Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bordeaux

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Archdiocese of Bordeaux-Bazas
Archidioecesis Burdigalensis-Bazensis
Archidiocèse de Bordeaux-Bazas
Cathedrale Saint Andre Bordeaux.jpg
Country France
Ecclesiastical province Clermont
Area 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2012)
1,115,000 (79.7%)
Parishes 593
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Established 3rd Century
Cathedral Cathedral of St. Andrew in Bordeaux
Patron saint St Andrew
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Metropolitan Archbishop Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard
Suffragans Diocese of Agen
Diocese of Aire
Diocese of Bayonne
Diocese of Périgueux
Auxiliary Bishops Laurent Dognin
Provinces ecclésiastiques 2002 (France).svg
Website of the Diocese
Former cathedral of St. John the Baptist at Bazas.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bordeaux, the full name of which since 20 November 1937 has been the Archdiocese of Bordeaux-Bazas, is an archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic church in France. The episcopal seat is located in Bordeaux, Aquitaine. It was established under the Concordat of 1802 by combining the ancient Diocese of Bordeaux (diminished by the cession of part to the Bishopric of Aire) with the greater part of the abolished Diocese of Bazas.


The metropolitan diocese has a senior position to four suffragan dioceses in the archdiocese (ecclesiastical province): Agen, Aire and Dax, Bayonne, and Périgueux and Sarlat. The metropolitan diocese itself comprises Gironde, Aquitaine.


Constituted by the same Concordat metropolitan to the suffragan Bishoprics of Angoulême, Poitiers and La Rochelle, the see of Bordeaux received in 1822, as additional suffragans, those of Agen, withdrawn from the metropolitan of Toulouse, and the newly re-established Périgueux and Luçon. In 1850 were added the three (then colonial) Bishoprics of Fort-de-France (Martinique), Basse-Terre (Guadeloupe), and Saint-Denis (Réunion), later detached. Since 2002 the province of Bordeaux (corresponding historically with Aquitania Secunda) has been substantially modified following the abolition of the province of Auch and the creation of that of Poitiers.

Early history[edit]

According to old Limousin legends which date back to the beginning of the eleventh century, Bordeaux was evangelized in the first century by St Martial (Martialis), who replaced a temple to the unknown god, which he destroyed, with one dedicated to St Stephen. The same legends represent St Martial as having brought to the Soulac coast St Veronica, who is still especially venerated in the church of Notre-Dame de Fin des Terres at Soulac; as having cured Sigebert, the paralytic husband of the pious Benedicta, and made him Bishop of Bordeaux; as addressing beautiful Latin letters to the people of Bordeaux, to which city he is said to have left the pastoral staff which has been treasured as a relic by the Chapter of Saint-Seurin (for this cycle of legends see Limoges).

The first Bishop of Bordeaux known to history, Orientalis, is mentioned at the Council of Arles, in 314. By the close of the fourth century Christianity had made such progress in Bordeaux that a synod was held there (384) for the purpose of adopting measures against the Priscillianists, whose heresy had caused popular disturbances. This was during the episcopate of Delphinus of Bordeaux (380–404), who attended the Councils of Saragossa in 380 and maintained correspondence with St Ambrose and with St Paulinus of Nola.

At the beginning of the 5th century a mysterious figure, who according to St Gregory of Tours came from the East, appeared in Bordeaux: St Seurin (or Severinus), in whose favour Bishop Amand abdicated the see from 410 to 420, resuming it after Seurin's death and occupying it until 432. In the sixth century Bordeaux had an illustrious bishop in the person of Leontius II (542–564), a man of great influence who used his wealth in building churches and clearing lands and whom the poet Fortunatus calls patriae caput.

During this Merovingian period the cathedral church, founded in the fourth century, occupied the same site that it does today, tight against the ramparts of the ancient city. The Faubourg Saint-Seurin outside the city was a great centre of popular devotion, with its three large basilicas of St Stephen, St Seurin, and St Martin surrounding a large necropolis from which a certain number of sarcophagi are still preserved. This faubourg was thus like a holy city and the cemetery of St Seurin was full of tombs of the Merovingian (early dark ages) period around which the popular imagination was to create legends. In the high noon of the Middle Ages it used to be told how Christ had consecrated this cemetery and that Charlemagne, having fought the Saracens near Bordeaux, had visited it and laid Roland's wonderful horn Olivant/Oliphant on the altar of Saint Seurin.

Dessus l'autel de Saint Seurin le baron, Il met l'oliphant plein d'or et de mangons

On the altar of Saint Seurin the baron, it put the oliphant full of gold and of gold coins Song of Roland

Many tombs passed for those of Charlemagne's gallant knights and others were honored as the resting-places of Veronica and Benedicta. At the other extremity of the city, Benedictines drained and filled in the marshes of L'Eau-Bourde and founded there the monastery of Sainte-Croix. While thus surrounded by evidence of Christian conquest, the academic Bordeaux of the Merovingian period continued to cherish the memory of its former school of eloquence, whose chief glories had been the poet Ausonius (310–395) and St Paulinus (353–431), who had been a rhetorician at Bordeaux and died Bishop of Nola.

Middle Ages[edit]

During the whole 8th century and part of the 9th, no bishops are mentioned for Bordeaux among Vatican and local records. Frotharius was archbishop in 870, when he fled the city in the face of Viking raids.

