Pierre de Marca

Pierre de Marca

Pierre de Marca (January 24, 1594 – June 29, 1662) was a French bishop and historian, born at Gan in Béarn of a family distinguished in the magistracy.[1]

His family was known among judicial circles in the 16th century, and maintained the Roman Catholic faith after the official introduction of the Reformed religion into Navarre. After having studied law at the University of Toulouse he practised successfully at Pau. But he was ambitious, and turned to a larger sphere.

He ardently called for the armed intervention of King Louis XIII in Béarn, and on this occasion published his first writing, Discours d'un Béarnais, très fidèle sujet du roi, sur l'Édit du retablissement de la religion catholique dans tout le Béarn (1618). After an easy military campaign of 1620, the possessions which had been taken by the Protestants were given back to the Roman Catholic Church; this task was performed, under his supervision, with judgment and moderation.

During the siege of La Rochelle he performed a mission which brought him in touch with Richelieu, who shortly afterwards nominated him intendant de justice in Béarn (1631), and in 1639 summoned him to Paris with the title of counsellor of state. The following year, the question of the intervention of kings in the election of bishops having been raised in a pamphlet by Charles Hersent (Optatus Gallus de cavendo schismate, 1640), Marca defended what were then called the liberties of the Gallican Church, in his celebrated treatise De concordia sacerdotii et imperii seu de libertatibus ecclesiae gallicanae (Paris, 1641). He was soon rewarded for this service.

Although he had not yet taken even the minor holy orders, he was nominated bishop of Couserans (Gascony) by the king on December 28, 1641, but Pope Urban VIII refused to give his sanction. It was only after Marca had formally denied those propositions contained in De concordia which were displeasing to Rome that he was proclaimed in the consistory (January 13, 1648).

During this time, and until 1651, he was governor of the province of Catalonia, then occupied by the French. After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, he was sent to direct the conference which had been formed to fix the limits of Roussillon, which had just been ceded to France (1660).

Marca now allied himself to the fortunes of Mazarin, and remained faithful to him even during the Fronde. As a recompense, he was nominated archbishop of Toulouse (May 28, 1652), but had to wait for the bulls of investiture until March 23, 1654.

It was difficult for him to please both pope and king. In the struggle against the Jansenists, he used all the influence he had with the clergy to secure the passage of the apostolic constitution of March 31, 1653 (Relation de ce qui s'est fait depuis 1653 dans les assemblées des évêques au sujet des cinq propositions, 1657); but in the rebellion raised by Cardinal de Retz, archbishop of Paris, against the king, he took the part of the king against the pope. Michel Le Tellier having ordered him to refute a thesis of the college of Clermont on the infallibility of the pope, Marca wrote a treatise which was most Gallican in its ideas, but refused to publish it for fear of drawing down the indignation of Rome. These tactics were successful, and when Retz, weary of a struggle without definite results, resigned the archbishopric, Marca became his successor (February 26, 1662). He did not derive much profit from this new favor, as he died in Paris on the 29th of June following, without his nomination having been sanctioned by the pope.

When very young he showed an interest in the history of his native land, and in 1617, at the age of twenty-three, he had set to work looking through archives, copying charters, and corresponding with the principal men of learning of his time, the brothers Dupuy, André Duchesne and Jean Besly, whom he visited in Poitou. His Histoire de Béarn was published at Paris in 1640. It was not so well received as his De concordia, but is more appreciated by posterity. If Marca's criticism is too often undecided, both in the ancient epochs, where he supports the text by a certain amount of guesswork and in certain points where he touches on religion, yet he always gives the text correctly. A number of chapters end with an interesting collection of charters. It is to be regretted that this incomplete work does not go beyond 1300.

During his long stay in Catalonia he made preparations for a geographical and historical description. of this province, which was bound to France by so many political and literary associations. Etienne Baluze, who became his secretary in 1656, helped him with the work and finished it, adding clever appendices and publishing the whole in 1688 under the title Marca hispanica.

Marca married Marguerite de Forgues on June 4, 1618, and had one son and three daughters. His son, Galactoire, who was president of the parliament of Navarre, died on February 10, 1689.

Marcas' biography was written in Latin by two of his intimate friends, Baluze, his secretary (Epistola ad Samuelem Sorbierium, de vita, gestis et scriptis Petri de Marca, Paris, 1663), and his cousin, Paul de Faget, at the beginning of a collection of Marca's theological pamphlets, first published by Paul de Faget in 1668. This publication contained four treatises on the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass, the erection of the patriarchate of Constantinople (in Latin), and the sacrament of the Eucharist (in French). It was supposed to contain heretical propositions and caused a good deal of scandal, inciting Baluze against Faget, both of whom abused the other, to defend the memory of the prelate.


  1.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pierre de Marca". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Jean François Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz
Archbishop of Paris
Succeeded by
Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont
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