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French abbé of the 18th century

Abbé (from Latin abbas, in turn from Greek ἀββᾶς, abbas, from Aramaic abba, a title of honour, literally meaning "the father, my father", emphatic state of abh, "father")[1] is the French word for an abbot. It is also the title used for lower-ranking Catholic clergy in France who are not members of religious orders.[2]


A concordat between Pope Leo X and King Francis I of France (1516)[3] gave the kings of France the right to nominate 255 commendatory abbots (abbés commendataires) for almost all French abbeys, who received income from a monastery without needing to render service, creating, in essence, a sinecure.[4]

From the mid-16th century, the title of abbé has been used in France for all young clergy, with or without consecration.[2] Their clothes consisted of black or dark violet robes with a small collar, and they were tonsured.[4]

Since such abbés only rarely commanded an abbey, they often worked in upper-class families as tutors, spiritual directors, etc.;[2] some (such as Gabriel Bonnot de Mably) became writers.[4]

Clerical oblates and seminarians of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest also have the honorific title of abbé.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "abbot". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b c A'Becket 1913.
  3. ^ A'Becket 1913 cites Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Abbot" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. III under Kinds of Abbot
  4. ^ a b c Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Abbé" . Encyclopedia Americana.


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