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Archdiocese of Tours

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Comprises the Department of Indre-et-Loire, and was re-established by the Concordat of 1801 with the Dioceses of Angers, Nantes, Le Mans, Rennes, Vannes, St-Brieue, and Quimper as suffragans. The elevation to metropolitan rank of the Diocese of Rennes in 1859, with the last three dioceses as suffragans, dismembered the Province of Tours. The Diocese of Laval, created in 1855, is a suffragan of Tours. For the early ecclesiastical history of Tours we have an excellent document, the concluding chapter "De episcopis Turonicis" in Gregory of Tours's "History of the Franks", though Mgr Duchesne has shown that it requires some chronological corrections. The founder of the see was St. Gatianus; according to Gregory of Tours he was one of the seven apostles sent from Rome to Gaul in the middle of the third century. Two grottos cut in the hill above the Loire, opposite Tours, are held to have been the first sanctuaries where St. Gatianus celebrated the Liturgy. According to Mgr Duchesne the tradition of Tours furnished Gregory with only the name of Gatianus, accompanied perhaps by the length, fifty years, of his episcopate; it was by comparison with the "Passio S. Saturnini" of Toulouse that Gregory arrived at the date 250. Mgr Duchesne considers this date rather doubtful, but admits that the Church of Tours was founded in the time of Constantine.

After St. Gatianus, according to Mgr Duchesne's chronology, came: St. Litorius, or Lidoire (337-71); the illustrious St. Martin (4 July, 372-8 Nov., 397); St. Brice (397-444), who was accused to Celestine I of immorality and absolved by the pope, but who remained absent seventeen years from the episcopal city, which was governed by the intruded Bishop Armentius; St. Eustochius (444-61); St. Perpetuus (461-91); St. Volusianus (491-98), deprived of his see by the Visigoths, exiled to Toulouse, and perhaps martyred; Verus (498-509), also deprived of his see at the command of Alaric; St. Baud (546-52), chancellor of Clotaire I; St. Euphronius (55-73), who made at Poitiers the solemn transfer of the relic of the True Cross to the monastery founded by St. Radegunde; the historian Gregory (573-94). After St. Gregory the history of the diocese for two centuries and a half is obscure and confused, but the study of various episcopal catalogues has made it possible for Mgr Duchesne to somewhat clear up this period. Landramnus, bishop under Louis the Pious, was by this prince appointed missus dominicus, or royal commissary, in 825.

Among subsequent bishops were: Raoul II (1086-1117), who despite the prohibition of Hugues, legate of the Holy See, had dealings with the excommunicated Philip I, and under whose episcopate Paschal II came to Tours (1107); Hildebert de Lavardin (1125-34); Etienne de Bourgueil (1323-35), who founded the College of Tours at Paris; the jurisconsult Pierre Frétaud (1335-57); Jacques Gélu (1415-27), later Bishop of Embrun (see DIOCESE OF GAP); Philippe de Coetquis (1427-41), who, commissioned by Charles VII in 1429 to interrogate Joan of Arc, recognized her perfect sincerity, and who was made a cardinal by antipope Felix V. Hélie de Bourdeilles (1468-84), cardinal in 1483; Robert de Lenoncourt (1484-1501), afterwards Archbishop of Reims; Dominic Carette, Cardinal de Final (1509-14); Alessandro Farnese (1553-54), cardinal in 1534; De Maillé de Brézé (1554-97), who assisted the Cardinal de Lorraine at the Council of Trent and translated the homilies of St. Basil; Victor Bouthiller (1641-70), who played an important part in the religious renaissance of the seventeenth century; Boisgelin de Cicé (1802-4), who under the old regime had been Archbishop of Aix and in 1802 was created cardinal; De Barral (1804-15); François Morlot (1843-57), cardinal in 1853, Archbishop of Paris at the time of his death; Joseph-Hippolyte Guibert (1857-71), cardinal in 1873, later be came Archbishop of Paris; Guillaume-René Meignan (1884-96), cardinal in 1893, known by his exegetical works.

Tours was the capital of the Third Lionize province. The ecclesiastical province of Tours must have been established under the episcopate of St. Martin. Fifty years later it was in regular operation, as is proved by, among other documents, the synodal epistles of the Councils of Angers and Vannes in 453 and 461. (Concerning the prolonged efforts of the Breton Churches to emancipate themselves from the metropolis of Tours and the assistance given to this metropolis by royalty see ARCHDIOCESE OF RENNES.) About 480 the Visigoths were masters of Tours and it was in the Island of Amboise in 504 that the interview took place as a result of which the Frank Clovis and the Visigoth Alaric shared Gaul between them. But the Arising of the Visigoths eventually roused the Catholics of Tours and when in 507 Clovis and his army entered the Visigothic kingdom Tours opened its gate to him, and he received in that city the consular insignia sent by Emperor Anastasius. The Saracens threatened Tours when Charles Martel defeated them in 732. From 853 to 903 the Northmen made frequent inroads, terminated by the victory of St. Martin Beau. Henry II of England became Count of Touraine in the middle of the twelfth century and the English dominion was maintained at Tours until John Lackland renounced it in 1214.

