Louis Marie Olivier Duchesne (French: [dyʃɛn]; 13 September 1843 – 21 April 1922) was a French priest, philologist, teacher and a critical historian of Christianity and Roman Catholic liturgy and institutions.
Descended from a family of Breton sailors, he was born in 13 September 1843 in Saint-Servan, Roulais place, now part of Saint-Malo on the Breton coast, and was orphaned in 1849, after the death of his father Jacques Duchesne. Louis' brother, Jean-Baptiste Duchesne, settled in Oregon City, Oregon in 1849.
Louis Duchesne was ordained to the priesthood in 1867. He taught for many years in Saint-Brieuc, then went to study in Paris. From 1873 to 1876, he was a student at the École française in Rome. He was an amateur archaeologist and organized expeditions from Rome to Mount Athos, to Syria, and Asia Minor, from which he gained an interest in the early history of the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1877, he obtained the chair of ecclesiastical history of the Catholic Institute, but left the theological faculty in 1883. He then taught at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes, where he influenced Alfred Firmin Loisy, a founder of the movement of Modernism, which was formally condemned under Pope Pius X. In 1895, he was appointed director of the École française.
In 1887, he published the results of his thesis, followed by the first complete critical edition of the Liber Pontificalis. At a difficult time for critical historians applying modern methods to Church history, drawing together archaeology and topography to supplement literature and setting ecclesiastical events with contexts of social history, Abbé Duchesne was in constant correspondence with like-minded historians among the Bollandists, with their long history of critical editions of hagiographies.
He also wrote Les Sources du martyrologe hyéronimien, Origines du culte chrétien (translated as Christian Worship: Its Origin and Evolution and often reprinted), Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule, and Les Premiers temps de l'État pontifical. These works were universally praised, and he was appointed a commander of the Legion of Honor. However, his Histoire ancienne de l'Église, 1906‑11 (translated as Early History of the Christian Church) was considered too modernist by the Church during the "Modernist crisis" and was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1912.
In 1888, he became a member of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, and in 1910, he was elected to the Académie française. Abbe Duchesne was made an apostolic prothonotary in 1900. He died in 1922, in Rome, and is buried in the cemetery of Saint-Servan.
- Mémoire sur une mission au mont Athos (Paris: E. Thorin, 1876)
- Les Nouveaux textes de Saint Clément de Rome, 1877
- De codicibus MSS Graecis Pii II in bibliotheca Alexandrino-Vaticana, Paris 1880
- Origines du culte chrétien: etude sur la liturgie latine avant Charlemagne (1889)
- Christian worship : its origin and evolution : a study of the Latin liturgy up to the time of Charlemagne. M.L. McClure (transl.). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1903. p. 557.. Next printing 1919 and 1931 (5th ed.) also in New York : Macmillan Company.
- The churches separated from Rome. Arnold Harris Mathew (trans.). K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & co. ltd. 1907. p. 224.
- Early history of the Christian church from its foundation to the end of the third century 1–2. London: J. Murray. 1909. p. 428.
- Scripta minora : études de topographie romaine et de géographie ecclésiastique. Rome: École française de Rome. 1973. - commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Louis Duchesne.
Louis Duchesne (cross above) at Tarquinia (before Corneto), in Italy, april 1885.
Louis Canet, Jean Marx and Louis Duchesne at Rome.
- Joassart, B., editor Monseigneur Duchesne et les Bollandistes: Correspondance 2002. 122 letters between Duchesne and the Bollandists
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