Roman Catholic Diocese of Le Mans

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Diocese of Le Mans
Dioecesis Cenomanensis
Diocèse du Mans
Le Mans muraille Gallo Romaine nord-est.JPG
Country France
Ecclesiastical province Rennes
Metropolitan Archdiocese of Rennes
Area 6,244 km2 (2,411 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2013)
361,900 (65.2%)
Parishes 98
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Established 5th Century
Cathedral Cathedral of St Julian of Le Mans
Patron saint St Julian of Le Mans
Secular priests 119 (diocesan)
17 (religious Orders)
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Yves Le Saux
Metropolitan Archbishop Pierre d'Ornellas
Website of the Diocese

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Le Mans (Lat: Cenomanensis), is a Roman Catholic Latin Rite diocese of France. The diocese is now a suffragan of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rennes but had previously been suffragan to Bourges, Paris, Sens, and Tours (in ascending order).


The diocese of Le Mans comprises the entire department of Sarthe, created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790, pursuant to the law of 22 December 1789; the province of Maine was divided into two departments, Sarthe to the east and Mayenne to the west. Prior to the French Revolution it included 636 parishes and was one of the most extensive dioceses of France; at the time of the Concordat of 1801, it lost some parishes in Vendômois and Normandy and acquired some in Anjou. The Diocese of Le Mans embraced 665 communes from then up to the year 1855, when the department of Mayenne was detached from it to form the Diocese of Laval.


The origin of the Diocese of Le Mans has given rise to extensive discussions among scholars, concerning the value of the Gesta domni Aldrici, and of the Actus Pontificum Cenomannis in urbe degentium. Collectively called "the Le Mans forgeries", they were compiled in the episcopal curia at Le Mans during the episcopate of Aldric (832-857). The work of forgery extends to early charters of the diocese, and even to various saints' lives. Even the Testament of Bishop Aldric has been rewritten to conform to the purposes of the forgers: to enhance the authority of the bishop and his claims to various holdings in the diocese, notably monasteries which were normally under the protection of the King. This applied especially to the monastery of St. Calais. The claims, it should be noted, were not accepted, either by the bishops and abbots at the Council of Verberie or by Charles the Bald.[1]

There was once a survey (pouillé) of the diocese, written in the reign of Bishop Bertrand in the last part of the sixth century, but it too was taken and used by the ninth century forger of the Actus Pontificum Cenomannis in urbe degentium, thereby rendering its testimony useless. It names among the thirty four parishes allegedly created by "Saint Julianus", one of the seventy two disciples of Christ, several parishes recently created in the ninth century.[2]

The "Gesta"[3] relate that Bishop Aldric (ca. 800-857)[4] had the bodies of Saints Julianus, Turibius, Pavatius, Romanus, Liborius, and Hadoindus, first bishops of Mans, brought to his cathedral; the Acts make St. Julianus one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ and state that he arrived at Le Mans with two companions: Turibius, who became bishop under Antoninus (138-161), and Pavatius who was bishop under Maximinus (235-238) and under Aurelian (270-275), in which event, Pavatius would have lived over two hundred years. Liborius, successor of Pavatius, would have been the contemporary of Valentinian (364-375). Of course, if Julian had been of the apostolic age, he would not have been termed a 'bishop', nor would he have founded a church or cathedral. Christians were not a legal cult until the time of Constantine I (d. 337), and a diocese could neither own property as a collective entity nor build public places of worship.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "these chronological absurdities of the Acts have led Louis Duchesne to conclude that the first Bishop of Le Mans whose episcopate can be dated with certainty is Victurius, who attended the Councils of Angers and of Tours, in 453 and 461, and to whom Gregory of Tours alludes as 'a venerable confessor'. Turibius who, according to the Acts, was the successor of Julianus, was, on the contrary, successor to Victurius and occupied the see from 490 to 496."

Cathedral and churches[edit]

The buildings that served as the cathedral of Le Mans before 1080 are known only through textual evidence.[5] Even the textual evidence, such as it is, shows that there was no work of any importance on the cathedral from 557 to 832, the beginning of the reign of Bishop Aldric, though it was interrupted by his flight from his diocese. The new choir, at least, was consecrated before his flight, in 834, according to the Acta.[6] During the reign of Bishop Gontier, the town of Le Mans was attacked and the cathedral was pillaged by Comte Rotger.[7]

Apse of Cathedral of Le Mans
Notre-Dame de la Couture

A new and larger cathedral of St. Julian of Mans was begun under Bishop Vulgrin, but the choir collapsed and had be rebuilt by Bishop Arnaud (1065-1081), and work continued for the rest of the century. There was a fire in Le Mans in 1134 which damaged the cathedral, and work had to be undertaken again. Between 1217 and 1254 a new choir was built, and the supposed relics of St. Julien placed in a splendid new home.[8] The building exhibits specimens of all styles of architecture up to the fifteenth century, its thirteenth century choir being one of the most remarkable in France.