In the Middle Ages Tours was composed of two cities, the Roman Caesarodunum and the Merovingian Martinopolis. The name of Tours was strictly reserved to the ancient Caesarodunum, and the territory of Tours depended on the archbishops. Martinopolis, which rose around the monastery of St-Martin, took, in the tenth century, the name of Chateauneuf and for five centuries was an independent community. Under Louis XI the two agglomerations were united in one which retained the name of Tours. The cathedral of Tours, dedicated to St. Gatianus, dates from the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. The windows, which belong to the thirteenth, are among the most beautiful in France. The towers belong to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The chapter of Tours is the oldest in France. It is said that it was established by St. Baud, who gave the canons property quite distinct from that of the arch-diocese. Simon de Brion, pope from 1281 to 1285 under the name of Martin IV, was canon and treasurer of the church of St. Martin of Tours.

The prestige of the Church of Tours was very great during the Middle Ages. In a letter to Charles the Bald Adrian II designates it as the second in France. Philip Augustus in a letter to Lucius III says that he considers it one of the most beautiful jewels of his crown and that whosoever attacks this church attacks his own person. Kings John II, Charles VII, Charles VIII, and Henry III would never consent when they gave Touraine in fief that this church should be separated from the crown. It owed this prestige chiefly to the Basilica of St. Martin. This was first built by St. Perpetuus and dedicated in 472. It was there that Clovis was clothed with the purple robe and the chlamys sent him with the title of consul by the Emperor Anastasius. As early as the sixth century St. Martin's was a real religious centre. Queen Clotilde died in 545 in the vicinity of the basilica, and in the same neighbourhood St. Radegunde founded a small monastery, near which St. Gregory of Tours built the Church of the Holy Cross. Ingeltrude, daughter of Clotaire I, founded the monastery of Notre-Dame-de-l'Ecrignole, St. Monegunde that of St-Pierre-le-Puellier. When Charlemagne, before setting out to receive the imperial crown at Rome, assembled at Tours (800) the lords of his empire and divided his estates among his sons, his wife Luitgarde died there, and was buried at St-Martin. He gave the Church vast possessions in France and Normandy. Abbot Ithier, his chancellor, founded with some monks from St-Martin the monastery of Cormery. Alcuin, who succeeded Ithier in 796 and was buried in the basilica in 804, founded there a school of calligraphy to which is due the preservation of many ancient works. At this school, directed after Alcuin by Fredegisus (804-34), Adelard (834-45), and Count Vivian (845-54), were copied and illustrated the celebrated Bible of Charles the Bald and the Gospels of Lothaire preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris, the Virgil in the library of Berne, the Arithmetic of Boetius in the library of Bamberg, and the superb Gospels preserved in the library of Tours, written throughout in gold letters on white vellum, and on which the kings of France took the oath as abbots of St-Martin. The beautiful artistic labours of the canons were disturbed by the Norman invasions.

The body of St. Martin was transported by the canons to Auxerre in 853 to safeguard it against the invasions of the Northmen. Count Ingelger had to march with 6000 men against Auxerre in 884, before the body was restored. From 845 the abbots of St-Martin were laymen, namely the dukes of France, ancestors of Hugh Capet. When, in 987, Hugh Capet became King of France he joined the dignity of Abbot of St-Martin with the Crown of France in perpetuity. The Abbey of St-Martin had as honorary canons the Dukes of Burgundy, Anjou, Brittany, Vendôme, and Nevers, the Counts of Flanders, Dunois, the Earl of Douglas in Scotland, the Lords of Preuilly and Parthenay. From Clovis, doubtless until Philip Augustus, it enjoyed the right of coinage. Blessed Hervé, treasurer of the basilica, caused it to be rebuilt about 1000. It was in the abbey rebuilt by Hervé that Philip I, King of France, in 1092 arranged to meet Bertrade de Montfort, wife of Foulques le Réchin, and carried her off to the great scandal of the kingdom. Urban II, who came to Tours in 1096, refused to remove the excommunication inflicted on Philip and Bertrade. Paschal II in 1107, Callistus 11 in 1119, Innocent II in 1130, and Alexander III in 1163 came thither to venerate the tomb of St. Martin. Richard Coeur de Lion in 1190 and John of Brienne in 1223 took there the pilgrim's staff prior to setting out on the crusade. Louis XI had great devotion to St. Martin. The day on which he learned in the basilica itself of the death of Charles the Bold he vowed to surround the tomb of the saint with a silver grating, the cost of which would today equal 2,148,000 francs. In 1522 Francis I seized this grating, despite the chapter and the people of Tours. The devastations of the Reformation and the Revolution destroyed the Basilica of St. Martin. There now remain only two large towers, but at the end of the nineteenth century Cardinal Meignan caused a new basilica to be erected on the site of the old one.

