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Local legends maintain that the evangelization of Châlons by St. Memmius, sent thither by St. Peter and assisted by his sister Poma, also by St. Donatian and St. Domitian, took place in the first century. These legends are not creditable, and in the revised list of the diocesan saints in the Breviary (prayer book) these legends have been suppressed.
Louis Duchesne, a prominent scholar of early Christianity in Gaul, assigns the founding of the See of Châlons to the fourth century.
The bishops of Châlons played a part in French history as Peers of France. At the coronation of the Capetian kings, the Bishop of Châlons always carried the royal ring.
Cathedral, seminary, college
The older cathedral at Châlons had been dedicated to Saint Vincent, up to the time of Charles the Bald. It had become the cathedral under Bishop Felix I, ca. 625, when the older cathedral was abandoned. In 931, and again in 963, the town of Châlons suffered serious fires. In 931 the fire was deliberately set by King Raoul (Rudolph) in reprisal for the support given by Bishop Bovo to Count Héribert of Vermandois against the King. In 963 it was Count Héribert of Vermandois who put the city to the flames because Bishop Gebuin had supported the deposition of Héribert's son from the archbishopric of Reims. In both cases the cathedral suffered serious damage. In 1138 the cathedral was struck by lightning and mostly destroyed.
The first seminary in Châlons was founded by Bishop Jérome de Burges (or Jérôme Bourgeois) on 14 October 1572, in part of the abandoned Hôpital Saint Lazare, which was thereafter called the Collège S. Lazare. From 1617, the seminarists shared quarters with the Jesuits, and when the Jesuits moved to larger quarters, the seminary followed them. It was only in 1646 that Bishop de Vialar provided them with separate, and inadequate, quarters. Bishop de Clermont-Tonnerre had the church of S. Nicholas demolished and the seminary extended on its foundations.
The Collège de Châlons (Collège S. Lazare) was endowed by Bishop Cosme Clausse on 30 May 1615, and he and the City entered into a contract with the Jesuits to staff the college on 23 February 1617. The Jesuits directed the school until they were expelled from France in 1762, at which point the collège was turned over to laymen and secular clergy until the end of the monarchy in 1791. In 1784 some 245 pupils were being educated there.
The diocese was well supplied with positions which carried income with them. The cathedral had eight dignities: the Dean, the Cantor, the Grand Archdeacon (of Châlons), the Archdeacon of Joinville, the Archdeacon of Astenai, and the Archdeacon of Vertus, the Treasurer, and the Succentor. In addition there were thirty Canons. In 1699 the number of Canons was thirty-nine, while in 1764 the number was thirty-one. There had once been a Provost as well, but the office was abolished by Bishop Roger in 1065, with royal consent. The bishop appointed the four Archdeacons and the Treasurer, while the Dean, the Cantor, and the Succentor were elected by the Chapter of the Cathedral. The Chapter also assigned the prebends, to which the Archdeacons and Treasurer were not entitled.
There were also two Collegiate Churches in the city of Châlons, Saint-Trinité (with ten prebendaries, appointed by the Cathedral Chapter) and Nôtre Dame en Vaux (with twelve prebendaries, appointed by the Cathedral Chapter). Among its abbeys, the diocese counted: St. Memmius (Augustinians), founded in the fifth century by Alpinus; Toussaints (Augustinians), founded in the eleventh century; Châtrices (Augustinians); Montier-en-Der (Benedictines), founded in the seventh century by St. Bereharius, a monk from Luxeuil; Saint Urbain, founded in 865; Saint-Pierre au Mont (Benedictines), founded during the same period; Moiremont (Benedictines); Huiron (Benedictines); Saint-Sauveur-de Vertus (Benedictines); Nôtre-Dame de Vertus (Augustinians); Trois-Fontaines (Cistercians); Haute-Fontaine (Cistercians); Cheminon (Cistercians); and Moutier-en-Argonne (Cistercians). The king was the patron and made the appointments at Toussaints, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Memmius, and Châtrices.Nôtre-Dame de l'Epine, near Châlons, was a place of pilgrimage as early as the beginning of the fifteenth century, thanks to the mysterious discovery of a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary.
