New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > S > Savoy


Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

(Italian SAVOJA; French SAVOIE)

A district in the south-eastern part of France that extends from the Lake Geneva to south of the River Arc, and forms today the French Department of Savoie and Haut-Savoie. The House of Savoy which at the present time rules the Kingdom of Italy takes its name from this country.

Savoy, the Roman Sabaudia, was inhabited in antiquity by the Celtic Allobroges who were conquered by the Romans in the first century before Christ and gradually became Romanized. When in A.D. 437 the kingdom of the Germanic Burgundians, with Worms as its capital, was destroyed by the Hunnic hordes, King Gundikar and the greater number of his people were killed. With the permission of the Roman general Ætius, the remainder of the Burgundians, with Gundiok as their ruler, settled in Sabaudia, as allies of the Romans, and after the fall of the Roman power they established a new kingdom which, towards the end of the fifth century, extended over the entire basin of the Rhone as far as the Cevennes and to the Mediterranean. In 532 Savoy was incorporated along with this Burgundian kingdom in the Frankish empire. During the supremacy of the Franks the people changed from Arianism to Catholicism. In the ninth century the Empire of the Franks was divided into several kingdoms, and Savoy fell to the Kingdom of Arles, or Lower Burgundy, which was founded in 879 by Count Boso of Vienne. Together with this territory it passed in 930 to the Kingdom of Upper Burgundy, established in 887 by the Guelph Rudolph between the Swiss Jura Alps and the Pennine Alps. Rudolph III (964-1032) had no direct heirs, and bequeathed his land to the German Emperors Henry II and Conrad II who were related to him. After Rudolph's death Conrad II maintained his claim to the country against Odo of Champagne, the candidate whom a number of Burgundian spiritual and secular lords set up for the throne.

In these struggles much aid was given the German ruler by a Burgundian noble, Count Humbert White Hands of Savoy; for these services the count was rewarded with large gifts of land. The ancestors of this Humbert came apparently from eastern Saxony, not far from Magdeburg; the earliest known members of the family are the brothers Amadeus and Humbert, who are mentioned in the second half of the tenth century. The oldest possessions of the line of Savoy were the counties of Maurienne (the upper valley of the River Arc), Savoy (the district between Arc, Isère, and the middle course of the Rhone), and also Belley, with Bugey as its chief town. In the eleventh century there was added to this territory the valley of Aosta, the Tarantaise (the upper valley of the Isère), and Chablais (the district on the Rhone between Martigny and Lake Geneva). About 1050 Humbert's son Odo married Adelaide, the oldest daughter and heiress of Count Manfred of Turin, and by this marriage the House of Savoy gained large possessions in Italy, particularly the greater part of Piedmont, while at the same time the possessions east and west of the Alps were joined together. Odo's second son, Amadeus II, aided his brother-in-law, the Emperor Henry IV, while on his expedition to Canossa, in return for which Henry resigned to him the secular administration of five Italian dioceses. After the death of his mother Adelaide, Humbert II took possession of the Italian inheritance (1091). His son Amadeus III joined the Second Crusade and died in 1149 on the Island of Cyprus while returning home. Thomas I (1189-1233), grandson of Amadeus, as imperial vicar did much to aid Frederick II, and enlarged his possessions by acquiring Chambéry, Romont, etc. His eight sons divided the inheritance among themselves, yet the eldest Amadeus IV (1233-53), who was an adherent of Frederick II in his contest with the popes, maintained a certain supremacy over his brothers. Of all the brothers only Thomas II (d. 1259) left any male heirs; his sons Thomas III and Amadeus V were the founders of the two lines of Savoy and Piedmont that were reunited in 1418.

Amadeus V (1285-1323), who inherited Savoy, obtained in 1290 the secular governorship of the city of Geneva. He accompanied Henry VII on his expedition to Italy, and was, as a reward, made a prince of the empire (1311). He was succeeded by his sons Edward (1323-29) and Aymon (1329-43). The latter by marriage gained a claim to Montferrat. Aymon's son Amadeus VI (1343-83), called the "Green Count" because of the colour of his ensign at tournaments, was a famous warrior who fought over half of Europe and in 1366 battled the Turks in Greece; he won Vaud, Gex, and parts of the dioceses of Ivrea and Vercelli, and made a law that his territories should never be divided and that the succession should be by primogeniture. In order to form a barrier against the increasing influence of the French kings the Emperor Charles IV in 1361 separated Savoy from Arles and appointed Amadeus imperial vicar for Arles (until 1378). Amadeus VII (1383-91), the "Red Count", gained Nice, Ventimiglia, and Chivasso.

