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Diocese of Viviers

Includes the Department of Ardeche, France

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Viviers, Diocese of (VIVARIUM), includes the Department of Ardeche, France. It was suppressed by the Concordat of 1802, and united to the See of Mende. reestablished in 1822, the diocese then included almost all the ancient Diocese of Viviers, and some parts of the ancient Dioceses of Valence, Vienne, Le Puy, and Uzes (see Diocese of Nimes), and was suffragan of the Archdiocese of Avignon. St. Andeol, disciple of St. Polycarp, evangelized the Vivarais under Septimius Severus, and was martyred in 208. His body was buried by Blessed Tullie. The “Old Charter”, drawn up in 950 by Bishop Thomas, is the most complete document we possess concerning the primitive Church of Viviers. It mentions five bishops, who lived at Alba Augusta (Aps) Saints Januarius, Septimus, Maspicianus, Melanins, and Avolus. The last was a victim of the invasion of the barbarian Chrocus (the exact date of which is unknown). In consequence of the ravages suffered by Alba Augusta, the new bishop, St. Auxonius, transferred the see to Viviers about 430. Promotus was probably the first Bishop of Viviers; the document also mentions later several canonized bishops: Saints Lucian and Valerius (fifth and sixth centuries); St. Venantius, disciple of St. Avitus, who was present at the councils held in 517 and 535; St. Melanius II (sixth century); St. Eucherius, St. Firminus, St. Aulus, St. Eumachius, St. Longinus (seventh century); St. Arcontius, martyr (date unknown, perhaps later than the ninth century).

It seems that the Diocese of Viviers was disputed, for a long time, by the metropolitan Sees of Vienne and Arles. From the eleventh century its dependence on Vienne was not contested. John II, cardinal and Bishop of Viviers (1073-95) had the abbatial church of Cruas consecrated by Urban II, and accompanied him to the Council of Clermont. Afterwards, it is said that Conrad III gave Lower Vivarais as an independent suzerainty to Bishop William (1147). In the thirteenth century, under the reign of St. Louis, the Bishop of Viviers was obliged to recognize the jurisdiction of the Seneschal of Beaucaire. By the treaty of July 10, 1305, Philip IV obliged the bishops of Viviers to admit the suzerainty of the kings of France over all their temporal domain. We may also mention as bishops: Peter of Mortemart (1322-25), counsellor of King Charles IV, and cardinal (1327); Peter of Sarcenas (1373-75), cardinal in (1375); John Fraczon, Cardinal de Brogny (1383-98), a swineherd during his childhood, cardinal in 1385, and later, vice-chancellor of the Roman Church; he took an important part in the Council of Constance; Alexander Farnese (1560-65), cardinal in 1534.

Under Bishop Bonnel (1836-1841), there occurred in the Diocese of Viviers the extraordinary movement of allignolisme. The brothers, Charles-Regis Allignol and Augustin Allignol, b. at La Rouviere in the diocese, published in 1839 a work entitled “L’Ertat actuel du clergy en France“, in which they demanded the immovability of the succursalistes; installation of diocesan synods to assist the bishop in the administration of his diocese; the representation for the lower clergy at councils; suppression of fees, and the modification of studies in the seminaries. Boyer, director of the Seminary of St-Sulpice, refuted the writing of the brothers Allignol in a book which he wrote, and they were removed by Bishop Bonnel. The older of the two brothers hastened to Rome, where Gregory XVI and many cardinals received him kindly. The pope ordered that their book should be submitted to two doctors, but that no “note of infamy” was to be attached. Father Perrone, one of the doctors, judged the book severely, and noticed in it propositions impregnated with Presbyterianism. But the brothers, claiming that they were favored by the pope and alleging in proof that they had been allowed to have a private chapel, continued to create disturbance in the Diocese of Viviers. Meanwhile (1841) Jean-Hippolyte Guibert, later Archbishop of Paris and cardinal, became Bishop of Viviers.

Thouez, the cure of Aubenas, who felt kindly to the brothers Allignol, although he recommended moderation to them, and reprimanded their errors, tried to shield them from the displeasure of the new bishop. The latter soon perceived that their efforts to democratize the Church were very dangerous; this tendency was supported by Savin, archpriest of the Cathedral of Viviers, and by Tailhant, cure of Vesseaux, who published two pamphlets in favor of restoring to the succursalistes their social position. On August 31, 1844, the Allignolist party published in “Le Bien Social” a long diatribe against Bishop Guibert, and copies of this newspaper were distributed to all the priests of the diocese, then assembled for the retreat. The bishop was offended, forbade the Allignol brothers to use the private chapel, suspended the archpriest of Viviers, and published, January 6, 1845, a pastoral letter “on dangerous tendencies of a party springing up in the Church of France against episcopal authority”. This letter was approved by Cardinal Lambruschini, Secretary of State of Gregory XVI. After that Guibert, June 2, 1845, published a new pastoral letter promulgating an answer from Pius IX to the Bishop of Liege on the subject of succursalistes. The Allignols submitted, and Gregory XVI, November 26, 1845, sent to Bishop Guibert a congratulatory Brief on the happy end of the crisis, which might have resulted in an agitation against the Concordat itself.

