot Hugh (1019-1025) brought before several councils the question of the Apostolic date of St. Martial’s mission. Before the Carlovingian period there is no trace of the story that St. Martial was sent to Gaul by St. Peter. It did not spread until the eleventh century and was revived in the seventeenth by the Carmelite Bonaventure de Saint-Amable, in his voluminous “Histoire de St. Martial”. Msgr. Duchesne and M. de Lasteyrie assert that it cannot be maintained against the direct testimony of St. Gregory of Tours, who places the origin of the Church of Limoges about the year 250. The most distinguished bishops of Limoges are: St. Roricius (d. 507), who built the monastery and church of St. Augustine at Limoges; St. Roricius II (d. about 553), who built the church of St-Pierre-du-Queyroix and the Basilica of St. Junianus at Limoges; St. Ferreol (d. 597), the friend of St. Yrieix; St. Lupus, or Loup (613-629); St. Sacerdos (Sardon), Abbot of Calabrum, afterwards bishop; St. Cessa (740-761), who led the people of Limoges against the Saracens under Charles Martel; Cardinal Jean du Bellay (1541-1545). The ecclesiastics who served the crypt of St. Martial organized themselves into a monastery in 848, and built a church beside that of St-Pierre-du-Sepulchre which overhung the crypt. This new church, which they called St-Sauveur, was demolished in 1021, and was replaced in 1028 by a larger edifice in Auvergnat style. Urban IT came in person to reconsecrate it in 1095. In the thirteenth century the chapel of St. Benedict arose beside the old church of St-Pierre-du-Sepulchre. It was also called the church of the Grand Confraternity of St. Martial. The different organizations which were grouped around it, anticipated and solved many important sociological questions.
Limoges, in the Middle Ages, comprised two towns: one called the “City”, the other the “Chateau” or “Castle”. The government of the “Castle” belonged at first to the Abbots of St. Martial who claimed to have received it from Louis the Pious. Later, the viscounts of Limoges claimed this authority, and constant friction existed until the beginning of the thirteenth century, when, owing to the new communal activity, consuls were appointed, to whose authority the abbots were forced to submit (1212). After two intervals during which the English kings imposed their rule, Charles V in’ 1371 united the “Castle” with the royal demesne, and thus ended the political role of the Abbey of St. Martial. Until the end of the old regime, however, the abbots of St. Martial exercised direct jurisdiction over the Combes quarter of the city. In 1534, Abbot Matthieu Jouviond, finding that the monastic spirit had almost totally died out in the abbey, thought best to change it into a collegiate church, and in 1535 the king and the pope gave their consent. It was suppressed in 1791, and early in the nineteenth century even the buildings had disappeared. In the thirteenth century, the Abbey of St. Martial, possessed the finest library (450 volumes) in France after that of Cluny (570 volumes). Some have been lost, but 200 of them were bought by Louis XV in 1730, and today are one of the most valuable collections in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris. Most of these manuscripts, ornamented with beautiful miniatures, were written in the abbey itself. M. Emile Molinier and M. Rupin admit a relation between these miniatures of St. Martial and the earliest Limoges enamels, but M. de Lasteyrie disputes this theory. The Franciscans settled at Limoges in 1223. According to the chronicle of Pierre Coral, rector of St. Martin of Limoges, St. Anthony of Padua established a convent there in 1226 and departed in the first months of 1227. On the night of Holy Thursday, it is said, he was preaching in the church’ of St. Pierre du Queyroix, when he stopped for a moment and remained silent. At the same instant he appeared in the choir of the Franciscan monastery and read a lesson. It was doubtless at Chateauneuf in the territory of Limoges that took place the celebrated apparition of the Infant Jesus to St. Anthony.
