Ancient Diocese of Saintes

Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Saintes

The former French diocese of Saintes existed from the sixth century to the French Revolution. Its see was located in Saintes in western France, in the modern department of Charente-Maritime. After the Concordat of 1801, its territory passed mainly to the diocese of La Rochelle.


Saintes has numerous Roman monuments, including a large amphitheater and an arch dedicated to Germanicus, the nephew of the Emperor Tiberius.

The oldest bishop to whom a date can be assigned is Bishop Peter, who took part in the Council of Orléans (511).

The first reference to a bishop, however, is to one Eutropius. Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem written in the second half of the sixth century, makes explicit mention of him in connection with Saintes: Urbis Santonicae primus fuit iste sacerdos.[1] A quite different tale is related, however, by Venantius' friend, Gregory of Tours, in a work called de gloria martyrum (I. 56),[2] with a cautious ut fertur ('as is said'), indicating Gregory's doubt as to the historicity of the narrative. Eutropius was said to have been consecrated a bishop and sent to Gaul by Pope Clement I in the late first century; at Saintes he began converting people to Christianity, but enraged pagans killed him with a blow to the head. (He is later given a virgin companion, Eustella, the daughter of the local king, who pays the butchers of the town some 150 solidi apiece to kill Eutropius and Eustella.)[3] Were it true, Saintes would be the only church of Gaul which Gregory traces back to the first century, though far from the only church which makes such a claim to antiquity.[4] The evidence is much weakened, in the view of Louis Duchesne,[5] by Gregory's remark that no one knew the history of St. Eutropius before the removal of his relics to a church built in Eutropius' honor by Bishop Palladius of Saintes, which took place about 590. It is at this late date that the legend of Eutropius as a martyr seems to have begun.[6]

Among the bishops of Saintes are several popularly believed to have been saints, including Vivianus, Trojanus, Concordius, Palladius, and Leontius (of the fifth to seventh centuries).[7] Other notable bishops include:

The cathedral, showing rebuilt parts and unreconstructed crossing

In 1568 during the French Wars of Religion the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre was nearly completely destroyed, except for the tower.

The Cathedral Chapter had five dignitaries: the Dean, the two archdeacons, the Scholastica, and the Precentor. Except for the Dean, the dignitaries were appointed by the Bishop. There were twenty-four prebends. In the early thirteenth century, Innocent III had to warn the Chapter not to allow the number of Canons to exceed forty.[13]

During the French Revolution, when the Civil Constitution of the Clergy instituted a national church, and the nation was redivided into dioceses which matched as far as possible the civil departments into which the administration of the state was divided, the diocese of Saintes and the diocese of La Rochelle were combined into the Diocese of Charente-Inferieure. Both Bishop de La Rochefoucauld and Bishop de Coucy refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution, as required by law. They were therefore deposed. The electors of Charente-Infeurieure assembled on 27 February 1791 and elected Fr. Isaac-Étienne Robinet, the curé of Saint-Savinien-du-Port as their Constitutional Bishop. He made his formal entry into Saintes on 31 March, and took formal possession of the cathedral on 10 April. He roused up the anti-clerical feelings of the populace against the non-jurors, but, once roused, they turned against all the clergy, including Robinet. In November 1793 the crypt of the cathedral was broken into, and the supposed relics of S. Eutropius were thrown out of their tomb. Bishop Robinet resigned on 6 December 1793, and took up residence with his brother at Torxé, where he died on 8 September 1797.[14]

As a result of the negotiations leading to the Concordat of 1801 between First Consul N. Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII, the diocese of Saintes was suppressed.

On 19 May 1843 the supposed relics of S. Eusebius were discovered in the crypt of the Cathedral, and on 14 October 1845 they were solemnly transferred to a new resting place.[15]

On 22 January 1852, the title 'Bishop of Saintes' (though not the diocese itself) was revived by Pope Pius IX and conferred on the Bishop of La Rochelle, Clément Villecourt (1836–1856).[16] The bishops of La Rochelle have enjoyed the additional episcopal title since that time.


