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Archdiocese of Aix

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(Aquae Sextiae). Full title, the Archdiocese of Aix, Arles, and Embrun.

Includes the districts of Aix and Arles (Department of the Bouches-du-Rhône). Before the Revolution the Archdiocese of Aix had as its suffragans the sees of Apt, Riez, Fréjus, Gap, and Sisteron; the Archdiocese of Embrun, the sees of Digne, Grasse, Vence, Glandève, Senez, and Nice; the Archdiocese of Arles, the sees of Marseille, St. Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Toulon, and Orange. The Archbishoprics of Arles and Embrun do not exist today, and the Archbishopric of Aix has as dependents the sees of Marseille, Fréjus, Digne, Gap, Ajaccio, and Nice. Certain traditions make St. Maximinus the first Bishop of Aix, one of the seventy-two Disciples and the companion of Mary Magdalen in Provence. The Abbé Duchesne seems to have proved that this saint, the object of a very ancient local cult, was not considered the first bishop of Aix, or connected with the life of St. Mary Magdalen, except in very recent legends, devised towards the middle of the eleventh century by the monks of Vézelay. The first historically known bishop of Aix is Lazarus, who occupied this see about the beginning of the fifth century. It was only at the end of the eighth century that Aix became an archbishopric; up to that time it was dependent upon the Bishop of Arles. Arles, which today is not even a bishopric, formerly played a very important ecclesiastical role. Its first incumbent was St. Trophimus, whose episcopate Gregory of Tours places about the year 250. In a letter to Pope Leo, in 450, the bishops of the province of Arles said that Trophimus was sent there by St. Peter. Is the apostolic origin of the episcopate of St. Trophimus authentic, or was it invented to serve the claims of the church of Arles? This is hard to decide, but it is certain that the date given by Gregory of Tours is much too late, as the see of Arles existed before the middle of the third century, and was already flourishing and esteemed in 254 when the Bishop Marcianus was tainted with the Novatian errors. Celebrated names first became connected with the see of Arles in 417 when Pope Zosimus made Bishop Patrocles the metropolitan, not only of the province of Vienne, to which Arles belonged, but of the two provinces of Narbonne; and to prevent the bishops of Gaul from following the custom of appealing to the episcopal see of Milan, Zosimus made Patrocles a kind of intermediary between the episcopate of Gaul and the Apostolic See. Under Pope Boniface, the successor of Zosimus, the Bishops of Narbonne and Vienne were proclaimed metropolitans, and Arles was authorized to keep the southern province of Vienne, the second province of Narbonne, and the Maritime Alps. The church of Arles had then two great bishops at its head, St. Honoratus, founder of the monastery of Lérins (427-429), and St. Hilarius, disciple of St. Honoratus, celebrated as a preacher (429-449), who, after his conflicts with the church of Vienne, had animated disputes with the Pope, St. Leo the Great. Pope Hilary (461-468), intending to confer certain privileges on the Bishopric of Arles, in 474 or 475, reassembled 30 prelates of Gaul against the predestination heresy and increased the importance of the see. With St. Caesarius, Arles (502-542) reached its greatest prosperity; there the Prefect of the Praetorium of Theodoric had his seat, while St. Caesarius represented the Pope with the episcopate of Gaul and Spain, and exercised an indefatigable activity in codifying the canon law of Merovingian Gaul. After Caesarius the superiority of the bishops of Arles was merely nominal; St. Virgilius, monk of Lérins, was made Bishop of Arles in 588, and consecrated the monk St. Augustine, sent to Great Britain by St. Gregory the Great. But after the sixth century there was no longer any question of intermediation; and in the succeeding centuries the metropolitans of Arles and Vienne existed side by side, not without frequent discussion as to the limits of their territory. The creation of the special metropolitans at Aix and at Embrun in 794, at Avignon in 1475, diminished the power of the see of Arles, which was suppressed in 1802. The Blessed Louis Aleman, who played an important part in the councils of the fifteenth century, was Archbishop of Arles from 1423 to 1450.

Among other prelates who brought fame to the see of Aix, must be mentioned Sabran, who was sent to Jerusalem in 1107 by Pascal II, and rounded the see of Bethlehem; Philaster, Alphonse Louis du Plessis de Richelieu (1625-29), and Michel Mazarin (1644-55), nephews of the cardinals of the same name; Monsignor du Lau, killed at the Carmes' prison in 1792.

The church of Arles honors the memory of the martyr Genesius, public registrar of Arles, at the beginning of the fourth century, who was beheaded for having refused to copy the edict of persecution against the Christians; the church of Aix honors the martyr Mitre. The city of Tarascon has for its patron, St. Martha, who, according to the legend, delivered the country of a monster called "Tarasque". The church of the "Saintes Maries de la Mer" in the Camargue contains three venerated tombs, which are objects of a pilgrimage; according to a tradition which is attached to the legends concerning the emigration of St. Lazarus, St. Martha, St. Mary Magdalen, and St. Maximinus, these tombs contain the bodies of the three Marys of the Gospel. The principal councils held at Arles were: that of 314, convened by order of Constantine to condemn the Donatists; that of 353, which defended the Arians against St. Athanasius; and that of 1234, which dealt with the Albigensian heresy. A faculty of theology, established at the University of Aix in 1802, was suppressed in 1876. The cathedral of Arles, at first dedicated to the martyr St. Stephen, and in 1152 under the patronage of St. Trophimus, possesses a doorway and Gothic cloister of the most imposing type of beauty. The cemetery of Alyscamps, celebrated in the Middle Ages, contained, up to the end of the thirteenth century, the remains of St. Trophimus, which were finally moved to the cathedral. The ruins of Montmajour, in the suburbs of Arles, perpetuate the memory of a great Benedictine abbey founded in the twelfth century. The cathedral of Aix is a very beautiful edifice of the twelfth century. The Archdiocese of Aix, at the close of the year 1905, had 188, 872 inhabitants, 25 parishes of the first, 106 of the second class and 21 curacies formerly paid by the State.


Gallia Christiana (Nova, 1715), I, 277-344, and instrumenta, 63-70; ALBANES ET CHEVALIER, Gallia Christiana Novissima (Valence, 1901), I; DUCHESNE, Fastes episcopaux de l ancienne Gaule; VILLEVIEILLE, Nos Saints: la vie et le culte des Saints du diocese. d'Aix (Aix, 1901).

About this page

APA citation. Goyau, G. (1907). Archdiocese of Aix. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Goyau, Georges. "Archdiocese of Aix." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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