In 1790 the National Constituent Assembly decided to bring the French church under the control of the State. Civil government of the provinces was to be reorganized into new units called 'départements', originally intended to be 83 or 84 in number. The dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church were to be reduced in number, to coincide as much as possible with the new departments. Since there were more than 130 bishoprics at the time of the Revolution, more than fifty dioceses needed to be suppressed and their territories consolidated. Clergy would need to take an oath of allegiance to the State and its Constitution, specified by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and they would become salaried officials of the State. Both bishops and priests would be elected by special 'electors' in each department. This meant schism, since bishops would no longer need to be approved (preconised) by the Papacy; the transfer of bishops, likewise, which had formerly been the exclusive prerogative of the pope in canon law, would be the privilege of the State; the election of bishops no longer lay with the Cathedral Chapters (which were all abolished), or other responsible clergy, or the Pope, but with electors who did not even have to be Catholics or Christians.
The diocese of Châlons-sur-Marne was one of the dioceses which was suppressed, and its territory was transferred to a new diocese centered at Reims, and called the 'Diocese of the Marne'. The bishop of Marne would be the Metropolitan of a 'Metropole du Nord-Est', which would include: Marne, Aisne, Ardennes, Meurthe, Moselle, and Nord. The dioceses of Soissons and Troyes were also suppressed and incorporated into the 'Diocèse du Marne'. The Bishops of Reims, Châlons, Soissons and Troyes protested, addressing letters to their clergy and to the 'electors' and warning them to take no account of the activities of the government as regards the Church. In Châlons a large number of the clergy were in favor of reforms. One in four of the curates, and one in five of the vicars, refused to take the oath to the Civil Constitution (or retracted it after they had taken it). This meant that they were discharged from their functions and left without incomes; they became targets of the more radical of the revolutionaries.
In Marne, the 539 electors were invited to assemble by the Constituent Assembly, and 395 of them assembled at Reims in March 1791. They elected Fr. Gangand, the curé of Mareuil-sur-Ay, but he refused. Then, on March 15, they elected Nicolas Diot as Bishop and Metropolitan of Marne, and he thus acquired control over the suppressed diocese of Châlons-sur-Marne. He was consecrated in Paris on 1 May 1791 by Constitutional Bishop Jean-Baptiste Gobel. The consecration was valid, having been performed in the proper form by three Roman Catholic bishops, but illicit and schismatic, since the election and consecration had taken place without the sanction of Pope Pius VII. Diot acquiesced in new attitudes; he actually presided at the marriage of one of his priests. He survived the Terror (which had abolished Religion and replaced it with Reason), and as late as 1800 he carried out an episcopal consecration (Cambrai) In 1801 he presided at a diocesan synod, and in June 1802 at a Metropolitan synod. He died on 31 December 1802.
Church of the Concordat
In the meantime First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte was preparing to end the religious confusion in France by entering into a Concordat with the Vatican. He had plans for the future, and he required a united France in order to carry them out successfully. In separate actions both he and Pius VII called on all bishops in France to submit their resignations. On November 29, 1801, by the bull Qui Christi Domini, Pope Pius VII suppressed all of the Roman Catholic dioceses in France, and reinstituted them under papal authority. This act did away with whatever doubt or ambiguity might still exist as to a 'Constitutional Church' and 'Constitutional dioceses' in France. United in 1802 with the Diocese of Meaux and in 1821 with the Archdiocese of Reims, the Diocese of Châlons was re-established in 1822, and is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Reims.
The Concordat of 1801 was unilaterally abrogated by the Law of Separation of Church and State, enacted on 9 December 1905. From that date, the Republic no longer nominated French bishops. The law also declared that all religious buildings were property of the state and local governments, and enacted the prohibition of affixing religious signs on public buildings. Nuns were removed from hospital staffs. Schools were secularized, and religious instruction was forbidden to children between the ages of six and thirteen. The law did not apply to the provinces of Alsace or Lorraine, which were at the time part of the German Empire.
