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Diocese of Soissons
Diocese of Soissons, Laon, and Saint-Quentin
Dioecesis Suessionensis, Laudunensis et Sanquintinensis
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Soissons, Laon, and Saint-Quentin (Latin: Dioecesis Suessionensis, Laudunensis et Sanquintinensis; French: Diocèse de Soissons, Laon et Saint-Quentin) is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in France. The diocese is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Reims and corresponds, with the exception of two hamlets, to the entire Department of Aisne. The current bishop is Renauld Marie François Dupont de Dinechin, appointed on 30 October 2015. In the Diocese of Soissons there is one priest for every 4,648 Catholics.
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Traditions make St. Sixtus and St. Sinicius the earliest apostles of Soissons as envoys of St. Peter. In the 280's the Caesar Maximian, the subordinate of the Emperor Diocletian, and his Praetorian Prefect Riccius Varus campaigned in northeast Gaul and subdued the Bagaudae, an event accompanied by much slaughter. There were also executions of Christians from Trier to Reims.St. Crepinus and St. Crepinianus, martyrs (c. 288), are patrons of the diocese. According to Louis Duchesne, the establishment of a see at Soissons dates from about 300.
The territory of Soissons and Laon played an important political part under the Merovingians. After the death of Clovis (511), Soissons was the capital of one of the four kingdoms into which his states were divided. The Kingdom of Soissons, which ceased to exist in 558, when Clotaire I reunited all the Frankish states, came into being again in 561 when the death of Clotaire led to a redivision of the territory. It finally disappeared in 613 when the Frankish lands were once more reunited under Clotaire II.
The Bishop of Soissons as senior suffragan of Reims had the privilege, during a vacancy of the metropolitan see, to replace the archbishop at the ceremony of anointing a King of France. The Bishop of Laon ranked as Duke and peer from the twelfth century. As second ecclesiastical peer, he had the privilege of holding the ampulla during the anointing of the king.
The Abbey of St-Médard at Soissons, founded in 557 by Clotaire I to receive the body of St. Médard, was looked upon as the chief Benedictine abbey in France; it held more than two hundred and twenty fiefs. Hilduin, abbot (822-30), in 826 obtained from Pope Eugene II relics of St. Sebastian and St. Gregory the Great; he caused the relics of St. Godard and St. Remi to be transferred to the abbey; he rebuilt the church which was consecrated 27 August 841, in the presence of Charles the Bald and seventy-two prelates. The king bore the body of St. Médard into the new basilica. In 853 Charles the Bald presided over the Council of Soissons at Saint-Medard, in the company of fifty-one bishops. Bishop Rothadus of Soissons was deposed, due to the malevolence of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, but restored on orders of Pope Nicholas I.
The church was pulled down but rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1131 by Pope Innocent II, who granted those visiting the church indulgences known as "St. Médard's pardons". In this abbey Louis the Pious was imprisoned in 833, and there he underwent a public penance. Among the abbots of St. Médard's are: St. Arnoul, who in 1081 became Bishop of Soissons; St. Gerard (close of the eleventh century); Cardinal de Bernis, made commendatory abbot of St. Médard in 1756.
The Benedictine Abbey of Note Dame de Soissons was founded in 660 by Ebroin and his wife Leutrude. The Cistercian abbey of Longpont, founded in 1131, counted among its monks the theologian Pierre Cantor, who died in 1197, and Blessed John de Montmirail (1167-1217), who abandoned the court of Phillipe-Auguste in order to become a monk.
The abbey of St. Vincent at Laon was founded in 580 by Queen Brunehaut. Among its earlier monks were: St. Gobain, who, through love of solitude, retired to a desert place near Oise and was slain there; St. Chagnoaldus, afterward Bishop of Laon, who wished to die in his monastery; St. Humbert, first abbot of Maroilles in Hainaut. The abbey adopted the rule of St. Benedict. It was reformed in 961 by Blessed Malcaleine, a Scotchman, abbot of St. Michael at Thierache, and in 1643 by the Benedictines of St. Maur. Among the abbots of St. Vincent were: St. Gerard (close of the eleventh century), who wrote the history of St. Adelard, abbot of Corde; Jean de Nouelles (d. 1396), who wrote a history of the world, and began the cartulary of his monastery. The Abbey of St. John at Laon was founded in 650 by St. Salaberga, who built seven churches there; she was its first abbess; St. Austruda (d. 688) succeeded her. In 1128 the abbey became a Benedictine monastery. The Abbey of Nogent sous Coucy was founded in 1076 by Albéric, Lord of Coucy. Among its abbots were St. Geoffroy (end of the eleventh century) and the historian Guibert de Nogent, who died in 1112 and whose autobiography, "De Vita Sua" is one of the most interesting documents of the century. Under the title "Gesta Dei per Francos" he wrote an account of the First Crusade.