On 3 October 1230, Bishop Maurice (1215–1231) issued a charter in which he suppressed the offices of the six Archpriests who had served the diocese, and instituted six territorial Archdeacons in their place, all of whom were to be ordained priests within a year of their appointment: the Archdeacons of Mans, Sabolio, Lavalle, Castrildis, Montfort, and Passeyo. The arrangements were approved by the Roman Curia in 1232.[9] The Chapter of the Cathedral had nine dignities: the Dean, the Cantor, the Scholasticus, and the six Archdeacons. There were thirty eight prebends and four semi-prebends. All the offices were in the gift of the bishop, except that of the Dean, who was elected by the Chapter.[10]

In the winter of 1447/1448 southern Maine was under attack from the French armies of Charles VII. The English garrison in Le Mans was besieged, and on 16 March 1448 surrendered to the French.[11]

The city of Le Mans was occupied and pillaged by the Huguenots between 3 April 1562 and 11 July 1562. Ideologically the cathedral was a special target, where anything smacking of Catholic practices and traditions was destroyed, but also the cathedral was a repository of precious gold, silver and jewels, and also the baser metals, bronze, brass and iron, which could be used for military purposes. Although the Huguenots were driven away by an approaching royal army, they continued to wreak havoc on the diocese and its churches and monasteries.[12] On 5 May 1583 there was a fire in the cathedral, which damaged the vaults and destroyed the silver bell in the Choir.[13]

The church of Notre-Dame de la Couture (originally dedicated to S. Peter[14]) dates from the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, traces of earlier buildings having disappeared completely.[15] The Abbey of Solesmes, founded by Geoffroy de Sablé in 993 and completed in 1095,[16] has a thirteenth-century which is a veritable museum of sculptures of the end of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its "Entombment of Christ," in terracotta, is famous; the Mary Magdalen in the group, already celebrated even in the fifteenth century for its beauty attracted the attention of Richelieu, who thought of having it brought to Paris. Several sculptures depicting scenes in the life of the Virgin Mary form a series unique in France.

Bishops of Le Mans[edit]

To 1000[edit]

1000 to 1500[edit]


From 1800[edit]

Bishop Yves Le Saux

La Flèche[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Prytanée National Militaire.

The Jesuit Collège Henri IV de La Flèche, in the town of La Flèche, founded in 1603 by Henry IV,[44] enjoyed a great reputation for a century and a half, and the Marshal de Guébriant,[45] Descartes,[46] Marin Mersenne,[47] Prince Eugene of Savoy, and Pierre Séguier (brother of the Chancellor of France Antoine de Séguier) were all numbered among its students.

The Dominican convent of Le Mans, begun (according to local myth) about 1219 and, according to the claim, during the lifetime of St. Dominic, was able to begin its construction thanks to the benefactions of one 'John of Troezen', Count of Maine,[48] an English nobleman.[49] Louis IX of France contributed personally to the completion of the works. The house was far less wealthy when the theologian Nicolas Coeffeteau, who died in 1623, began his career as a Dominican by taking his vows at Le Mans in 1588, and who later became Bishop of Marseille.[50] The French Revolution swept away this convent.

Saints in Le Mans[edit]

The diocese honours in a special manner as saints: Peregrinus, Marcoratus, and Viventianus, martyrs; Hilary of Oizé, nephew of St. Hilary of Poitiers (in the fifth century); Bommer, Almirus, Leonard, and Ulphace, hermits; Gault, Front, and Brice, solitaries and previously monks of Micy; Fraimbault, hermit, founder of a small monastery in the valley of Gabrone; Calais, hermit and founder of the monastery of Anisole, from whom the town of Saint-Calais took its name; Laumer, successor to St. Calais; Guingalois or Guénolé, founder of the monastery of Landevenec in Brittany, whose relics are venerated at Château du Loir.

All in the sixth century: Rigomer, monk at Souligné, and Ténestine, his penitent, both of whom were acquitted before Childebert, through the miracle of Palaiseau, of accusations made against them (d. about 560); Longis, solitary, and Onofletta, his penitent; Siviard, Abbot of Anisole and author of the life of St. Calais (d. 681); the Irish St. Cérota, and her mistress Osmana, daughter of a king of Ireland, died a solitary near St-Brieuc, in the seventh century; Ménélé, and Savinian (d. about 720), natives of Précigné, who repaired to Auvergne to found the Abbey of Ménat, on the ruins of the hermitage where St. Calais had formerly lived.