Several councils were held at Saintes. In 562 or 563, the Archbishop of Bordeaux held a provincial Council in Saintes, for the purpose of dealing with Bishop Emerius of Saintes, who had been elected uncanonically. Emerius was deposed by the council, and Heraclius, a priest of Bordeaux, appointed by the council in his place. Heraclius was then sent off to Paris to obtain recognition from Charibert, the new King of the Franks. The King, however, was greatly angered at the bishops, since his late father had ordered the consecration and installation of Emerius, whose deposition was therefore an insult to royal power. Heraclius was sent into exile. Archbishop Leontius of Bordeaux, who had presided at the council, was heavily fined, and additional fines were imposed on the other bishops as well.[17]

Other councils or synods were held in 579,[18] 1074 or 1075,[19] and 1081.[20] Synods were also held in 1083,[21] 1088, 1089,[22] and 2 March 1097.[23]


to 1000

  • Eutropius (4th century)
  • Benedict? (4th century)[24]
  • Palladius I? (4th century)[25]
  • Leontius? (4th centjury)[26]
  • Ambrose (beginning of 5th century)[27]
  • Vivianus (Vivien or Bibianus) (5th century)[28]
  • Concorde (5th century)[29]
  • Trojanus (late 5th century to beginning of 6th)[30]
  • Peter I (511)[31]
  • Eusebius (553–c.555)[32]
  • Emerius (before 561)[33]
  • Palladius (573–596)[34]
  • Leodegarius (beginning of seventh century)[35]
  • Audebertus (614)[36]
  • Leontius (625 to 627–634)[37]
  • Ailphus (637)[38]
  • Bertarius (660)[39]
  • Agnebertus (662–675)[40]
  • Ulric (end of the 7th century–beginning of 8th)[41]
  • Dizan (8th century)[42]
  • Benjamin (c.785)[43]
  • Ato (799)[44]
  • Thebertus (805)[45]
  • Frotmundus (c.846)[46]
  • Frecultus (862)[47]
  • Abbon (989–c.990)[48]


  • Islo (13 January 1000–June 1031)[49]
  • Godefroy (1032–1036)[50]
  • Arnulfus (March 1037 or 1038–31 May 1040)[51]
  • Alo (1040–1043)[52]
  • Engebricus (1044–1047)[53]
  • Arnulfus (2 November 1047 – 1065)[54]
  • Goderanus (1067–6 August 1072)[55]
  • Boso (1072–1083)[56]
  • Ramnulfus Focaudi (October 1083–11 June 1106)[57]
  • Pierre II de Soubise (1106 or 1107–1112)[58]
  • Rainaldus Chainel (1112–1116)[59]
  • Pierre III de Confolens (1117–c.1126)[60]
  • William Gardradus (1127–9 November 1142)[61]
  • Bernard (1142–c.1165)[62]
  • Ademar Charbonnel (1167–1189)[63]
  • Helias I (August 1189)[64]
  • Henry (1190–1217)[65]
  • Ponce de Pons (1216–1221)
  • Michel I (1221)
  • Helias II (1222–1231)
  • John I (1231–1235)
  • Peter IV (1235–1237)
  • William III (1237–1239)
  • Hélie III (1239–1241)
  • Peter V (1241–1250)
  • Hugues II de Féletz (1250–1256)
  • Ponce II. de Pons (1257–1266)
  • Helias IV de Fors (1266)
  • Peter VI Laud (1267–1271)
  • Ponce III de Pons (1271–1275)
  • Peter VII (1275–1277)
  • Geoffroy II de Saint-Briçon (1277–1284)
  • Peter VIII (1284–1287)
  • Gimer (1288)
  • Geoffroy III d'Archiac (1288–1294)
  • Ramnufle de Carel (1296)
  • Guy de Neuville (1296–1312)


  • Geoffroy IV (1313)
  • William IV de La Mothe (1313–1322)
  • Thibaud de Castillon (1322–1342)
  • Etienne de La Garde (1343–1351) (Cardinal)
  • Gaillard du Puy (1351–1361) (Cardinal)
  • Bernard II du Sault (1362–1381) (Rome nomination)
  • Raymond d'Angoulême (1380) (Avignon nomination)
  • Helias V de Lestrange (1381–1396)
  • Peter Mignot (1380–1397)
  • Bernard III de Chevenon (1398–1413)
  • Geoffroy de Pérusse des Cars (1411–1418)
  • John II Boursier (1415–1424)
  • Guy II de Rochechouart (1424–1460)
  • Louis I de Rochechouart (1461–1493)
  • Peter IX de Rochechouart (1493–1503)