The Abbey of Cuissy in the Diocese of Laon was founded in 1116 by Blessed Lucas de Roucy, dean of Laon, and followed the rule of Premonstratensians. In the Diocese of Soissons, the Premonstratensians had the abbeys: Chartreuve, Valsery, Saint-Yved de Braine, Villers Cotterets, Val Secret, Vauchrétien, Lieurestauré.
The portion of the ancient Diocese of Noyon within the jurisdiction of the present Diocese of Soissons includes the town, St-Quentin (Augusta Vermanduorum) where St-Quentin was martyred under Diocletian. It was the chief town of a diocese until 532, when St. Médard, the titular, removed the see to Noyon. Abbott Fulrade built the Church of St-Quentin in the eighth century and Pope Stephan II blessed it (816). From the time of Charles Martel until 771, and again from 844 the abbots of St-Quentin were laymen and counts of Vermandois. The abbey church became the Saint-Quentin Basilica, built from the 12th to 15th centuries. During the Middle Ages a distinct type of religious architecture sprang up in Soissons; Eugéne Lefèvre Pontalis has recently brought out a work dealing with its artistic affiliations. After investigation Canon Bauxin concludes that the cathedral of Laon, as it exists, is not the one consecrated in 1114 and visited by Innocent II in 1132; that was the restored ancient Romanesque building; the present one was built 1150-1225. Louyis d'Outremer (936), Robert the Pious (996), and Philip I (1059) were anointed in Notre Dame de Laon; in the twelfth century Hermann, Abbot of St. Martin's of Tournai, wrote a volume on the miracles of Notre Dame of Laon. The Hôtel-Dieu of Laon, once known as Hôtellerie Notre Dame, was founded in 1019 by the Laon chapter. The Hôtel-Dieu of Château Thierry was founded in 1304 by Jeanne, wife of Philip the Fair.
Before the application of the Congregations Law (1901), there were in the Diocese of Soissons Jesuits, Trinitarians, and several teaching congregations of brothers. Some congregations of women had their origin in the diocese: the Nursing and Teaching Sisters of the Child Jesus, with mother-house at Soissons, founded in 1714 by the Madame Brulard de Genlis; the Sisters of Notre Dame de Bon Secours, a nursing and teaching order, founded in 1806, with mother-house at Charly; Sisters of Notre Dame, nursing and teaching order, with mother-house at Saint-Erme, founded in 1820 by the Abbé Chrétien; the Franciscan sisters of the Sacred Heart, a nursing order, founded in 1867, with mother-house at St-Quentin; the Servants of the Heart of Jesus, of whom there are two branches, the "Marys" who lead a contemplative life, and the "Marthas" who nurse the sick; they were founded at Strasburg in 1867, and brought to St-Quentin after the war of 1870-1.
^The earliest person known to have made this claim is Flodoard, abbot of S. Remy (Reims) (died 966). A different sentiment was expressed by the famous Hincmar of Reims (died 882), who placed Sixtus and Sinicius in the third century, not the first. Lequeux I, pp. 24-27.
^St Loup was present at the First Council of Orleans in 511: Sirmond, I, p. 844.
^King Chlothar I exiled Bishop Baldarinus (or Bandaridus) to England for seven years, where he served as gardener in a monastery. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 335-336. Fisquet, pp. 10-11.
^Bishop Droctigisilus is mentioned by Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, Book IX, chapter 37, as having suffered from habitual drunkenness. Gallia christiana IX, p. 336. Fisquet, pp. 11-12.
^Drausinus was founder of the monastery of Notre Dame de Soissons and of the Abbey of Rethondes. Fisquet, pp. 14-15. Gams, p. 632
^Gaudinus was waylaid by usurers in a street near the episcopal residence and thrown down a well. When the townsfolk heard what had happened and came to see, he was already dead. The only source for the tale is the Martyrologium Gallicanum, quoted in Gallia christiana IX, p. 339. Fisquet, p. 17.
^Rothadus was named royal missus dominicus by King Louis the Pious in the diocese of Reims in 824/825 when Archbishop Ebo went to Denmark to reinstall King Harald on the throne. Gallia christiana IX, p. 340. Fisquet, pp. 19-20.
^Rothadus famous for his quarrel with Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, who had him deposed. Gallia christiana IX, pp. 340-343. Fisquet, pp. 20-24. On 28 April 363, Pope Nicholas I wrote to Rothadus, telling him to be of good cheer and to continue in his appeals to Rome. In September 363, Nicholas ordered Hincmar to send Bishop Rothadus and his accusors to Rome by 1 April 864. In May 864, Pope Nicholas wrote to Hincmar, complaining that Rothadus had neither been restored nor sent to Rome for judgment, and indeed that he had been detained (Hincmar had ordered Rothadus imprisoned in a monastery). On 20 January 865, Pope Nicholas wrote to Bishop Rothadus, who had been restored to his diocese of Soissons, restoring his possessions. P. Jaffé, Regesta pontificum Romanorum I, editio altera (Leipzig 1885), nos. 2720, 2721, 2727, 2740, 2756 and 2781.