The diocese specially honors the following: St. Sylvanus, a native of Ahun, martyr; St. Adorator, disciple of St. Ambrose, suffered martyrdom at Lupersac; St. Victorianus, an Irish hermit; St. Vaast, a native of the diocese who became Bishop of Arras and baptized Clovis (fifth-sixth century); St. Psalmodius, a native of Britain, died a hermit at Eymoutiers; St. Yrieix, d. in 591, chancellor to Theodebert, King of Austrasia, and founder of the monastery of Attanum (the town of St. Yrieix is named after him); St. Etienne de Muret (1046-1126), who together with Guillaume d’Uriel, Bishop of Limoges, founded the famous Benedictine monastery of Grandmont. Mention must also be made of the following who were natives of Limoges: Bernard Guidonis (1261-1313), born at La Roche d’Abeille, Bishop of Lodeve and a celebrated canonist; the Aubusson family, one of whom, Pierre d’Aubusson (1483-1503), was Grand Master of the Order of Jerusalem, and one of the defenders of Rhodes; Marc Antoine Muret, called the “Orator of the Popes” (1526-1596). Three popes came from the Diocese of Limoges: Pierre Roger, born at Maulmont, elected pope in 1342 as Clement VI, died in 1352; Etienne Albert, or d’Albret, born near Pompadour, elevated to the papacy in 1352 as Innocent VI, died in 1362; Pierre Roger de Beaufort, nephew of Clement VI, also born at Maulmont. As Gregory XI he reigned from 1371 till 1378. Maurice Bourdin, Archbishop of Prague, antipope for a brief space in 1118, under the name of Gregory VIII, also belonged to this diocese. St. Peter Damian came to Limoges in 1062 as papal legate, to compel the monks to accept the supremacy of the Order of Cluny.
The Council of Limoges, held in 1031, is noted not only for its decision with regard to St. Martial’s mission, but because, at the instigation of Abbot Odolric, it proclaimed the “Truce of God” (q.v.) and threatened with general excommunication those feudal lords who would not swear to maintain it. It was at the priory of Bourganeuf in this diocese that Pierre d’Aubusson received Zizin, son of Mohammed II, after he had been defeated in 1483 by his brother Bajazet II. The Gothic cathedral of St-Etienne, begun in 1273, was noted for a fine rood loft built in 1534; the church of St-Pierre-du-Queyroix, begun in the twelfth century, and that of St-Michel-des-Lions, begun in 1364, are worthy of notice. In 994, when the district was devastated by a plague (mat des ardents), the epidemic ceased immediately after a procession ordered by Bishop Hilduin, on the Mont de la Joie, which overlooks the city. The Church of Limoges celebrates this event on November 12. The principal pilgrimages of the diocese are those of: Saint Valerie (hermit) at Saint-Vaubry (sixth century); Our Lady of Sauvagnac at St—Leger—la—Montague (twelfth century); Notre—Dame—du—Pont, near St-Junien (fourteenth century), twice visited by Louis XI; Notre-Dame-d’Arliguet, at Aixe-sur-Vienne (end of the sixteenth century); Notre-Dame-des-Places, at Crozant (since 166-).
Before the Associations Law of 1901, there were in the Diocese of Limoges, Jesuits, Franciscans, Marists, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and Sulpicians. The principal congregations of women which originated here are the Sisters of the Incarnation founded in 1639, contemplatives and teachers. They were restored in 1807 at Azerables, and have houses in Texas and Mexico. The Sisters of St. Alexis, nursing sisters, founded at Limoges in 1659. The Sisters of St. Joseph, founded at Dorat in February, 1841, by Elizabeth Dupleix, who, with other pious women, had visited the prisons at Lyons since 1805. The Congregation of Our Savior and that of the Blessed Virgin, a nursing and teaching congregation, founded at la Souterraine in 1835 by Josephine au 8 ourg. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd (called Marie Therese nuns) nursing sisters and teachers; their motherhouse is at Limoges. The religious orders maintained in this diocese at the close of the nineteenth century 19 nurseries, 1 home for sick children, 2 orphanages for boys, 14 for girls, 1 for both sexes, 5 work rooms (ouvroirs), 4 reformatories, 28 hospitals, 26 houses to care for the sick at their homes, 2 houses of retreat, 1 asylum for the insane. At the end of the concordat period the Diocese of Limoges contained 679,584 inhabitants; 70 canonical parishes; 404 succursal parishes, and 35 curacies supported by the Government.