^Mathilde Guilbaud, "La loi de séparation de 1905 ou l'impossible rupture," Revue d'histoire du XIX siècle 28 (2004) pp. 163-173; retrieved: 2017-05-19.
^Memmius, or Memmie, or Menge: Duchesne, III, p. 95 no. 1. Sa légende est sans valeur.
^Donatianus is mentioned only in the Life of Memmius as his successor.
^Domitianus is mentioned only in the Life of Memmius as his successor.
^Alpinus is said to have been a disciple of Lupus of Troyes. He was bishop when Attila the Hun fought the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (Châlons) in 451, and to have served for forty-seven years. Gallia christiana IX, p. 861. Duchesne, III, p. 96 no. 8.
^Bishop Amandinus was present at the Council of Tours on 18 November 461. C. Munier, Concilia Galliae, A. 314 - A. 506 (Turnholt: Brepols 1963), p. 148. Gallia christiana IX, p. 862.
^Duchesne, III, p. 97 no 30, assignes Bovo the dates c. 782-802.
^Hildigrimus died on 20 June 827. The episcopal catalogues state that he governed the diocese of Châlons for twenty-five years, making his accession date ca. 802. Gallia christiana IX, p. 864-865. Duchesne, III, p. 98 no. 31.
^Bishop Lupus participated in the Council of Soissons in April 853. J.-D. Mansi (ed.), Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, editio novissima, Tomus XIV (Venice 1769), p. 982. Gallia christiana IX, p. 866-867. Duchesne, III, p. 98 no. 33.
^King Charles ratified an exchange of property between Bishop Erchenrad and one Gotbert. Barthelémy (1853), p. 97 no. XIV (27 September 868).
^Willebertus was consecrated on 5 December 868, and died on 2 January 878. He was present at the Concilium Pontigonense in July 876. Mansi, Tomus XVII, p. 314. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 867-869. Duchesne, III, p. 98 no. 35.
^His name appears as Wido in the subscriptions from the Concilium Kalense on 17 May 1008. Mansi, Tomus XIX, p. 296.
^The bishop signs himself as 'Rotgerus episcopus secundus'. Barthélemy (1853), p. 98. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 873-874.
^Roger de Haunaut is also referred to as Roger (III). Gallia christiana IX, pp. 874-875.
^Ebalus: In 1123 he helped negotiate a peace between Pope Calixtus II and the Emperor Henry V. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 878-879.
^On the death of Bishop Ebalus, Alberic, Rector of the school of Reims, was elected bishop. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a testimonial letter to Pope Honorius II on his behalf, but the election was not approved. In 1137 Alberic was elected Bishop of Bourges. Erlebertus is attested in 1128, 1129 and 1130. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 878-879. Gams, p. 523 column 2.
^Guy was the son of Roger de Joigny, Sire de Joinville. Pope Alexander III wrote a letter from Paris to Bishop-elect Guy de Joinville on 10 February 1063, ordering to have Geoffroy de Joinville restore some property to the Church of Reims. Guy died on 31 January 1190. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 882-883. P. Jaffé and S. Loewenfeld, Regesta pontificum Romanorum II, p. 165 no. 10817.
^Rotrocus (Rotrou) had been Treasurer of S. Martin of Tours and Archdeacon of Reims. He died on 10 December 1201. Gallia christiana IX, p. 883-884. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Bishop Gerard resigned in 1215. The Archdeacon Frederick was elected to succeed him, but after one day he too resigned. Gallia christiana IX, p. 884, quoting from the chronicle of Albricus of Trois-Fontaines, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptorum Tomus XXIII, p. 904.
^Guillaume was the younger brother of Bishop Rotrou du Perche. He had been Archdeacon and then Treasurer of Bruxelles. In 1203 he became Provost of Calestria (diocese of Tours). He was then Provost of Chartres, and subsequently Chancellor. He died on 12 or 18 February 1226. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 884-886.