^Engelmond was chosen to replace Rothadus when he was deposed, but Pope Nicholas I wrote to Hincmar, forbidding him to consecrate Engelmondus until after the Pope heard Rothadus' appeal against the Council which had deposed him. Rothadus was restored in 865. In a subsequent letter to Charles the Bald, Pope Nicholas calls Engelmond an invasor. Gallia christiana IX, p. 344. Mansi, XV, p. 690. Fisquet, p. 25. Jaffé, no. 2721.
^Bishop Jocelyn de Vierzy was previously Archdeacon of Bourges and Archdeacon of Soissons (where he resided from 1115). He wrote an explanation of the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer, a work of no importance. Fisquet, pp. 48-51.
^Simon was the son of Simon de Bucy, First President of the Parlement de Paris. He held synods in 1381 and 1403. Fisquet, pp. 70-71. Eubel, I, p. 468.
^Bishop Victor attended the Council of Pisa. Fisquet, p. 71. Eubel, I, p. 468.
^Graibert was born at Vervins, and was a Master of Arts. Around the time of his accession, the diocese was attacked by John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy; Soissons was taken, and then retaken and sacked by the King's forces. Fisquet, pp. 71-72. Eubel, I, p. 468.
^Charles de Bourlon was the son of Matthew de Bourlon, Master of Requests. He was a Doctor of the Sorbonne, and Abbot of Chartreuve (Soissons). In 1652 he was named Coadjutor of Simon Legras, and with his Archbishop participated in the coronation of King Louis XIV on 7 June 1654. He succeeded to the diocese on 28 October 1656. He died at Chateau-Landon on 26 October 1685 at the age of 74. Jean, pp. 331-332.
^The struggle between King Louis XIV and Pope Innocent XI over the 'Gallican Articles' of 1682 prevented the granting of papal bulls for his consecration and installation. Huet therefore enjoyed only the temporal possessions of the diocese of Soissons as Vicar Capitular. Jean, p. 332.
^Brulart de Sillery was the sixth son of Louis-Roger Brûlart, Marquis de Sillery, and Marie-Catherine de la Rochefoucauld. He was a Doctor of theology (Paris), and Canon of the Church of Paris. He was nominated Bishop of Soissons by King Louis XIV on 1 November 1689, but was not approved by Pope Innocent XII until 21 January 1692. Fisquet, pp. 88-90. Jean, p. 332. Ritzler, V, p. 365 with note 3.
^Born at Dijon, Languet was the sixth child of Denis Languet, Comte de Rochefort and Baron de Gergy. He was Doctor of theology (Paris). He became an Almoner of Marie-Adelaide of Savoy and Abbot Commendatory of Coetmaloen (diocese of Quimper). He served as Vicar General of Autun. On 15 January 1715 he was nominated by the King as Bishop of Soissons; the appointment was confirmed (preconized) by Pope Clement XI on 29 May 1715. He was promoted Archbishop of Sens on 9 April 1731. + 1753. Fisquet, pp. 90-94. Ritzler, V, p. 365 with note 4.
^Born in Angers, Lefévre held a Licenciate in Civil and Canon Law (Angers). Fisquet, pp. 94-95. Ritzler, VI, p. 388 with note 2.
^Fitz-James was the second son of James Duke of Berwick. He was Doctor in theology (Paris). Fisquet, pp. 96-98. Ritzler, VI, p. 389 with note 3.
^De Bourdeille died in Paris on 12 December 1802. Fisquet, pp. 98-101. Ritzler, VI, p. 389 with note 4.
^Born in Paris, Le Blanc entered the Canons Regular of Sainte-Geneviève. He studied theology in their house in Soissons, and became Novice master in Paris. He took the constitutional oath in 1791, and was given a parish in Paris by the Constitutional Bishop Gobel. He was imprisoned from June to August 1793. He returned to parish life, and on 14 December 1799 was elected Constitutional Bishop of Seine-Inférieure (Rouen); he was consecrated bishop on 18 January 1800 by Constitutional Bishop Royer. He submitted his resignation to Cardinal Caprara, the Papal Legate, on 15 October 1801. On 9 April 1802 he was appointed by arrêt of First Consul Bonaparte to the diocese of Soissons, but on 16 April, at a meeting of several constitutional bishops with Cardinal Caprara, he refused to sign a statement disavowing his past conduct. On 29 June 1804 he wrote to Pope Pius VII proclaiming his submission and his regrets for the past. On 5 July 1804 he was named to the Legion of Honor. He was later named Bishop of Arles 1820, + 1825. Fisquet, pp. 104-108. Paul Pisani (1907). Répertoire biographique de l'épiscopat constitutionnel (1791-1802) (in French). Paris: A. Picard et fils. pp. 168-169.
^De Villèle was consecrated in Paris on 24 September 1820 by the Archbishop of Reims, Jean-Charles de Coucy, assisted by the bishops of Chartres and Amiens. He was later named Bishop of Bourges, on 22 October 1824, and approved by Pope Leo XII on 22 March 1825. He died on 23 November 1841. Fisquet, pp. 108-111.