According to the legend, the Abbey of St. Julian arose around a church the building of which was ordered by Clovis after his victory of Vouille over the Visigoths. It is historically certain that there were monks from Auvergne there in the sixth century, on whom Gregory of Tours imposed the Rule of St. Benedict and to whom he gave the relics of St. Julian of Brioude. The Northmen destroyed this first monastery; it was rebuilt about 937 by St. Odo, Abbot of Cluny, and Archbishop Theotolon. The present Church of St. Julian is a beautiful monument of the thirteenth century.

The monastery of Marmoutier dates from St. Martin. Near the grottos where St. Gatianus celebrated Mass he established some cells. The cell of St. Brice is still to be seen. Another grotto, known as the grotto of the Seven Sleepers, was inhabited by seven brothers, cousins of St. Martin, who all died on the same day after a lethargy. In the ninth century the Abbey of Marmoutier was ravaged by the Northmen, and out of 140 religious only 20 escaped massacre and were sheltered by the canons of St-Martin. Marmoutier was subsequently inhabited by a small colony of canons, and in 982 the abbey, which had fallen into some disorders, was restored by St. Mayeul, Abbot of Cluny, at the instance of Eudes I, Count of Blois and of Tours, who died a monk at Marmoutier. Urban II came to Marmoutier in 1096 and dedicated the newly-built basilica. Hubaud, canon of St-Martin and brother of the heresiarch Bérenger, gave to Marmoutier superb pieces of religious gold work in order to secure prayers for Bérenger, who died at the priory of St-Côme, which was dependent on Marmoutier. The fortune of the abbey was considerable, a popular saying runs:

"De quelque cote que le vent vente,
Marmoutier a cens et rente."

In the eleventh century 101 priories were founded dependent on Marmoutier, ten of them in England. Hugh I, Abbot of Marmoutier from 1210 to 1226, organized the estates of Meslay and Louroux, which were models of agricultural exploitation, and began the reconstruction of the basilica. The latter undertaking was hindered by the violent attacks made by the counts of Blois on the monks of Marmoutier. In 1253 St. Louis took the abbey under his protection. In 1562 it was pillaged by the Protestants and the Revolution destroyed it almost entirely. The crosier gateway (Portail de la Crosse) which remains standing dates from the thirteenth century. The origin of the town of Loches was the monastery founded by St. Ours about the beginning of the sixth century. He installed in the bed of the Indre a hand-mill which became a place of pilgrimage. Geoffroy Grisegonelle, Count of Anjou, founded at Loches a Byzantine collegiate church to which he gave a girdle of the Blessed Virgin. Repaired in the twelfth century by the prior, Thomas Pactius, this church still exists. In the dungeon of Loches, founded about 1000 by Foulques Nerra, were imprisoned Cardinal la Balue and the historian Comines. The monastery founded by St. Mexme, disciple of St. Martin (d. shortly after 463), was the origin of a gathering of people which formed the town of Chinon.

Cardinal de Richelieu was born in 1585 at the castle of Richelieu in the diocese. He transformed it into an imposing château, built around it an entire city, which took the name of Richelieu, and joined to his ducal peerage the town of Champigny. The Sainte Chapelle of Champigny was built in 1508 by the princely house of Bourbon-Montpensier to receive a thorn of the crown of Christ and one of the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas. Urban VIII, who prior to his pontificate had said Mass there, later prevented its demolition; hence the preservation of this fine monument of the Renaissance is due to him. The church of Cande, built between 1175 and 1215 on the site where St. Martin died, is remarkable as a monument not only of religious but also of military architecture. At Tours in 1163 Alexander III excommunicated the antipope Victor and Frederick Barbarossa. It was at the Château of Chinon in 1429 that Joan of Arc first saw Charles VII and gave him confidence in her mission, and in the same year she sent to St-Catherine-de-Fierbois in the diocese to seek in the tomb of an ancient knight the sword of Charles Martel. In the fifteenth century Tours had a brilliant school of painting; unfortunately nothing remains of the paintings executed at Notre-Dame-la-Riche by Jehan Fouquet. The studio of the sculptor Michel Colomb was at Tours; his master production was the tomb of Francis II of Brittany in the cathedral of Nantes. The tomb of the children of Charles VIII in the cathedral of Tours was the collective work of Colomb and his pupils and of some Italian decorators.

