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Pierre Bertrand

French cardinal, theologian, canonist (1280 - ca. 1349)

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Bertrand, PIERRE (I) a French Cardinal, theologian, and canonist, b. 1280 at Annonay in Vivarais; d. 1348 or 1349 at the Priory of Montaud, near Avignon. His noble parentage is known to us through the manuscript memoir of Grasset, a Celestine monk of the seventeenth century (Discours genealogique de la noble maison de Bertrand et de leur alliance avec celle de Colombier). The legal profession seems to have been the first aim of his education. He successively studied and taught law in the Universities of Avignon, Montpellier, Orleans, and Paris. Prized as one of the best law-regents of his day, he soon reached high positions in the Parliament of Paris, the King’s Council, and the Queen’s Chancery. His definite calling lay, however, in another direction, and he became a priest. His priestly career was no less brilliant than his legal success. We find him in rapid succession Dean of Puy-en-Valais, Bishop of Nevers, Bishop of Autun. In 1331 Pope John XXII made him a cardinal in recognition of many services rendered to the Church. Among these services are to be reckoned several charitable institutions founded at Annonay, and the College d’Autun, or College Cardinal, established in Paris on behalf of fifteen poor students, five for theology, five for law, and five for the fine arts. Bertrand’s best title to recognition is, however, his defense of the rights of the Church both by word of mouth and also with his pen. Fournier, in his “Officialites du moyen-age” (Paris, 1880), points out, at the beginning of the Valois dynasty, a strong tendency of the State towards curtailing the Church‘s traditional rights. In 1329 took place the famous “Conference de Vincennes”, where Pierre de Cugnieres, speaking for Philippe de Valois, bitterly complained of undue extension of ecclesiastical privileges (e.g., the ordination of clerics for the sole purpose of enjoying the privilegium fori; causes des veuves, or widow’s causes drawn to ecclesiastical courts; the free use of censures to enforce the Church‘s privileges; appeals to the Church from the decision of civil courts, etc.). Pierre Bertrand, then Bishop of Autun, was the principal spokesman of the clergy. He replied in a spirit of conciliation to all charges bearing on minor points, but strongly upheld what he considered the essential rights of the Church. Following on the lines of the Bull “Unam Sanctam” of Boniface VIII, he summed up his plea in four statements; (I) the secular power is from God; (2) yet, it is not by itself sufficient for the government of the people, for which spiritual jurisdiction is also required; (3) although nothing prevents the two powers from being in the same hands; (4) still, whether in the same or different hands, they stand in a certain relation of subordination, the spiritual power being the higher of the two. His views are to be found in “Libellus adversus Petrum de Cugneriis” and “De origine et usu iurisdictionum”, published in Paris in 1495 and 1584 respectively, and later inserted in volume XIV of the “Magna Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum” (Cologne, 1618). Many other writings of Cardinal Bertrand (apologetical, canonical, pastoral) have not been published and are reported to be in the Vatican Library.

(2) BERTRAND, PIERRE, DE COLOMBIER (also known as BERTRAND PIERRE), a French cardinal, nephew of the foregoing, whose name he adopted, b. in 1279, at Colombier, in Vivarais; d. in 1361 at the priory of Montaud, near Avignon. Like his uncle, he studied law and occupied important positions in the Parliament of Paris. Ordained priest, he soon rose to distinction, became Bishop of Nevers, then of Autun, later of Arras, and was made cardinal by Clement VI, 1344. His career as a cardinal was a distinguished one. The popes at Avignon used him as their trusted agent in many delicate missions, notably for the termination of the war between France and England and the election of Charles of Bohemia to the imperial throne. He met little success in his endeavor to stop the Hundred Years’ War, but brought about the desired election of Charles IV, and, having in the meantime become Dean of the Sacred College, was naturally chosen by Innocent VI to go to Rome and crown the new emperor. Cardinal de Colombier left no writings. The Celestine monks of Colombier and Montaud, whose benefactor he was, held his and his uncle’s memory in great veneration. We are indebted to them for many biographical details on the two Cardinals Bertrand.


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