In the late tenth century, ecclesiastical power was once again concentrated in the hands of the archbishop of Bordeaux when Gombald, brother of William II of Gascony and bishop of all the Gascon sees became archbishop (989). In 1027 the duke of Gascony, Sancho VI, and the duke of Aquitaine, William V, joined together to select Geoffrey II, an Aquitanian Frank, as archbishop. This represented a new ecumenical rôle for the archbishop spanning both regions. The reigns of William VIII and William IX (1052–1127), were noted for the splendid development of Romanesque architecture in Bordeaux. Parts of the churches of Sainte-Croix and Saint-Seurin belong to that time, and the Cathedral of Saint-André was begun in 1096.

In the Middle Ages, a struggle between the metropolitan sees of Bordeaux and Bourges was brought about by the claims of the latter to the primacy of Aquitaine. This question has been closely investigated by modern scholars, and it has been ascertained that a certain letter from Nicholas I to Rodolfus, which purports to date the existence of the primacy of Bourges from the ninth century, is not authentic. As the capital of the Roman province Aquitania prima, Bourges at an early date vaguely aspired to pre-eminence over the provinces of Aquitania secunda and Aquitania tertia and thus over Bordeaux and it was about 1073 that these aspirations were more formally asserted; between 1112 and 1126 the papacy acknowledged them, and in 1146 Pope Eugenius III confirmed the primacy of Pierre de la Chatre, Archbishop of Bourges, over Bordeaux. In 1232, Gregory IX gave the Archbishop of Bourges, as patriarch [sic], the right to visit the province of Aquitaine, imposed upon the Archbishop of Bordeaux the duty of assisting, at least once, at the councils held by his "brother" of Bourges, and decided that appeals might be made from the former to the latter. Occasionally however, as in 1240 and 1284, the Archbishops of Bourges came to Bordeaux, found the doors of the churches closed against them and answered with excommunication the solemn protests made by the Bordeaux clergy against their visits.

Aquitaine was lost to France by the annulment of the marriage between Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine (that earlier took place in the cathedral of Bordeaux in 1137), and Bordeaux became the capital of the English possessions in France. Thereupon the struggle between the metropolitans of Bordeaux and Bourges assumed a political character, the King of France necessarily upholding the claims of Bourges. Most of the archbishops were conspicuous as agents of English policy in Aquitaine, notably: Guillaume Amanieu (1207–26), on whom King Henry III conferred the title of seneschal and guardian of all his lands beyond the sea, and who took part in Spain in the wars against the (Muslim) Saracens; Gerard de Mallemort (1227–60), a generous founder of monasteries, who acted as mediator between St. Louis and Henry III, and defended Gascony against the tyranny of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. During the episcopate of Gerard de Mallemort the old Romanesque church of Saint-André was transformed into a Gothic cathedral.

Pope Clement V (1305–14) was unfavourable to the claims of Bourges. He was born in Villandraut near Bazas, where he had built a beautiful collegiate church, was Archbishop of Bordeaux (and political adviser to King Philip the Fair) from 1300 to 1305. When he became pope, in spite of sympathies to France proper, his heart was set upon the formal emancipation of Bordeaux from Bourges. By the late fourteenth century, the archbishops, like Francesco Uguccione, were supporters of the English.

Blessèd Pierre Berland, or Peyberland as tradition calls him (1430–57), was an Archbishop of Bordeaux, illustrious for his intelligence and holiness, founder of the University of Bordeaux and of the College of St Raphael for poor students, who, after helping the English to defend Bordeaux against the troops of Charles VII of France, later received John of Orléans, Count of Dunois, into his episcopal city and surrendered it to France. It was during his episcopate that the beautiful campanile known as the Pey Berland Tower was added to the cathedral.

The rich and powerful chapters of Saint-André and Saint-Seurin subsisted in the Middle Ages as a vestige of that duality which was already noticeable in Merovingian Bordeaux. Between the two there were frequent and very animated conflicts. The artistic investment of the canons in the thirteenth century is attested by the Gothic portal of Saint-Seurin which is still extant. At the end of the fourteenth century Canon Vital de Carle established the great Hospital of Saint-André, which he placed under the protection of the municipality; and it was through the exertions of the chapter of Saint-André that the first city library of Bordeaux was founded towards the year 1402.

During the Middle Ages Bordeaux was a great monastic city, with its Carmelite, Franciscan, and Dominican convents, founded respectively in 1217, 1227, and 1230. In 1214 an important council was held in Bordeaux against usurers, highwaymen, and heretics. When, after the Hundred Years' War, Bordeaux again became French, Louis XI flattered its citizens by joining the confraternity of Notre-Dame de Montuzet, a religious association formed of all the mariners of the Gironde by heaping favours on the church of Saint-Michel, the tower of which, built in the period between 1473 and 1492, was higher than the Pey Berland, and by furthering the canonization of its former archbishop, Pierre Berland.

List of Archbishops of Bordeaux[edit]

Notes and References[edit]

  1. ^ His identity as bishop of Bordeaux is somewhat in doubt.
  2. ^ His identity as bishop of Bordeaux is somewhat in doubt.
  3. ^ His identity as bishop of Bordeaux is somewhat in doubt.
  4. ^ His identity as bishop of Bordeaux is somewhat in doubt.
  5. ^ His identity as bishop of Bordeaux is somewhat in doubt.