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Bishopric of Mâcon

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Title: Bishopric of Mâcon  
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Subject: Odet de Coligny
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Bishopric of Mâcon

The former bishopric of Mâcon was located in Burgundy.


The city of Mâcon, formerly the capital of the Mâconnais, now of the Department of Saône-et-Loire, became a civitas (Celtic tribal 'city state') in the 5th century, when it was separated from the Æduan territory. Christianity appears to have been introduced from Lugdunum (present Lyon) into this city at an early period, and Hugh, Archbishop of Lyon, in the eleventh century, would call Mâcon "the eldest daughter of the Church of Lyon".

The bishopric, however, came into existence somewhat later than might have been expected: in the latter part of the 5th century it was still a Bishop of Lyon who brought relief to the famine-stricken people of Mâcon. At the end of that same century Merovingian king Clovis's occupation of the city both foreshadowed the gradual establishment of Frankish supremacy, accompanied by a decline in Arianism in the see. Duchesne thinks that the bishopric of Mâcon, suffragan of Lyon, may have originated in an understanding between the Merovingian princes after the suppression of the Burgundian kingdom.

The first bishop historically known is St. Placidus (538-55). The authentic list of his successors, as reconstructed by Duchesne, comprises several bishops venerated as saints: St. Florentinus (c. 561); St. Cælodonius, who assisted at the Council of Lyon in 570; St. Eusebius, who assisted at two councils, in 581 and 585. Tradition adds to this list the names of St. Salvinius, St. Nicetius (St. Nizier), and St. Justus, as bishops of Mâcon in the course of the sixth century. Among other bishops of later date may be mentioned St. Gerard (886-926), who died in a hermitage at Brou near Bourg-en-Bresse, and Cardinal Philibert Hugonet (1473–84).

For many centuries the bishops seem to have been the only rulers of Mâcon; the city had no counts until after 850. From 926 the countship became hereditary. The Mâconnais was sold to king St. Louis in 1239 by Alice of Vienne, daughter of the last count, and her husband, Jean de Braine. In 1435 Charles VII of France, by the Treaty of Arras, ceded it to Philip, Duke of Burgundy, but in 1477 it reverted to France, upon the death of duke Charles the Bold. Emperor Charles V definitively recognized the Mâconnais as French at the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529.

The wars of religion filled Mâcon with blood; it was captured on 5 May 1562, by the Protestant Charles Balzac d'Entragues, on 18 August 1562, by the Catholic Tavannes, on 29 September 1567, it again fell into the hands of the Protestants, and on 4 December 1567, was recovered by the Catholics. But the Protestants of Mâcon were saved from the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, probably by the passive resistance with which the bailiff, Philibert de Laguiche, met the orders of king Charles IX of France. Odet de Coligny, known as Cardinal de Châtillon, who eventually became a Protestant and went to London to marry under the name of Comte de Beauvais, was from 1554 to 1560 prior, and after 1560 provost, of St-Pierre de Mâcon.

The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny, situated within the territory of this diocese, was exempted from its jurisdiction in the eleventh century, in spite of the opposition of Bishop Drogo. There is stilt preserved in the archives of the city a copy of the cartulary of the cathedral church of St-Vincent, rebuilt in the 13th century, but destroyed in 1793.

The existence of Mâcon as a separate diocese ended at the French Revolution, and the title of Mâcon is since borne by the Bishop of Autun into whose bishopric it was merged.

Councils of Mâcon

Of the six councils held at Mâcon (579, 581-or 582-585, 624, 906, 1286), the second and third, convoked by command of King Gontran, are worthy of special mention.

The second council, in 581 or 582, which assembled six metropolitans and fifteen bishops, enacted penalties against luxury among the clergy, against clerics who summoned other clerics before lay tribunals, and against religious who married; it also regulated the relations of Christians with Jews.

The third council, in 585, at which 43 bishops and the representatives of 20 other bishops assisted, tried the bishops accused of having taken part in the revolt of Gondebaud, fixed the penalties for violating the Sunday rest, insisted on the obligation of paying tithes, established the right of the bishop to interfere in the courts when widows and orphans were concerned, determined the relative precedence of clerics and laymen, and decreed that every three years a national synod should be convoked by the Bishop of Lyon and the king.


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