Roman Catholic Diocese of Langres - History


Louis Duchesne considers Senator, Justus and St. Desiderius (Didier), who was martyred during the invasion of the Vandals (about 407), the first three bishops of Langres. The See, therefore, must have been founded about the middle of the fourth century.

In 1179, Hugh III, Duke of Burgundy gave the city of Langres to his uncle, Gautier of Burgundy, then bishop, making him a prince-bishop. Later, Langres was made a duchy, which gave the Duke-Bishop of Langres the right of secular precedence over his metropolitan, the Archbishop of Lyon, at the consecration of the kings of France.

The chief patron saint of the diocese is the martyr Saint Mammes of Caesarea (third century), to whom the cathedral, a beautiful monument of the late twelfth century, is dedicated. The diocese of Langres honors as saints a number of martyrs who, according to St. Benignus legend, died in the persecution of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. They are the triplets Saints Speusippus, Eleusippus, and Melapsippus; St. Neo, the author of their Acts; St. Leonilla, their grandmother; and St. Junilla, their mother. Other saints include St. Valerius (Valier), a disciple of St. Desiderius, who was martyred by the Vandals in the fifth century; the hermit St. Godo (Saint Gou), nephew of St. Vandrillus in the seventh century; St. Gengulphus, martyr in the eighth century; Venerable Gerard Voinchet (1640-95), canon regular of the Congregation of St. Geneviève in Paris; Venerable Jeanne Mance (1606-73); Venerable Mariet, a priest who died in 1704; and Venerable Joseph Urban Hanipaux, a Jesuit. The latter three were natives of the diocese and celebrated for their apostolic labors in Canada.

The diocese was also the birthplace of the theologian Nicolas de Clémenges (fourteenth or fifteenth century), who was canon and treasurer of the Church of Langres; of the Gallican canonist Edmond Richer (1560-1631); of the Jesuit Pierre Lemoine, author of an epic poem on St. Louis and of the work "La dévotion aisée" (1602-71); and of the philosopher Diderot (1713-84). The historian Raoul Glaber, monk of Cluny Abbey who died in 1050, was at the priory of St. Léger in this diocese when he was touched by Divine grace on the occasion of an apparition.

The Benedictine Poulangy Abbey was founded in the eleventh century. Morimond Abbey, the fourth foundation of Cîteaux, was established in 1125 by Odolric, lord of Aigremont, and Simon, Count of Bassigny. The Augustinian priory of the Val des Ecoliers was founded in 1212 at Luzy, near Chaumont, by four doctors of the Paris University who were led into solitude by a love of retreat.

Blessed Otho, son of Leopold of Austria and Abbot of Morimond, became Bishop of Freising in Bavaria and returned in 1154 to die a simple monk in Morimond.

The "Scourging of the Alleluia," now no longer observed, was quite celebrated in this diocese in the Middle Ages. On the day when, according to tradition, the Alleluia was omitted from the liturgy, a top on which the word "Alleluia" was written was whipped out of church, to the singing of psalms by the choirboys, who wished it bon voyage till Easter.

The "Pardon of Chaumont" is very celebrated. In 1475, Jean de Montmirail, a native of Chaumont and a particular friend of pope Sixtus IV, obtained from him that each time the feast of St. John the Baptist fell on a Sunday, the faithful, who confessed their sins and visited the church of Chaumont, should enjoy the jubilee indulgence. Such was the origin of the great "Pardon" of Chaumont, celebrated sixty-one times between 1476 and 1905. At the end of the Middle Ages, this "Pardon" gave rise to certain curious festivities. Fifteen mysteries of the life of St. John the Baptist were represented on stages erected throughout the town on the Sunday preceding the "Pardon." The display drew multitudes to the festivities, which were finally called the "deviltries" of Chaumont. In the course of the eighteenth century the "Pardon" became a purely religious ceremony.

In the Diocese of Langres is Vassy, where, in 1562, riots took place between Catholics and Protestants that gave rise to the wars of religion (see Huguenots).

Numerous diocesan synods were held at Langres. The most important were those of 1404, 1421, 1621, 1628, 1679, 1725, 1733, 1741, 1783 and six successive annual synods held by Mgr. Parisis, from 1841 to 1846. These held a view to the re-establishment of the synodal organization, and also to impose on the clergy the use of the Roman Breviary (see Guéranger).

Principal pilgrimages are: Our Lady of Montrol near Arc-en-Barrois (dating from the seventeenth century); Our Lady of the Hermits at Cuves; Our Lady of Victories at Bourmont; and St. Joseph, Protector of the Souls in Purgatory, at Maranville.

Suppressed by the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801, Langres was later united to the Diocese of Dijon. The bishop bore the title of Dijon and Langres, but the union was never quite complete. There was a pro-vicar-general for the Haute-Marne and two seminaries at Langres, the petit séminaire from 1809 and the grand séminaire from 1817. The See of Langres was re-established in 1817 by Pope Pius VII and King Louis XVIII. Mgr. de la Luzerne, its pre-Revolution bishop, was to be re-appointed, but the parliament did not ratify this agreement and the bishops of Dijon remained administrators of the Diocese of Langres until 6 October, 1822, when the Papal Bull "Paternae charitatis" definitely re-established the See. The new Bishop of Langres governed 360 parishes of the old Diocese of Langres, 70 of the old Diocese of Châlons, 13 of the old Diocese of Besançon, 13 of the old Diocese of Troyes and 94 of the old Diocese of Toul. For the legends concerning the Apostolic origin of the See of Langres and the mission of St. Benignus see Dijon.

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