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Pierre de Marca

French bishop and scholar, b. at Gan in Bearn, Jan. 24, 1594; d. at Paris, June 29, 1662

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Marca, PIERRE DE, French bishop and scholar, b. at Gan in Bearn, January 24, 1594, of a family distinguished in the magistracy; d. at Paris, June 29, 1662. After studying letters at the college of Auch and law in the University of Toulouse, he became councillor (1615), and then president (1621), of the Parliament of Pau, and finally intendant of Bearn (1631), where his influence greatly helped to restore the Catholic religion almost extinguished by the queen, Jeanne d’Albret. His wife, who had borne him four children, died in 1631, and from that moment he used all his spare time in studying and in writing works on religious controversy, history—notably the “Histoire de Bearn”—and canon law. For the sake of utilizing his ecclesiastical learning, Louis XIII summoned him to Paris to be a member of the Council of State (1639). At Cardinal Richelieu’s request he published the treatise “Concordia sacerdotii et imperii” (1641), in which he sets forth his Gallican views. After ten years of pious and laborious life as a widower, he decided to enter the priesthood. On December 28, 1641, the king made him Bishop of Couserans (Gascogny), but he was not preconized until ten years later, after having seen his “Concordia” placed on the Index and having signed a retractation of the views there expressed. Sent as intendant to Catalonia, which had submitted to France (1644), he wrote its history, under the title of “Marca Hispanica”; this work was published after his death by his secretary, the learned Baluze. Shortly after his return from Catalonia, Marca was made Archbishop of Toulouse (May 28, 1652) and when Innocent X condemned Jansenism in 1653, he used his influence to have the condemnation accepted. After that he inspired the chief measures taken against this heresy in the general assemblies of the clergy (1655-60) and received from Pope Alexander VII (1656) a highly commendatory letter. Less commendable, however, was his attitude when Louis XIV caused the arrest of Cardinal de Retz, Archbishop of Paris, for his share in the uprising of the Fronde. In opposition to the pope and clergy who were offended by this violation of ecclesiastical immunities, Marca became the king’s counsellor, and wrote several pamphlets, some of them anonymous, defending the Crown. After the submission and resignation of Cardinal de Retz, Marta was given the Archbishopric of Paris, but died about three weeks after being preconized. He left a great reputation as historian, jurist, and canonist, but his theological learning was deficient, and his subservience to the royal power excessive. He displayed a certain inconstancy in his opinions, and too much ambition and attachment to his own interests.

Among his numerous publications the most important are: “Histoire de Bearn”, folio (Paris, 1640); “De concordia sacerdotii et imperii seu de libertatibus ecclesiae gallicanae”, folio (Paris, 1641) (and other editions); “Marta hispanica seu limes hispanicus”, published by Baluze, folio (Paris, 1688). Some “Lettres inedites de Marca” have been published by Tarizey de Larroque (Paris, 1881) and by J. Bonnet in the “Revue de Gascogne”, January-June, 1910.


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