There is also a particular devotion in Le Mans to Ralph de La Fustaye, who was a twelfth century monk, a disciple of Robert d'Arbrissel the founder of Fontevrault Abbey and missionary to prostitutes; Ralph was founder of the Abbey of St. Sulpice, in the forest of Nid de Merle in the Diocese of Rennes in Brittany. Both were Bretons; neither was connected to Le Mans; neither became a saint.

The famous founder of the Trappists, Abbot de Rancé, made his novitiate at the Cistercian Perseigne Abbey in the Diocese of Le Mans, though his subsequent career was entirely elsewhere: his uncle was Archbishop of Tours, where he was appointed Archdeacon.

Also there may be mentioned as natives of the diocese, Urbain Grandier, the notorious curé of Loudun, who was tortured and burned to death for sorcery in 1634; and Mersenne, the Minim (d. 1648), philosopher and mathematician and friend of Descartes and Pascal.

Pilgrimages to Notre-Dame de Toutes Aides at Saint-Remy du Plein, Notre-Dame de La Faigne at Pontvallain, and Notre-Dame des Bois at La Suze, date back to primitive times. The chapel of Notre Dame de Torcé, erected in the sixth century, has been much frequented by pilgrims since the eleventh century. Besides these places of pilgrimage may be mentioned those of Notre-Dame de Labit at Domfront, and of Notre-Dame du Chene at Vion, near Sablé, which can be traced to 1494. It was established in the place where in former times Urban II had preached the First Crusade.

Cult of St. Scholastica[edit]

During the episcopate of Berecharius (655-70) the body of St. Scholastica was brought from the monastery of Fleury to Le Mans;[51] the monastery erected to shelter the remains of the saint was destroyed by the Northmen in the second half of the ninth century. A portion of her relics was brought in 874 by the Empress Richilda to the monastery of Juvigny les Dames. The remaining portion was conveyed to the interior of the citadel and placed in the apse of the collegiate church of St. Pierre la Cour, which served the counts of Maine as a domestic chapel. The fire that destroyed Le Mans, 3 September 1134, also consumed the shrine of St. Scholastica, and only a few calcined bones were left. On 11 July 1464, a confraternity was erected in honour of St. Scholastica, and on 23 November 1876, she was officially proclaimed patroness of Le Mans.