  • Raymond Péraud (1503 – 5 September 1505) (Cardinal, Rector of the Patrimony of S. Peter)[66]
  • Francesco Soderini[68] (26 June 1506 – 1515) (Cardinal)
  • Giuliano Soderini (1515–1544)
  • Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon (1545–1550) (Cardinal)
  • Tristan de Bizet[69] (1550–1576)
  • Nicolas Le Cornu de la Courbe de Brée[70] (1576–1617)
  • Michel II Raoul (1617–1630)
  • Jacques-Raoul de la Guibougère (1631–1648) (He became the first Bishop of La Rochelle)[71]
  • Louis II de Bassompierre (1648–1676)
  • Guillaume du Plessis de Gesté[72] (1677–1702)
  • Bertrand de Senaux (1702)
  • Alexandre de Chevrières de Saint-Mauris (1703–1710)
  • Henry Augustin Le Pileur[73] (1711–1716)
  • Léon de Beaumont (1718–1744)
  • Simon-Pierre de Lacoré (1744–1762)
  • Germain du Chastergner de la Chasteigneraye (1763–1781)
  • Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld[74] (1781–1792)
    • Isaac-Etienne Robinet (1791–1793) (Constitutional Bishop)[75]
  • Jean François de Couet du Vivier de Lorry (La Rochelle) (1802)


