Roman Catholic Diocese of Bethlehem in the Holy Land

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The See or Diocese of Bethlehem was a diocese in the Roman Catholic Church during the Crusades and is now a titular see. It was associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nevers.


In Bethlehem[edit]

In 1099 Bethlehem was captured in the First Crusade. A new monastery and cloister were built by the Augustinians to the north of the Church of the Nativity, with a tower to the south and an episcopal palace to the west. The Orthodox clergy (the Christian presence in the area had until then been Greek Orthodox) were ejected and replaced by Catholic clergy. On his birthday in 1100, Baldwin was crowned King of Jerusalem in Bethlehem — that same year, at Baldwin's request, Pope Paschal II established Bethlehem (never before an episcopal see) as a Catholic bishopric,[1] a suffragan of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.[2] In 1187 Saladin reconquered Bethlehem and the Catholic clergy were forced to let the Greek Orthodox clergy return. Saladin himself in 1192 allowed two Catholic priests and two deacons to return to the diocese, though Bethlehem's economy still suffered from the drastic reduction in pilgrims from Europe.[1]

In 1229 Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Sidon briefly returned to the Kingdom of Jerusalem under a treaty between Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and the Ayyubid sultan Al-Kamil, in exchange for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. That treaty expired in 1239 and Bethlehem was then reconquered by the Muslims in 1244.[3] In 1250, with the Mamluks' rise to power, tolerance for Christians in Palestine declined — the Catholic clergy left Bethlehem, whose walls were demolished in 1263. They then returned to Bethlehem in the 14th century and settled in the monastery adjacent to the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox in the meantime took over control of the Church of the Nativity and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Catholics and the Armenians.[1]

In Burgundy[edit]

The crusading William IV, Count of Nevers, dying in the Holy Land in 1168, left the building known as the Hospital of Panthenor or Pantenor[4] in the town of Clamecy in Burgundy, together with some land, to the Bishops of Bethlehem, in case Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control. In 1223, the then Bishop of Bethlehem took up residence in his Burgundian property, which remained the seat of titular Bishops of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolution of 1789.[5][6]

From 1223, therefore, the Bishops of Bethlehem exercised jurisdiction over the hospital and the faubourg that was their property. Their successors were chosen by the counts, later the dukes of Nevers, with the approval of the pope and the king. In 1413, Charles VI tried to obtain for them the privileges enjoyed by the diocesan bishops of the realm, but because of the opposition of the French clergy they continued to be considered bishops in partibus infidelium. In 1635, the assembly of the French clergy granted them an annual pension. Christopher d'Authier of Sisgau, founder of the Missionary Priests of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and celebrated for his sermons to the galley-slaves of Marseilles, was Bishop of Bethlehem 1651–63.[7]

The immediate aftermath of the French Revolution extinguished the title to property that was once attached to the titular bishopric of Bethlehem, making it like any other of the titular sees listed by the Catholic Church in the Annuario Pontificio.[8]

List of holders[edit]


  • Aschetino or Ansquitinus, † (1110 – after 1123)[9]
  • Anselmo or Anseau, † (before 1132 – after 1142)[9]
  • Giraldo, † (before 1147 – after 1152)[9]
  • Raul or Radolfo[10] I, † (1155[11] – died 1173)[9]
  • Alberto, † (before 1177 – after 1179)[9]
  • Piero, † (before 1204 – killed in 1205 at the battle of Adrianopolis)[9]
  • Tommaso, † (before 1207–?)[9]
  • Rainierio, † (before 1210–33)[11]
  • Tommaso Agni da Lentini, OP, † (1258–63), in 1272 elected Patriarch of Jerusalem[11]

Titular bishops[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bethlehem Municipality (ed.). "History of Bethlehem". Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  2. ^ 391 Figliuolo Figliuolo p. 391 
  3. ^ Paul Reed, 2000, p.206.
  4. ^ "Panthenor" is the spelling used in sources such as Speaight, Soultrait, Cocheris, Hesseln, Jean de La Fontaine; "Pantenor" is that used by Lagenissière, Conquille, Vogüé, Expilly
  5. ^ Robert Speaight, The Companion Guide to Burgundy (Companion Guides 1998 ISBN 978-1-90063917-0), p. 4
  6. ^ Georges de Soultrait (Imprimerie Impériale 1865), p. 14
  7. ^ Georges Goyau, "Nevers" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1911)
  8. ^ In the 2012 and 2013 editions it appears on page 849
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Cangepp. 784–93 Du Cange 2 pp. 784–93 
  10. ^ 29 Tyerman Tyerman p. 29 
  11. ^ a b c Sandolipp. 233–37 De Sandoli 1 pp. 233–37 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.7031°N 35.1956°E / 31.7031; 35.1956