There are in Touraine a great many châteaux rich in historic memories, such as Plessis-les-Tours, the residence of Louis XI, Amboise, where was hatched the plot against the Guises under King Francis II; Chenonceaux, built by Francis I, the residence of Diana of Poitiers and later of Catherine de' Medici; Langeais, where Charles VIII wedded Anne of Brittany. Of the château of Chanteloup near Amboise, where the Duc de Choiseul went into exile, there remains only the pagoda. A number of saints are honoured in a special manner or are connected with the religious history of the diocese: Sts. Maura and Brigitta, virgins (end of fourth century); St. Flodovaeus (Flovier), martyr (fifth century); St. Ursus (Ours), founder of the Abbey of Sennevieres, patron of the town of Loches, d. about 508; St. Leubatius (Leubais), Abbot of Sennevières (sixth century); St. Senoch, solitary and abbot, d. in 579; St. Leobardus (Libert), hermit of the grottos of Marmoutier, d. in 593; St. Odo, first Abbot of Cluny, d. at Tours in 942; St. Avertinus, deacon, companion in exile of St. Thomas Becket, d. in Touraine about 1189; Bl. Jeanne-Marie de Maillé, d. in 1414 after having spent her widowhood in the practice of a rigorously ascetic life near the Basilica of St. Martin. Among the natives of the diocese were: the great prose writer Rabelais (1495-1553), b. at Chinon; the philosopher Descartes (1596-1650), b. at La Haye-Descartes; the Abbé de Marolles (1600-81), b. at Genillé, celebrated for his translations, and whose collection of prints formed the basis of that of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; Saint-Martin, called the unknown philosopher (1743-1803), b. at Amboise; the poet Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863), b. at Loches; Balzac (1790-1850), b. at Tours.

The chief places of pilgrimage in the diocese besides the grottos of Marmoutier, are: Notre-Dame-la-Riche, a sanctuary erected on the site of a church dating from the third century, and where the founder St. Gatianus is venerated; Notre-Dame-de-Loches; St. Christopher and St. Giles at St-Christophe, a pilgrimage dating from the ninth century; the pilgrimage to the Holy Face, established by M. Dupont, "the Holy Man of Tours", who founded the Priests of the Holy Face canonically erected on 8 December, 1876, to administer the chapel. Before the application of the law of 1901 there were in the diocese Jesuits, Lazarists, and various orders of teaching brothers. Several orders of women had their origin in the diocese the chief being: The Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, teaching and nursing, founded in 1684 at Sainville, in the Diocese of Chartres by Mother Marie Poussepin, and in 1813 transported to La Breteche near Tours; the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, teaching, founded in 1805 by the Abbé Guepin, rector of Notre-Dame-la-Riche, with mother-house at Tours; the Sisters of the Third Order of Carmel, since 1824 called the Sisters of St-Martin, teaching, with its mother-house at Bourgeuil. The religious congregations were directing in the diocese at the end of the nineteenth century 5 foundling asylums, 36 infant schools, 3 special houses for sick children, 5 orphanages for boys, 7 for girls, 1 house of retreat, 1 house of refuge, 18 hospitals or hospices, 2 dispensaries, 3 houses of religious for the care of the sick in their homes, 1 home for convalescents, 5 private hospitals and retreats. In the year 1911 the Archdiocese of Tours numbered 337,916 inhabitants, 23 deaneries, 37 first class parishes, and 254 succursal parishes.


Gallia christiaina, nova, XIV (1856), 1-151, instr. 1-98; DUCHESNE, Les listes episcopales de la province de Tours (Paris, 1890); CHEVALIER, Les origines de l'église de Tours d'apres l'histoire (Tours, 1871); PITROU, L'episcopat tourangeau, notes biographiques (Tours, 1882) LAMBRON DE LIGNIN, Armorial des archeveques de Tours (Tours, 1858) DE LASTEYRIE, L'église S. Martin de Tours, etude critique sur l'histoire et Ia forme de ce monument du Ve au XIe siecle (Paris 1891) DELISLE, Memoirs sur l'ecole calligraphique de Tours au IX siecle (Paris, 1885); MARTENE, Histoire de l'abbaye de Marmoutver, ed. CHEVALIER (2 vols., Tours, 1874-75); CHANTELOU, Marmoutier cartulaire tourangeau et sceaux des abbes, ed. NOBILLAEU (Tours, 1879); CHEVALIER, Promenades pittoresques en Touraine (Tours, 1869); VITRY, Tours St less châteaux de Touraine (Paris 1905) VAUCELLES, Catalogus de lettres de Nicotas V, conc. la prov. eccl. de Tours (Paris, 1908).

About this page

APA citation. Goyau, G. (1912). Archdiocese of Tours. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Goyau, Georges. "Archdiocese of Tours." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Scott Anthony Hibbs.

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

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