^Gallia christiana IX, p. 886: apud Catalaunum tandem, transacto biennio, electus est in episcopum decanus Parisiensis Philippus.... During the Sede vacante several attempts at an election of a bishop were made. Henri, Archdeacon of Reims and Treasurer of Beauvais, was elected, but declined. Master Pierre de Collemedio was then elected, but he also refused. Discord accompanied a third attempt, at which the majority settled on Bartolomeo the Lombard, a Canon and Theologus of Châlons; but a minority put forth the brother of the Bishop of Verdun, Robert de Torota, and indicated that if he were unacceptable, they would support Canon Hugh, the Cantor of the Cathedral Chapter.
^According to Saint-Maure and the Benedictines, Méréville is not Philippe's correct name; de Nemours is. This judgment is followed by Eubel, I, p. 175. He was the son of Ursus, Lord of Bercy and Royal Chamberlain. Philippe had three uncles who were also bishops, those of Paris (Pierre), Noyon (Étienne), and Meaux (Guillaume). Philippe had been Dean of Paris (1227-1228). He was present at the provincial Council of Reims in 1235. He died on Palm Sunday, 8 April 1237. Mansi, Tomus XXIII (Venice 1779), p. 367. Gallia Christiana IX, p. 886. On his Deanship: Honore Fisquet (1864). La France pontificale (Gallia Christiana): Paris: Doyens (in French). Paris: Etienne Repos. pp. 17-18.
^Geoffrey became involved in a contested election, in which his competitor had more votes than he (18-14); the matter was submitted to Pope Gregory IX, who quashed the election of the competitor, a Canon of Reims. Geoffroy was Electus in documents of 1237, 1238, and 1239, and perhaps 1242. He was granted his bulls on 15 April 1241, four months before the Pope died. Geoffroy died on 22 April 1247. Gallia christiana IX, p. 887. Gams, p. 534 column 2. Eubel, I, p. 175 with note 6.
^Pierre de Hans had been Archdeacon of Chalons. His election was approved by Pope Innocent IV on 15 February 1248. The Pope also wrote to King Louis IX gently warning the king that he should not injure the Church of Châlons under the guise of regalia. Bishop Pierre died on 16 November 1261. Gallia christiana IX, p. 887-888. E. Berger, Les registres d'Innocent IV I (Paris 1884), pp. 548-549, nos. 3638-3640. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^During the vacancy, the administration was in the hands of the King, as regalia, the Bishop of Chalons being a Count and a Peer of France. Boitel, p. 152. Since there was no pope during the papal sede vacante of 1268-1272, there was no pope to issue bulls of consecration or installation.
^Arnulfus was the son of Arnulf (VII) Count of Looz (Loffensis, diocese of Liège), and was Provost of Cologne. He was provided (appointed) by Pope Gregory X on 4 September 1272, after a contested election. He died on 30 July 1273. Gallia christiana IX, p. 888. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Remigius died on 10 October 1284. Gallia christiana IX, p. 889. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Jean's election by the Cathedral Chapter was notified to Pope Martin IV, who died on March 28, 1285, before the appropriate bulls could be issued. It was Honorius IV who gave his approval on 24 April 1285. Châteauvillain died on 2 April 1313. Eubel, I, p. 175. M. Prou, Les registres d'Honorius IV (Paris 1888), pp. 23-26 nos. 19-22.
^Pierre de Latilly was approved by Pope Clement V on 13 May 1313. He died on 15 March 1328. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 890-891. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Simon, a Canon of Langres, was appointed by Pope John XXII on 6 April 1328. He died on 8 January 1335. Gallia christiana IX, p. 891. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Philippe de Melun, the son of Viscount Adam de Melun, had been a Canon of Paris and of Sens, and Archdeacon of Reims. He was approved by Pope Benedict XII on 15 May 1335, and on 17 May granted the privilege of receiving ordination to the priesthood from any bishop he wished. He was transferred to the diocese of Sens on 15 February 1339, which he resigned in October 1344. J. Vidal, Benoît XII. Lettres communes I (Paris 1903), p. 194 no. 2258. Gallia christiana IX, p. 891. Eubel, I, pp. 175, 448.
