Namur, Diocese of (Namurcensis), constituted by the Bull of May 12, 1559, from territory previously belonging to the Diocese of Liege, and made suffragan of the new metropolitan See of Cambrai. The Concordat of 1801 reestablished a Diocese of Namur, its limits to coincide with those of the Department of Sambre et Meuse, and to be suffragan of Mechlin. On September 14, 1823, the Diocese of Namur was increased by the territory of Luxemburg, which had formerly belonged to the Diocese of Metz, and which, forming, under the First Empire, part of the Departments of the Forks and the Ardennes, had been given, in 1815, to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. After the Revolution of 1830, which brought about the separation between the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg and the Belgian Province of Luxemburg, the City of Luxemburg received a vicar Apostolic. In 1840 the jurisdiction of this vicar was extended to the whole grand duchy. On October 7, 1842, the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Namur was definitively restricted to the two Belgian Provinces of Namur and Luxemburg.
In 1047, Albert II, Count of Namur, caused the erection, on the site of an ancient chapel, which an unauthenticated legend says was dedicated by Pope Cornelius in the third century, of a collegiate church, served by twelve canons, who had the right of administering justice within their lands. The first dean, Frederick of Lorraine, brother-in-law of Albert II, about 1050 secured from the chapter of Mainz a portion of the head of St. Aubain, martyr. The collegiate church took the name of St. Aubain the Martyr. In 1057 Frederick became pope under the name of Stephen IX. The various successors of Albert II enriched this foundation with numerous privileges. In 1209 Innocent III, by a Brief, took it under his protection. In 1263 Baldwin, Emperor of Constantinople, heir of the counts of Namur, sold the count-ship to Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders, and the House of Dampierre also protected the collegiate church. In 1429 Count John III sold the countship to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Thenceforth, until the French Revolution, Namur belonged to the House of Burgundy-Austria, except during the years 1692-95, when it was occupied by Louis XIV. Charles the Bold, Philip the Fair, Charles V, Albert and Isabella all knelt and took the oath in the sanctuary of St. Aubain. This church thus held a most important place in the political life of the country. It was rebuilt in the eighteenth century after the model of St. Peter’s at Rome, as the cathedral. Don John of Austria is buried there.
The Church of Namur resisted Josephinism. In 1789, despite the formal prohibition of Joseph II, the image of the Blessed Virgin was carried in processions through the streets in honor of the Immaculate Con ception. Under the Directory, the vicar capitular, Stevens, formerly a professor in the University of Louvain, and famous for his opposition to Josephinism, directed the clergy by mysteriously circulated communications issued from his hiding-place at Fleurus. After the Concordat, when the Frenchman Leopold Claude de Bexon had been made Bishop of Namur, Stevens feared that the new bishop would be too compliant towards Napoleon. The pamphlets which he circulated under the title “Sophisme devoile” advised the clergy to refuse adhesion to the Concordat, as it would be taken by the State for adhesion to the Organic Articles. A petite eglise formed of persons calling themselves “Stevenists” was formed in the diocese. It was strengthened by the subservience of Bishop Bexon, whom age had weakened, for the prefect Peres and by the circular (November 13, 1802) in which he denied having disapproved of the Organic Articles. At last Bexon resigned, September 15, 1803, and was succeeded by Pisani de la Gaude. But Stevenism continued to exist. Stevens admitted that the Concordat was legitimate, and that the new bishops might be received; he only protested against the formula of adhesion to the Concordat. But the Stevenists went farther: they held that the jurisdiction of the bishops was radically defective, and they would recognize no other spiritual head than Stevens. The schism lasted until 1814, when Pisani de la Gaude accepted the declaration recognizing the legitimate bishop which the Stevenists were willing to make. Stevens died on September 5, 1828. He had submitted all his writings to the Holy See, which never passed judgment. Since 1866 the right of appointing the dean and chapter of Namur has been reserved to the pope. Dechamps, later Cardinal Archbishop of Mechlin, was Bishop of Namur from 1865 to 1867.
Two abbeys in the Diocese of Namur had great renown during the Middle Ages: the Benedictine Abbey of Brogne, founded by St. Gerard (see Saint Gerard: Abbot of Brogne), and the Premonstratensian Abbey of Floreffe (q.v.). In 1819 a preparatory semi-nary was installed at Floreffe, which was suppressed by the Government in 1825 and reestablished in 1830. The Benedictine Abbey of Gemblours, founded in 922 by Guibert de Darnau, acquired great renown in the twelfth century. Sigebert and Gottschalk wrote there an important chronicle. Ravaged by the Calvinists in 1578, and by fire in 1712, the Abbey of Gemblours was suppressed in 1793. The Abbey of Waulsort was founded in 946 for Scotch (Irish) monks under Benedictine rule. Its first two abbots were St. Maccelan and St. Cadroes; the bishop St. Forannan (d. 980) was also Abbot of Waulsort. In 1131 Innocent II consecrated the main altar of the church of the Abbey of Geronsart, administered by the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. The buildings of the Abbey of Paix Notre Dame, founded in 1613 by the Reformed Benedictines of Douai, have since 1831 sheltered a college of the Jesuits. The Assumptionist fathers have a novitiate at Bure. A very important center of studies was founded at Maredsous in 1872 by the Benedictines; it was erected into an abbey in 1878, and in 1888 provided with a beautiful Gothic church. The “Revue Benedictine” and the “Analecta Maredsolana” have already assured the fame of this abbey. The first abbot was Placide Wolter, who in 1890 became Abbot of Beuron; the second was Hildebrand de Hemptinne, who, in 1893, became Abbot of St. Anselm at Rome and primate of the Benedictine Order. In 1907 there were in the community of Maredsous 140 monks, 64 of whom were priests. A college for higher education and a technical school are connected with the abbey. At Maredret, near Maredsous, was established in 1893 the Benedictine abbey of St. Scholastica, which in 1907 numbered 41 nuns.
The Diocese of Namur honors with special veneration Sts. Maternus, Servatus (Servais), and Remaculus, the first apostles of the Diocese of Tongres, which later became that of Liege (q.v.), and some saints of the Diocese of Liege, Sts. Lambert, Hubert, and Juliana. Mention may also be made of St. Foillan, of Irish origin, founder, in 650, of the monastery of Fosses; St. Begge, sister of St. Gertrude of Nivelles, and foundress, in 692, of the monastery of Andenne where her relics are preserved; St. Hadelin, founder of the monastery of Celles, d. about 690; St. Walhere, or Vohy, parish priest of Onhay (thirteenth century); St. Mary of Oignies, b. at Nivelles about 1177, celebrated for her visions, d. at the beguinage of Oignies, where her director, Jacques de Vitry, who became Bishop of St. Jean d’Acre and cardinal, wished also to be buried. Lastly, the Diocese of Namur honors in a special manner the Martyrs of Gorkum, whose relics it possesses. At Arlon, which now belongs to the diocese, was born Henri Busch, famous as “Bon Henri”, founder of the shoemakers’ and the tailors’ fraternities in Paris (seventeenth century).
The religious congregations administer in the Diocese of Namur, according to “La Belgique Charitable”, 2 orphanages for boys, 7 for girls, 1 mixed, 18 hospitals or infirmaries, 4 clinics, 194 infant schools, 1 house of rescue, 6 houses for the care of the sick in their homes, 1 asylum for deaf mutes, 2 houses of retreat, 1 insane asylum. In 1907 the Diocese of Namur numbered 583,722 inhabitants, 36 deaneries, 37 parishes, 677 succursals, 96 auxiliary chapels, 111 curacies paid by the State.