Several saints are connected with the history of the diocese: the Spanish deacon and martyr, St. Vincent (end of third century), protector of the cathedral church and of the diocese; St. Just, Bishop of Lyons (end of the fourth century), belonging to the family of the Counts of Tournon; St. Montan, hermit (fifth century); St. Ostianus (sixth century), confessor, a relative of Sigismund, King of the Burgundians. St. Agreve, who (according to some legends) was Bishop of Le Puy, was martyred in Vivarais, on the present site of the city of St-Agreve (seventh century); the Blessed Amadeus, founder of the Benedictine Abbey of Mazan (d. 1140) St. Benezet, shepherd (1165-86), builder of the bridge of Avignon, b. in Vivarais; the Blessed Guigues I, fifth prior of the Grande Chartreuse, friend of St. Bernard, and writer of the “Statuta ordinis Carthusiensis” (twelfth century); St. Francis Regis.

The following were natives of the Diocese of Viviers: Cardinal de Tournon (1489-1562), as active diplomatist in the service of Francis I, and who presided at the Colloquy of Poissy, Archbishop of Bourges, Auch, and Lyons, and Abbe of St. Germain-des-Pres; Cardinal de Bernis (1715-94); Abbe Barruel, controversialist (1741-1820); the Joyeuse family, of which Ange de Joyeuse was a member, were natives of Vivarais.

Viviers was often troubled by religious conflicts: the war of the Albigenses in the thirteenth century; the revolt of the Calvinists against Louis XIII (1627-29), which ended in the capture of Privas by the royal army; the Dragonnades under Louis XIV after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; the war of the Camisards. Viviers honors the memory of several Catholics, who died heroically during the conflict with the Calvinists: we must especially mention the martyrdom of some priests assembled in synod at the church of Villeneuve de Berg (March, 1573); the martyrdom of the Jesuit Jean Salez, and of his companion Sautemouche at Aubenas (February, 1583); the martyrdom of Father Jerome, a Capuchin chaplain of the troops of Louis XIII, surprised by Huguenots at Privas (May 15, 1629). The chief pilgrimages of the diocese are: Notre-Dame de Chalons and Notre-Dame d’Ay, near Satillieu (both existing since the twelfth century); Notre-Dame de Montaigu at Tour-non (dating from 1628); Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, at La Blachere (end of seventeenth century), Notre-Dame de la Deliverance, Chapias (in existence since the Reign of Terror), and especially the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. John Francis Regis (La Louvesc).

There were, in the Diocese of Viviers, before the application of the Associations law of 1901: Jesuits; Oblates of Mary Immaculate; Religious of St. Mary of the Assumption; Sulpicians; and several orders of teaching brothers. The Order of the Basilians had been founded in 1800 at Annonay by d’Aviau, Archbishop of Vienne, for the recruiting of priests. Cardinal Donnet, and several bishops of France, were pupils of the Basilians. After the Decree of 1881 regarding the congregations had been promulgated, the Basilians joined the secular clergy. Among the orders of women founded in the diocese mention may be made of: the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, who teach and nurse the sick, founded in 1796 by Ven. Marie Rivier (1768-1838) with a motherhouse at Bourg St-Andeol; the Sisters of Providence, founded at Annonay by Mary and Therese Liond, for the care of orphan girls; the Sisters of St. Francis Regis, founded at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Abbe Therme (1791-1834) for the instruction of poor children, with a motherhouse at Aubenas. At the end of the nineteenth century the Diocese of Viviers had 2 creches; 39 infant schools; 1 school for deaf mutes; 2 orphan asylums for boys; 14 orphan asylums for girls; 2 houses of correction and reform; 2 refuges; 11 religious houses for nursing the sick at home; 1 home for convalescents; 1 asylum for the insane; 10 hospitals or alms-houses. The population of the Diocese of Viviers was in 1905 (the last year of the Concordat), 353,564; there were 37 first class parishes; 334 second class parishes, and 134 vicarages paid by the state.



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