^Jean de Mandevillain had previously been Bishop Nevers (1333-1334) and Bishop of Arras (1334-1339). He was granted his bulls for Châlons by Benedict XII on 15 February 1339: J. Vidal, Benoît XII. Lettres closes II (Paris 1910), p. 130 no. 6528. He was entered in the book of Obligations on 6 March (for 4,000 gold florins) Mandevillain died on 27 November 1339. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 891-892. Eubel, I, pp. 116, 175, 369.
^Joannes: Gallia christiana IX, p. 892. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Reginaldus had previously been Dean of the Chapter of Brugge (diocese of Tournai), and then Bishop of Châlons-sur-Saône (1351-1353). He was elected Bishop of Châlons sur Marne on 25 February 1352, and approved by Innocent VI on 2 October 1353. He took his oath of obedience to his Metropolitan, the Archbishop of Reims, on 30 September 1354. He died on 19 September 1356. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 892-893. Eubel, I, pp. 152, 175.
^Archambaud was the son of Amalric (II), Count of Lautrec and Marguerite de Périgueux. Archambaud had previously been a Canon of Paris, and then Bishop of Lavaur (1348-1357). He was appointed Bishop of Châlons by Pope Innocent VI on 11 January 1357. He died on 10 November 1389. Gallia christiana IX, p. 893. Eubel, I, pp. 175, 518.
^Charles' brother Jean was Bishop of Valence and Die (1390-1447). Charles was appointed by Clement VII on 29 January 1390. He was transferred to the diocese of Langres on 20 September 1413. He died in 1433. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 893-894. Eubel, I, pp. 175, 307.
^Louis de Bar, suburbicarian Bishop of Porto, was named by John XXIII. Eubel, I, p. 175.
^Joannes de Saarbrücken was the son of Joannes II of Saarbrücken and Elisabeth de Joinville. He had been Bishop of Verdun (1404-1420), by appointment of Benedict XIII. Johann was transferred from Verdun and appointed BIshop of Châlons by Pope Martin V personally. When he left Verdun in 1420, Louis de Bar became Administrator of the diocese, on 10 January 1420. Joannes de Saarbrücken died on 30 November 1438. Gallia christiana X, Instrumenta, pp. 180-181. Eubel, I, pp. 175, 531; II, p. 122 note 1.
^Tudert, a Canon of Paris, was approved on 22 April 1439. He died on 9 December 1439 before he could be consecrated. Gallia christiana IX, p. 895. Eubel, II, p. 122.
^Guillaume was Doctor Legum (Civil and Canon Law). He was elected on 4 March 1440, and received papal approval on 6 July. He died on 3 June 1453. Gallia christiana IX, p. 895. Eubel, II, p. 122.
^The Cathedral Chapter elected the Archdeacon Ambrosius de Camarata, but the election was quashed by Pope Nicholas V, who transferred Geoffroy from the diocese of Nîmes. His bulls were issued on 27 November 1453. He made his solemn entry into Châlons on 1 September 1454. He built the episcopal palace. He died on 10 February 1503. Gallia christiana IX, p. 895. Gams, p. 535 column 1. Eubel, II, p. 122.
^Gilles (Aegidius) was the illegitimate son of Louis de Luxembourg, and had been Dean of the Cathedral Chapter of Châlons. He was approved by Pope Julius II on 29 November 1503. On 1 January 1504 he took his oath of allegiance to King Louis XII at Lyon. As a Peer of France he took part in the coronation of Francis I on 25 January 1515. He died on 10 February 1535. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 896-897. Eubel, Hierarchia catholica III, p. 158. Clause, pp. 38-39.
^Philippe was the nephew of Bishop Robert de Lenoncourt. He was transferred to the diocese of Auxerre on 7 February 1560. He was named a cardinal by Pope Sixtus V on 16 November 1586. Eubel, III, pp. 51 no. 11, 125, 158.
^Jérôme's father was chief physician to Francis I, thanks to whose patronage he became Canon of Chartres and royal Aumonier, as well as Abbot commendatory of S. Peter's in Châlons.He was preconised (approved) by Pope Paul IV on 13 April 1556. Eubel III, p. 159.