  1. ^ Bouchard, pp. 67-75.
  2. ^ Longnon, xiii-xiv.
  3. ^ Gesta Aldrici, chapter 44, p. 124 (in the edition of Froger).
  4. ^ Duchesne, II, pp. 342-343.
  5. ^ Colum Hourihane, ed. (2012). The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture. Volume 2. OUP USA. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-19-539536-5. 
  6. ^ Hourihane (ed.), p. 36.
  7. ^ Ledru, La cathedrale, p. 6-9.
  8. ^ Hourihane (ed.), p. 36.
  9. ^ Longnon, pp. xviii-xix, and 56-57. These six archdeacons were in addition to the Major Archdeacon, who was also the Dean of the Chapter of the Cathedral.
  10. ^ Longnon, pp. 89-90 (1508). The pouillé of 1330 gives the number of 37 prebends, including that of the King, and the Abbots of S. Vincent and of Carilefi (S. Calais): Longnon, p. 58.
  11. ^ Piolin, V, p. 148-149. Michael Van Cleave Alexander (1998). Three Crises in Early English History: Personalities and Politics During the Norman Conquest, the Reign of King John, and the Wars of the Roses. Lanham MD USA: University Press of America. pp. 133–136. ISBN 978-0-7618-1188-6. 
  12. ^ Ledru, p. 24. Woodcock, p. 42-43.
  13. ^ Ledru, p. 24.
  14. ^ Benedictines of Solesmes (1881). Cartulaire des abbayes de Saint-Pierre de la Couture et de Saint-Pierre de Solesmes (in French and Latin). Le Mans: Edmond Monnoyer.  Gallia christiana XIV (Paris 1856), pp. 468-483.
  15. ^ E.L. Dubois, "L' eglise de Notre-Dame de la Couture," Revue historique et archéologique du Maine (in French). 25. Le Mans: Imprimerie Monnoyer. 1889. pp. 257–284. 
  16. ^ William M. Johnston (2000). Encyclopedia of monasticism. London: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 1172. ISBN 978-1-57958-090-2.  Notice sur l'abbaye de Solesmes (in French). Le Mans: Fleuriot. 1839. pp. 1–5. 
  17. ^ Piolin, I, 1-34. The narrative is highly imaginative and fervid, giving full weight to the miraculous. Julian was not buried in his alleged church, but in a Christian burial ground. The Gesta Aldrici, ch. 44, says that the remains were found by Bishop Aldric in desertis aeclesiis ('in abandoned churches').
  18. ^ The Gesta domni Aldrici, p. 124, insists that Julian was the first Bishop, Turibius the second, and Pavatius the third. Aldric placed their remains in the church which he consecrated in the name of the Savior, the Mother of God and SS. Gervasius and Protasius.
  19. ^ Jean Bolland, "De S. Liborio confessore... commentarius historicus," Acta Sanctorum. Mensis Iulius Tomus V (Antwerp 1727), pp. 394-406; followed by 3 vitae and texts concerning the relics: pp. 407-457 (in Latin). Albert Poncelet (1903). "Relation originale du prêtre Idon sur la translation de Saint Liboire à Paderborn". Analecta Bollandiana. 22: 146–172. Retrieved 2016-09-14.  (in French and Latin)
  20. ^ It is said that Martin of Tours (died 8 November 397) was present at the deathbed of Bishop Liborius: Acta Sanctorum, p. 407C.
  21. ^ It is conjectured that Bishop Victurius is the same as the Victorius who subscribed to the canons of the Council of Angers in 453, though his diocese is not mentioned. Duchesne, II, p. 336, no. 4. J. D. Mansi (ed.), Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio editio novissima Tomus VII (Florence 1762), pp. 900 and 902. Victorius was also present at the Council of Tours in 461, and his diocese is named: Mansi, p. 947.
  22. ^ Duchesne, II, p. 337, no. 5.
  23. ^ Principius attended the Council of Orléans in 511. Mansi, Tomus VIII, p. 356. A twelfth century list of bishops says he reigned for 29 years and twenty one days: Duchesne, II, pp. 333 and 337 no. 6.
  24. ^ Bishop Innocentius was present at the Councils of Orléans in 533 and 541. Mansi, VIII, p. 839 (without the name of the diocese); Mansi, XI, p. 120 (with the name). He is given credit for reigning forty-six years, ten months and twenty-five days: Duchesne, II, p. 333, p. 337 no. 7.
  25. ^ Noel Lazaro Delgado (2008). The Grand Testamentum of Remigius of Reims: Its Authenticity, Juridical Acta and Bequeathed Property. Dissertation: U. Minnesota. ProQuest. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-549-51241-7.  Goffart, The Le Mans Forgeries pp. 159-160.
  26. ^ It was Aldric who had the relics of St. Liborius conveyed to Paderborn.
  27. ^ Bishop Aldric was sent a pastoral staff and a priestly vestiment by Pope Gregory IV (827-844): Gesta Aldrici pp. 125-126.
  28. ^ Havet, pp. 665-674.
  29. ^ Geoffroi de Loudon was made papal legate for the entire Kingdom of France by Pope Gregory IX. In 1254, Geoffroi consecrated the cathedral of Le Mans and founded the monastery of the Chartreuse of Notre-Dame du Parc de Saint-Denis-d'Orques, also called the Chartreuse du Parc-en-Charnie, where he was interred. Paolin, IV, 358-363, and 401-402.
  30. ^ Pierre de Longueil was the son of Guillaume de Longueil, Seigneur de Varangeville and Christine de Coetivi. He had been Dean of the Cathedral of Rouen. He attended the Council of Vienne in 1311, at which the Knights Templars were suppressed. He died on 3 April 1326, and was buried in the church of the Franciscans in Le Mans. Colomb, pp. 235-238.
