Catholic Encyclopedia – Archbishopric of Vienne


The legend according to which Crescens, the first Bishop of Vienne, is identical with the Crescens of II Tim., iv, 20 certainly postdates the letter of Pope Zosimus to the Church of Arles (417) and the letter of the bishops of Gaul in 451; because, although both these documents allude to the claims to glory which Arles owes to Saint Trophimus, neither of them mentions Crescens. Archbishop Ado, of Vienne, (860-75) set afoot this legend of the Apostolic origin of the See of Vienne and put down Saint Zachary, Saint Martin, and Saint Verus, later successors of Crescens, as belonging to the Apostolic period. This legend was confirmed by the “Recueil des privilèges de l’Eglise de Viene”, which, however, was not compiled under the supervision of the future Pope Callistus II, as M. Gundlach has maintained, but a little earlier date, about 1060, as Mgr. Duchesne has proved. This collection contains the pretended letters of a series of popes, from Pius I to Paschal II, and sustains the claims of the Church of Vienne. “Le Livre épiscopal de l’archevêque Léger” (1030-1070) included both the inventions of Ado and the forged letters of the “Recueil”.

It is historically certain that Verus, present at the Council of Arles in 314, was the fourth Bishop of Vienne. In the beginning the twelve cities of the two Viennese provinces were under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Vienne, but when Arles was made an archbishopric, at the end of the fourth century, the See of Vienne grew less important. The disputes that later arose between it and the See of Arles concerning their respective antiquity are well-known in ecclesiastical history. In 450 Leo I gave the Archbishop, or Vienne the right to ordain the Bishop of Tarantaise, Valance, Geneva, and Grenoble. Many vicissitudes followed, and the territorial limit of the powers of Metropolitan of Vienne followed the wavering frontier of the Kingdom of Burgundy and in 779, was considerably restricted by the organization of a new ecclesiastical province comprising Tarantaise, Aosta, and Sion. In 1120 Callistus II, who was Bishop of Vienne under the name of Guy of Burgundy, decided that the Archbishop of Vienne should have for suffragans the Bishops of Grenoble, Valence, Die, Viviers, Geneva, and Maurienne; that the Archbishop of Tarantaise should obey him, notwithstanding the fact that this archbishop himself had suffragans, that he should exercise the primacy over the provinces of Bourges, Narbonne, Bordeaux, Aix, Auch, and Embrun, and that, as the metropolitans of both provinces already bore the title of primate, the Archbishop of Vienne should be known as the “Primate of Primates”. In 1023 the Archbishops of Vienne became lords paramount. They had the title of Count, and when in 1033 the Kingdom or Arles was reunited to the empire, they retained their independence and obtained from the empire the title of Archchancellors of the Kingdom or Arles (1157). Besides the four Bishops of Vienne heretofore mentioned, others are honoured as saints. In enumerating them we shall follow M. Duchesne’s chronology: Saint Justus, Saint Dionysius, Saint Paracodes, Saint Florentius (about 374), Saint Lupicinus, Saint Simplicius (about 400), Saint Paschasius, Saint Nectarius, Saint Nicetas (about 449), Saint Mamertus (died 475 or 476), who instituted the rogation days, whose brother Claudianus Mamertus was known as a theologian and poet, and during whose episcopate Saint Leonianus held for forty years the post of grand penitentiary at Vienne; Saint Avitus (494-5 Feb., 518), Saint Julianus (about 520-533), Saint Pantagathus (about 538), Saint Namatius (died 559), Saint Evantius (died 584-6), Saint Verus (586), Saint Desiderius (Didier) 596-611, Saint Domnolus (about 614), Saint Ætherius, Saint Hecdicus, Saint Chaoaldus (about 654-64), Saint Bobolinus, Saint Georgius, Saint Deodatus, Saint Blidrannus (about 680), Saint Eoldus, Saint Eobolinus, Saint Barnardus (810-41), noted for his conspiracies in favour of the sons of Louis the Pious, Saint Ado (860-875), author of a universal history and two martyrologies, Saint Thibaud (end of the tenth century). Among its later bishops were Guy of Burgundy (1084-1119), who became pope under the title of Callistus II, Christophe de Beaumont, who occupied the See of Vienne for seven months of the year 1745 and afterwards became Archbishop of Paris, Jean Georges Le Franc de Pompignan (1774-90), brother of the poet and a great enemy of the “philosophers”, and also d’Aviau (1790-1801), illustrious because of his strong opposition to the civil constitution of the clergy and the first of the emigré bishops to re-enter France (May 1797), returning under an assumed name and at the peril of his life.

Michael Servetus was living in Vienne, whither he had been attracted by Archbishop Palmier, when Calvin denounced him to the Inquisition for his books. During the proceedings ordered by ecclesiastical authority of Vienne, Servetus fled to Switzerland (1553) In 1605 the Jesuits founded a college at Vienne, and here Massilon taught at the close of the seventeenth century. The churches of Saint-Pierre and Saint-André le Haut are ancient Benedictine foundations.

After the Concordat of 1801 the title of Vienne passed to the See of Lyons, whose titular was henceforth called “Archbishop of Lyons and Vienne,” although Vienne belongs to the Diocese of Grenoble.

MLA Citation

  • Pierre-Louis-Théophile-Georges Goyau. “Archbishopric of Vienne”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 April 2012. Web. 24 June 2021. <>