Amadeus VIII (1391-1434), known as the antipope Felix V, was made a duke by Emperor Sigismund in 1416; in 1422 he received the County of Geneva in fief, and in 1426 gained Vercelli and feudal supremacy over Montferrat. Under his weak and idle son Louis (1334-65) the power of the rising house declined. Amadeus IX the Fortunate (1465-72) left the government to his wife Yolande, sister of the French king Louis XI, who was also regent for her minor son Philibert I (1372-82). French influence increased in Savoy and involved the country in the wars between France and the emperors. Philibert II (1497-1504) inclined in politics more to the Austrian and Spanish side; this was also the policy of Charles III (1504-53). The latter received Asti in 1530 from his brother-in-law, the Emperor Charles V, but in 1534 lost Geneva, in 1536 Vaud and the southern shore of the Lake of Geneva as far as the Swiss cantons of Berne, Freiburg, and Valais, and in 1536 he was driven out of Savoy and Piedmont by the French king. The Truce of Nice in 1538 left the French in possession of their conquests, and Charles retained only Cuneo, Asti, and Vercelli. However, his son Emmanuel Philibert (1553-80) regained nearly all his territories in 1559 by the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis; in 1564 he concluded the Treaty of Lausanne with the Swiss Confederation, in agreement with which he recovered Chablais, but renounced his claim to Geneva and the Vaud. He acquired Tenda and Oneglia, founded the University of Mondovì, and replaced the feudal system by an enlightened absolutism which afterwards became a model for Europe.

Emmanuel I the Great (1580-1630), son of Emmanuel Philibert, sided in politics sometimes with Spain and the emperor, sometimes with France, according as he hoped to gain the greater advantage. In 1588 he conquered the Margraviate of Saluzzo, to which France also laid claim, and retained it in the Peace of Lyons (1601) as the ally of Philip of Spain. In return, however, he was obliged to concede the provinces of Gex, Bresse, and Valromy to France. During this reign Chablais, which had become almost entirely Protestant during its dependency on Berne, was regained to the Catholic Faith by the labours of St. Francis of Sales (q.v.). The ambition of Emmanuel I even led him in 1619 to aim at the imperial crown. On account of his claims to Montferrat, which in 1536 had fallen to Mantua, he took part in the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628-31). His son Victor Amadeus I (1630-37) by the treaty of peace obtained parts of Montferrat, but was obliged to yield Pinerolo and the valley of Perosa to France. In 1635 he supported the French army in the struggle with the emperor for the Duchy of Milan.

Charles Emmanuel II (1638-75), a prince fond of art and anxious for the prosperity of his people, came into possession of the lands of the counts of Geneva, a branch of the House of Savoy. Victor Amadeus II (1675-1730), son of Charles Emmanuel, refused in 1690 to bring an army to the aid of Louis XIV against the alliance between the emperor, England, Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands; in return the French seized Savoy and Piedmont. When in 1696 the duke withdrew from the alliance by an independent treaty he received from France not only all that had been lost but also Pinerola and Perosa. Consequently in the War of the Spanish Succession Victor Emmanuel at first was a partisan of Louis XIV, but in 1703 he joined Austria and its confederates. Upon this the French took possession once more of his country; the victory of Eugene of Savoy (a member of the Carignan branch of the family) at Turin in 1706 freed Piedmont from the enemy. In the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 the duke recovered Savoy and Nice from the French, while the emperor gave him Montferrat from the Spanish inheritance, parts of the Duchy of Milan, and the Island of Sicily, as well as the title of king. In 1718 he was obliged to abandon Sicily to Austria and accept in return the much less valuable island of Sardinia, but in consideration of this he was acknowledged as king by Spain. The House of Savoy now took the title of King of Sardinia from the island of that name, although Savoy and Piedmont remained its chief possessions. Henceforth the history of Savoy is in general the same as that of the Kingdom of Sardinia. During the French Revolution Savoy was occupied by the French, and by the Treaty of Nice in 1796 was surrendered to France together with Nice. It was restored to Sardinia by the Congress of Vienna. In the war of 1859 with Austria Lombardy fell to Piedmont, but in 1860 King Victor Emmanuel II was obliged to cede Savoy and Nice to France in return for the aid that Napoleon III, in accordance with the secret treaty of Plombières (1858), had given the king in this war. Thus the ancestral lands of the Italian royal family belong today to the French, much to the vexation of the Italians.


MANNO, Bibliografia storico degli stati della monarchia di Savoia (8 vols., Turin, 1884-1908); CIBRARIO, Notizia sopra la storia dei principi di Savoia (2nd ed., Turin, 1866); IDEM, Storia della monarchia di Savoia (3 vols., Turin, 1840-44); IDEM, Origini e progresso delle istituzioni della monarchia di Savoia (2 vols., Florence, 1869); RICOTTI, Storia della monarchia piemontese (6 vols., Florence, 1861-70); ST-GENIS, Hist. de Savoie (3 vols., Chambéry, 1869); CARUTTI, Storia della diplomazia delle corte di Savoia (4 vols., Turin, 1875-80); IDEM, Regesta comitum Sabaudia ab ultima stirpis origine ad annum 1253 (Turin, 1889); GERBAIX DI SONNAZ, Studi storici sul contado di Savoia e sul marchesato in Italia (3 vols., Turin, 1883-1903); GABOTTO, Lo stato Sabaudo da Amadeo VIII ad Emanuele Filiberto (3 vols., Turin, 1892-95); PERRIN, Hist. de Savoie (Chambéry, 1900); HELLMAN, Die Grafen von Savoyen u. das Reich bis zum Ende des staufisch. Periode (Innsbruck, 1900); DE ANGELI, Storia de casa Savoia (Milan, 1906); ARDOUIN-DUMAZET, Voyage en France, VIII-X (Paris and Nancy, 1903).

About this page

APA citation. Lins, J. (1912). Savoy. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Lins, Joseph. "Savoy." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald Rossi.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2023 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.