  31. ^ Eubel, I, p. 181. P. Moulard, "Notice sur Souday," Revue Historique et Archeologique du Maine (in French). 16. Le Mans. 1884. p. 76. 
  32. ^ Jean-Baptiste Guyard de La Fosse; Jean Colomb (1837). Histoire des évêques du Mans (in French). Ch. Richelet. pp. 293–299. 
  33. ^ Martin Berruyer had been Dean of the Cathedral Chapter of Tours, Treasurer of St. Martin of Tours, and Canon of Le Mans. He was consecrated bishop of Le Mans on 2 April 1452 by Bishop Jean of Noyon at Noyon. His administration was a difficult one, since Le Mans had just been wrested from the hands of the English after a siege, on 16 March 1448. He died on 23 April 1466. Piolin, V, pp. 157-170. Cf. Eubel, II, p. 124. Berruyer left a memoir written in defense of Joan of Arc: Jean Baptiste Joseph Ayroles (1890). "Chapitre IX: Martin Berruyer et son mémoire". La vraie Jeanne d'Arc ... (in French). Gaume et cie. pp. 403–436. 
  34. ^ From 1468 to 1519 the See of Le Mans was occupied by prelates of the House of Luxembourg.
  35. ^ From 1468 to 1519 the See of Le Mans was occupied by prelates of the House of Luxembourg.
  36. ^ Louis de Bourbon was a cousin of the Luxemburgs.
  37. ^ René du Bellay died in August 1546, and was buried in Nôtre-Dame de Paris. Piolin, V, pp. 367-389.
  38. ^ Michèle Ménard (1980). Une histoire des mentalités religieuses aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles: mille retables de l'ancien diocèse du Mans (in French). Paris: Editions Beauchesne. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-2-7010-1014-4. 
  39. ^ Piolin, VI, pp. 228-332.
  40. ^ Piolin, VI, pp. 426-454.
  41. ^ Piolin, VI, 515-561.
  42. ^ At the French Revolution Gonsans fled to Holland and then to Germany. He died in Paderborn in 1799. Piolin, VI, pp. 562-580.
  43. ^ L' ami de la religion et du roi: journal ecclésiastique, politique et littéraire (in French). LXIV. Paris. 1830. pp. 257–259.  Paul Pisani (1907). Répertoire biographique de l'épiscopat constitutionnel (1791-1802). (in French). Paris: A. Picard et fils. pp. 153–155. 
  44. ^ Camille de Rochemonteix S.J., Un collège de Jésuites aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles: le Collège Henri IV à La Flèche (LeMans: Leguicheux, 1889), 4vols.
  45. ^ François Roger Fidèle Marchant de Burbure (1803). Essais historiques sur la Ville et le Collège de la Flèche (in French). p. 300. 
  46. ^ Laurence Grove, "Jesuit Emblematics at La Fleche (Sarthe) and their Influence upon Rene Descartes," in: John Manning; M. van Vaeck, ed. (1999). The Jesuits and the Emblem Tradition: Selected Papers of the Leuven International Emblem Conference, 18-23 August, 1996. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 87–115. ISBN 978-2-503-50798-9.  Decartes was in Le Mans ca. 1609–1615.
  47. ^ Carol MacClintock (1979). Readings in the History of Music in Performance. Indiana University Press. pp. 152–155. ISBN 0-253-14495-7. 
  48. ^ This was Jean Tristan (not 'Troezen') Comte de Maine, but he was the fifth son of Louis VIII, and was nominally Count of Maine and Le Mans, ca. 1229-1230: Louis Moréri (1707). Le grand dictionnaire historique, ... par l'abbé Louis Moreri, édition revue, corrigée et augmentée par M. Vaultier (in French). Tome III. Paris: Denys Mariette. p. 320. 
  49. ^ The story is related only in anonymous tale written by a monk of Le Mans in 1692, which is filled with errors. Jean de Troezen died around the time that the Dominican convent was being built, he says, and wanted to be buried inside its walls. The story must be true, since in 1674, when the monks were erecting a new high altar they found the remains and armor of a soldier. Marie-Dominique Chapotin (1898). Histoire des dominicains de la province de France. Cagniard (Léon Gy, successeur). pp. 150–151. 
  50. ^ Charles Urbain (1893). Nicolas Coeffeteau, dominicain, évèque de Marseille: un des fondateurs de la prose française (1574-1623). Thorin & Fils. pp. 9, 12. 
  51. ^ Mary Richard Boo, O.S.B. and Joan M. Brown, O.S.B., "Emerging from the Shadows: St. Scholastica," in: Miriam Schmitt; Linda Kulzer (1996). Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom's Wellsprings. Collegeville MN USA: Liturgical Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8146-2292-6.  On the Abbey of Fleury (Floriacensis): Gallia christiana, in provincias ecclesiasticas distributa (in Latin). Tomus octavus (VIII): de suffraganeis Ecclesiis Parisiacae. Paris: Typographia Regia. 1744. pp. 1538–1570. 


Reference works[edit]


External links[edit]

  • Goyau, Georges (1910). "Le Mans." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Retrieved: 2016-09-12.
  • Diocese of Le Mans, Official site (French)
  • David M. Cheney, Catholic-Hierarchy, Diocese of Le Mans: Retrieved: 2016-09-15.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Le Mans". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

Coordinates: 48°00′28″N 0°11′55″E / 48.00778°N 0.19861°E / 48.00778; 0.19861