Michael Portier

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Bishop Michael Portier
Bishop of Mobile
Bishop Michael Portier.jpg
Church Catholic Church
See Diocese of Mobile
In office May 15, 1829 – May 14, 1859
Successor John Quinlan
Ordination May 16, 1818
Consecration August 26, 1825
Personal details
Born (1795-09-07)September 7, 1795
Montbrison, France
Died May 14, 1859(1859-05-14) (aged 63)
Mobile, Alabama, United States
Signature Bishop Michael Portier's signature
Styles of
Michael Portier
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style His Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style not applicable

Bishop Michael Portier (September 7, 1795, Montbrison, France – May 14, 1859, Mobile, Alabama) was a Roman Catholic bishop in the United States and the first Bishop of Mobile. He immigrated to the US in 1817, being ordained there. He later founded many parishes and Catholic institutions in Alabama and Florida, particularly in Mobile. Among them was Providence Hospital. He also recruited religious orders of men and women to teach and care for parishioners.


Michel Portier was born and educated in France. He immigrated to the United States at the age of 22 in 1817 with the goal of becoming a priest. After completing his studies at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas, by Bishop Louis William Valentine Dubourg, on May 16, 1818. Eight years later, on August 26, 1825, he was consecrated titular Bishop of Oleno by Bishop Joseph Rosati. He became the only Vicar Apostolic of the new Vicariate of Alabama and the Floridas.

At the time of his accession, Portier was the only clergyman in the vicariate and had three parishes, Mobile, St. Augustine, and Pensacola. His parishioners were Catholics who were descendants of colonial era peoples, including ethnic French, Spanish, German and African of former French and Spanish territories. Bishop Portier began his administration by riding through his vicariate, offering the Holy Eucharist, preaching, and administering the Sacraments as he went.

Portier sailed for Europe in 1829 to recruit assistants, and returned with a few seminarians and a priest, Father Mathias Loras. On May 15, 1829, the vicariate was raised to the Diocese of Mobile, and Bishop Portier was made its first bishop. His cathedral was a small church twenty feet wide by fifty feet deep, his residence a still smaller two-roomed frame structure. A new cathedral was begun in 1837, and on December 8, 1850, Bishop Portier consecrated the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Also in 1850, the eastern portion of Florida was detached from the Diocese of Mobile and annexed to the newly created Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, based in Georgia.

In 1830, Bishop Portier established Spring Hill College, and named Father Mathias Loras its head. Loras served in that role until he was consecrated Bishop of Dubuque, Iowa, on December 10, 1837, by Bishop Portier. The bishop also consecrated Rev. John Stephen Bazin, who became another president of Spring Hill, and later the third Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana on October 24, 1847.

In 1833 Portier secured from the Georgetown Visitation Monastery, Georgetown, Washington, D.C., a colony of nuns who established the Georgetown Visitation Monastery and girls school in Mobile. He brought the Brothers of the Sacred Heart from France about 1847, and the Daughters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Maryland, to manage orphan asylums for boys and girls, respectively. One of his last acts was founding a hospital at Mobile, presently known as Providence Hospital, administered, then and now, by the Daughters of Charity.

Portier died May 14, 1859, aged 63. He is entombed in the crypt of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile.


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Mobile
Succeeded by
John Quinlan