  1. In the poem he is called Eutropis (genitive: Eutropitis), not Eutropius. Venantius Fortunatus (1881). Leo, Friedrich, ed. Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici opera poetica. Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Tomus IV, pars prior. Berlin: Weidmann. pp. I. 13, p. 15.
  2. "The Glory of the Martyrs", Gregorius (Turonensis) (1583). De gloria martyrum (in Latin). Cologne: Cholinus. p. 75.
  3. The martyrdom is Gregory of Tours' addition, not Venantius' idea. Eustella is introduced by the fourteenth century bishop of Equilio, Petrus de Natalibus: G. Henschenius, in: Acta sanctorum: Acta sanctorum Aprilis (in Latin). Tomus III. Antwerp: Michael Cholinus. 1675. p. 735. See in general: Michael John Roberts (2009). The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. pp. 169, note 15. ISBN 0-472-11683-5.
  4. J. Van Herwaarden (2003). Between Saint James and Erasmus: Studies in Late-Medieval Religious Life : Devotions and Pilgrimages in the Netherlands. Boston-Leiden: Brill. pp. 273, note 4. ISBN 90-04-12984-7.
  5. Duchesne, pp. 138-139.
  6. See also: Sabine Baring-Gould (1873). The lives of the saints. Volume IV. April. London: John Hodges. pp. 370–371.
  7. Duchesne, pp. 72-74.
  8. Salvador Miranda, Librarian Emeritus, Florida International University, The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church "Soderini, Francesco", retrieved: 2016-08-11.
  9. R. Duval, Mémoires de la Société académique des sciences, arts, belles-lettres, argriculture & industrie de Saint-Quentin: Société académique des sciences arts, belles-lettres agriculture & industrie de Saint Quentin; 4. series, Tom. I-XV. Travaux 1876 (in French). 13 (1897-1898). Saint-Quentin: Imprimerie du Guetteur. 1900. pp. 358–359.
  10. Georges Musset, "Les insinuations ecclésiastiques dans le diocèse de Saintes au cours de l'année 1565," Archives historiques de la Saintonge et de l'Aunis. 35. Paris: Mme. Z. Mortreuil. 1905. pp. 260-261.
  11. Grasilier, pp. 52-53.
  12. Louis Audiat (1897). Deux victimes des septembriseurs (in French). Lille-Paris: Societé de Saint-Augustin, Descleé, de Brouwer et cie.
  13. Gallia christiana II, pp. 1052-1055.
  14. Paul Pisani (1907). Répertoire biographique de l'épiscopat constitutionnel (1791-1802). (in French). Paris: A. Picard et fils. pp. 416–419.
  15. Grasilier, pp. 75-76.
  16. Grasilier, p. 76.
  17. Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks IV. 26. Hefele, Karl Joseph (1895). A History of the Councils of the Church, from the Original Documents. Volume IV. A.D. 451-A.D. 680. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. pp. 386–387. Halfond, p. 92.
  18. Hefele, IV, p. 403. Count Nantinus of Angoulême handed back the church property which he had seized, and was therefore released from excommunication. Gregory of Tours, V. 37.
  19. Some twenty officials, including four bishops (one of whom was Bishop Boso of Saintes), met to authorize the foundation of the monstery of S. Stephen in valle. J.-D. Mansi (ed.) Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio XX (Venice 1775), pp. 455-458.
  20. Nine bishops attended, including the Papal Legates Amatus of Oleron and Hugh de Die (but not, curiously, the Bishop of Saintes). Mansi, pp. 571-574. Metropolitan authority over the sees of Lower Brittany was granted to Tours as against the claims of Dol; and William VII gave the church of St. Eutropius to the monks of Cluny.
  21. Mansi, pp. 589-590.
  22. Mansi, pp. 721-722. Amatus of Oleron, the Papal Legate for Aquitaine and Gascony, presided and Elevatus est archiepiscopus Burdigalae. (i.e. Amatus was made Archbishop of Bordeaux).
  23. Mansi, pp. 931-932. Amatus of Oleron, the Papal Legate, presided. There were forty-three archbishops, bishops and abbots present, including Ramnulfus of Saintes. A dispute over property between two abbeys was settled. See also H. Fisquet, La France pontificale: Métropole de Bordeaux (Paris 1864), p. 91.
  24. Known only from late medieval sources. Favreau, 82.
  25. Known only from late medieval sources. Favreau, 82.
  26. Known only from late medieval sources. Favreau, 82.
  27. Favreau, 82.
  28. Favreau, 82–83.
  29. Favreau, 83.
  30. Favreau, 83–84.
  31. Favreau, 84.
  32. Favreau, 84–85.
  33. Favreau, 85.
  34. Favreau, 85–86. Gregory the Great recommended St. Augustine, who was on the way to England, to Palladius.
  35. Favreau, 86–87.
  36. Favreau, 87.
  37. Favreau, 87.
  38. Favreau, 87.
  39. Favreau, 88.
  40. Agnebertus was present at the council of Bordeaux ca. 673-675. Duchesne, p. 74. C. J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church IV (Edinburgh 1895), p. 478. Favreau, 88.
  41. Favreau, 88.
  42. Favreau, 88–89.
  43. Favreau, 89.
  44. Favreau, 89–90.
  45. Favreau, 90.
  46. Favreau, 90.
  47. Favreau, 90–91. Favreau notes that certain episcopal lists place sevearl bishops between Frecultus and Abbon: Maynardus, Alo, Grimoardus, Justus, or Machan, Mainard, Alo, Grimoardus, Abbon I, Gilbert, Ardoin, Benedicti II, and Emond. These are unverifiable or found on spurious documents.
  48. Favreau, 91.
  49. Favreau, 92–93.
  50. Favreau, 93.
  51. Favreau, 94.
  52. Favreau, 94.
  53. Favreau, 94.
  54. Pope Alexander II deposed Arnulfus for simony. Bishop William of Angoulême then briefly administered the diocese of Saintes. Favreau, 94–95.
  55. Favreau, 96.
  56. Favreau, 97.
  57. Favreau, 98–99.
  58. Favreau, 100–1.
  59. Favreau, 101–2.
  60. Favreau, 102–3.
  61. Favreau, 103–4.
  62. Favreau, 105–106.
  63. Favreau, 106–108.
  64. Favreau, 108.
  65. Favreau, 108–110.
  66. Eubel, Hierarchia catholica III, p. 338.
  67. Denis de Sainte-Marthe, Gallia christiana II (Paris 1717), p. 1081, speculates that Eustache was a bishop of Saintes, since he blessed an Abbess on 8 April 1508. He may have had faculties from Cardinal Soderini to do so, but Eustache was never Bishop of Saintes.
  68. Grasilier, pp. 47-49. He was an absentee bishop, and finally resigned in favor of his nephew, Giuliano; he died in Rome on 15 July 1521.
  69. Georges Musset, "Les insinuations ecclésiastiques dans le diocèse de Saintes au cours de l'année 1565," Archives historiques de la Saintonge et de l'Aunis. 35. Paris: Mme. Z. Mortreuil. 1905. pp. 260-261. Grasilier, pp. 52-53.
  70. Le Cornu's father was Ambrose de la Courbe (whose estate was in the diocese of Le Mans). Nicolas began the reconstruction of the cathedral. On 25 November 1615, he presided at the marriage of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria in Bordeaux. Grasilier, pp. 53-54.
  71. Gauchat, Hierarchia catholica IV, p. 298 (wrongly named Joannes). Grasilier, pp. 56-57.
  72. V. Dubarat, "Quelques biographies, I: Guillaume de la Brunetière, Évêque de Saintes (1677-1702)," Revue de Saintonge & d'Aunis: bulletin de la Société des archives (in French). 22. Paris-Saintes. 1902. pp. 162-167.
  73. Le Pileur was Abbot commendatory of Bonnevaux (Cistercian) and of Epernay (O.S.A.). He was consecrated in Paris by Cardinal de Noailles on 21 December 1711. He resigned in January 1716, due to illness, though he did not die until 25 April 1726. Grasilier, pp. 66-67.
  74. Richard Ballard (2010). "Chapter 9. The End of the Bishop of Saintes". The Unseen Terror: The French Revolution in the Provinces. New York-London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0-85773-186-9.
  75. Robinet was consecrated in Paris on 20 March 1791 by Constitutional Bishop Lindet, assisted by CB Saurine and CB Grégoire. He resigned on 6 December 1793. Pisani, p. 419 and 455.

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