^Cosmas was the brother of Nicolas Clausse, his predecessor. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 898-899.
^Henri Clausse was appointed Coadjutor to Bishop Cosme Clausse, his uncle, on 28 April 1608, and succeeded upon the death of Cosme on 1 April 1624. He died on 13 December 1640. Gallia christiana IX, p. 899. Gauchat, Hierarchia catholica IV, p. 141 with note 2.
^Louis-Antoine de Noailles had been Bishop of Cahors (1679-1681). He was nominated by King Louis XIV on 21 June 1680, and preconised (approved) by Pope Innocent XI on 17 March 1681. He was transferred to the diocese of Paris on 19 September 1695, and created a cardinal by Pope Innocent XII on 21 June 1700. He refused to accept the Bull Unigenitus of Pope Clement XI (8 September 1713), and was excommunicated as a schismatic by the Bull "Pastoralis officii" of August 28, 1718. He died on 4 May 1729, having recanted in 1728. Ritzler-Sefrin, Hierarchia catholica V, pp. 22 no. 28; 150 with note 3; 151 with note 3; 307 with note 4.
^Jean-Baptiste-Louis-Gaston de Noailles was the nephew of Louis-Antoine. He was nominated Bishop of Châlons by Louis XIV on 24 December 1695, and preconised (approved) by Pope Innocent XII on 2 April 1696. He died on 15 September 1720. Ritzler-Sefrin, Hierarchia catholica V, p. 150 with note 4.
^Saulx-Tavannes was nominated on 1 January 1721, and was approved by Pope Innocent XIII on 24 September 1721. He was consecrated in Paris by Cardinal Fleury on 9 November 1721. He was promoted to the See of Rouen on 18 December 1733, and named a cardinal on 5 April 1756 by Pope Benedict XIV. He died in Paris on 10 March 1759. Jean, p. 319. Ritzler-Sefrin, Hierarchia catholica V, p. 150 with note 5.
^Choiseul-Beaupré was nominated bishop of Châlons by King Louis XV on 28 August 1733, and approved (preconised) by Pope Clement XII on 18 December 1733. He died on 2 October 1763. Ritzler-Sefrin, Hierarchia catholica VI, p. 155 with note 2.
^Lastic, the Bishop of Comminges, was nominated by King Louis XV on 16 November 1763, and preconised by Pope Clement XIII on 19 December 1763. Lastic died on 23 December 1763, without having received his bulls and without having been instituted. It is not known whether he took his oath to the King and received his temporalities. Jean, p. 320.
^Le Clerc was later named Archbishop of Paris on 25 February 1782. Ritzler-Sefrin, VI, p. 155 with note 3.
^Clermont-Tonnerre was nominated to the diocese of Châlons on 23 December 1781, and approved by Pope Pius VI on 25 February 1782. He was consecrated a bishop on 14 April. He resigned the diocese in 1801, in compliance with the express wish of Pope Pius VII. On the restoration of Louis XVIII he was named a Peer of France. In 1817 he was renamed Bishop of Châlons, and the Pope approved, but he was unable to take possession, due to the failure of the National Assembly to ratify the Concordat between France and the Papacy. He was later named Archbishop of Toulouse, on 28 August 1820, and created a cardinal on 2 December 1822. He died in Toulouse on 21 February 1830. Jean, p. 321. Ritzler-Sefrin, VI, p. 155 with note 4.
^Prilly was nominated on 7 April 1823 by King Louis XVIII and preconised (approved) by Pope Pius VII on 18 November. He was consecrated a bishop at Saint-Sulpice in Paris on 18 January 1824 by Archbishop Frayssinous. He made his solemn entry into Châlons on 31 January. He died on 1 January 1860. Louis de Carrez, in: L'episcopat francais..., pp. 177-179.
Guilbert, Sylvette (ed.) (2014): Fasti Ecclesiae Gallicanae. Répertoire prosopographique des évêques, dignitaires et chanoines des diocèses de France de 1200 à 1500. XIV. Diocèse de Châlons-en-Champagne. Turnhout, Brepols. (in French)