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Foreign Episcopal Appointments during the Reign of Francis I

  • Marilyn Manera Edelstein (a1)


Although historians have been aware that foreigners were appointed to the French episcopacy, there are no studies of the evolution of this practice as a longterm trend. Indeed, there are no studies for any particular reign. The only information on this subject is provided indirectly by articles on Italians in France. One such study asserts that the appointment of foreigners to the French episcopacy began in the thirteenth century and ended in the sixteenth century, but this is erroneous since this author has discovered that foreign appointments continued until the last quarter of the seventeenth century. This study focuses in depth on the reign of Francis I because it was during this period that the appointment of foreigners to the French episcopacy reached its apogee. We will investigate the reasons for this and will show that Francis I used ecclesiastical patronage to further the goals of an ambitious foreign policy. The characteristics of his foreign episcopal appointments will be examined along with their effects on the French church. An attempt also will be made to place this reign within the larger context of the evolution of this practice from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries.



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1. See Picot, Emile, “Les Italiens en France au seizième siècle. Bulletin italien 1 (1901) 92137, 269294; 2 (1902): 23–53, 108–147: 3 (1903): 7–36, 118–142, 219–234; 4 (1904): 123–142, 294–315; 17 (1917): 61–88, 160–184; 18 (1918): 28–37; Mathorez, Jules, “Le clergé italien en France an seizième siècle,” Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 8 (1922): 4171431; and idem., “Notes sur les Italiens en France,” Bulletin italien 17 (1917): 821, 7688, 129146. 160–184; 18 (1918): 28–36, 61–80. These articles are limited in that their approach is biographical rather than analytical.

2. Mathorez, , “Le clergé italien,” pp. 430431. Mathorez offers no adequate proof for this assertion.

3. It is indicative of our ignorance of the subject that this important fact has never before been established. This author discovered it in the course of her research. For a fuller treatment see Edelstein, Marilyn, “The Recruitment of the Episcopacy under the Concordat of Bologna in the Reign of Francis I” (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1972).

4. All statistics on episcopal appointments were compiled from two major sources. Eubel, C., ed., Hierarchia catholica medii aevi, 7 vols. (Münster: Library Regensberg, 19011968). Vols. 1–3 list the bishops for these centuries. Ste-Marthe, Denis de, Gallia Christiana, 16 vols. (Paris: J. Coignard), 17151865, usually cites nationality in its biographical sketches. Further information on nationality was derived from biographical dictionaries and individual biographies. For the fifteenth century, care was taken to include only those dioceses which belonged to France during this century when national consolidation was taking place.

5. Doucet, Roger, Les institutions de la France au seizième siècle, 2 vols. (Paris: Èditions A. et J. Picard, 1949), 2: 716.

6. Thirty-two out of the thirty-seven foreign bishops have identifiable social origins. Of these thirty-two, twenty-nine were from the nobility and three were commoners. Thus at least 78% of all Francis I's foreign appointees were noble, 8% were not noble and 14% were not identifiable. Biographical information on these bishops was derived from a number of sources. Particularly useful are Ste-Marthe, Gallia Christiana;. Fisquet, Honoré, La France postificate 16 vols. (Paris: Repos, 18071870); Moreri, Louis, Le grand dictionnaire historique, 10 vols. (Paris: Libraire Associés, 1759); and Litta, Pompeo. Famiglie celebri di Italia, 15 vols. (Milan: Ginsti, 18191902).

7. See Edelstein, Marilyn, “The Social Origins of the Episcopacy in the Reign of Francis I.” French Historical Studies 8 (Spring 1974): 377392.

8. Of the seven non-Italian bishops, two came from Greece but had migrated to Italy; two came from Flanders; one from eastern Europe; one from Spain; and one from Scotland.

9. For details, see Picot, “Les Itailens en France.”

10. Biographical information on the Trivulzi family can be found in ibid., 1:102–106 and Litta, , Famiglie celebri, 1: 2836.

11. The other two members of this family to receive episcopacies from Francis I were Cesare Trivulzi and Jean Louis de Bouliers, a grandson of Giangaleazzo Trivulzi.

12. Evidence of this comes from a letter of Francis I to his ambassador at Rome in which the king specifically cites these appointments as papal favors. This letter can be found in Cardinal de Granvelle, Papiers d'état, ser. 3, vol. 17 of Collection de documents inédits sur l'histoire de France, 42 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1835—), pp. 123124. Giulio de Medici, the cousin of Leo X and four of the pope's nephews, Innocent and Giovanni Cibo and Giovanni and Bernardo Salviati. were all given bishoprics by Francis I. Bernardo da Bibiena and Pietro Ascolti, Leo X's closest advisers, and Ludovico Canossa, a papal nuncio, also received appointments at the specific request of Leo X. For details on the pope's role in Canossa's elevation to the episcopacy, see Bourdon, Pierre, “Nouvelles recherches sur Ludovico Canossa,Bulletin historique et philologique du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (1911), pp. 260301.

13. For details, see Doucet, Roger, Étude sur le gouvernement de François Ier dans ses rapports avec le Parlement de Paris (Paris: H. Champion, 1921).

14. See Edelstein, “The Recruitment of the Episcopacy.”

15. The relative of Clement VII was Nicolo Gaddi. named bishop of Sarlat in 1533. The grandson of Paul III was Guido Sforza, made bishop of Lodève in 1546.

16. The protectors of France at the Vatican in the reign of Francis I were: Giulio de Medici (1517–1529), named archbishop of Embrun during his tenure as Protector; Ippolio d'Este (1529–1536), named archbishop of Lyon and bishop of Treguier; and Agostino Trivulzi (1537–1541), made bishop of Grasse, Bayeux and Perigueux.

17. Note is taken of this in a letter from France's ambassador to Rome to Anne de Montmorency, Grand Maitre at the time. This letter can be found in Fraikin, Jean. “La nonciature de France de la délivrance de Clement VII à sa mort,” Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire 26 (1906): 536. The papal nuncios who received bishopries were: Ludovieo Canossa (Bayeux), Johannes Stafileo (Dol), Giovanni Salviati (St. Papoul), Antonio Pucci (Vannes) and Cesare Trivulzi (Apt).

18. Mathorez, , “Le clergé italien, pp. 417418. “Ils sucent nostre sang comme sangsues et ne tiennent aucun compte de résider, ainsi en leur coeur se moquent de nous qui sommes si mal advisés de ne le cognoistre point.”

19. “Ordonnance de Blois,” in Recueil des actes, titres et mémoires concernant les affaires du clergé de France, 14 vols. (Paris: W. Desprez, 17681771), 2:257. These articles were approved by the Estates but the king chose not to implement them.

20. These twelve were Aix, Aries, Auch, Bordeaux, Bourges, Sens, Embrun, Narbonne, Rouen, Toulouse, Tours and Vienne. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Lyon and Rheims frequently had foreign bishops heading their dioceses.

21. The thirteen dioceses were Agde, Apt, Aries, Auch, Bayeux, Maillezais, Coutances, Grasse, St. Paul-trois-châteaux, St. Papoul, Vannes, Vienne and Viviers. The seven dioceses were Aix, Autun, Béziers, Marseille, Tours, Rheims and Paris.

22. The four archdioceses were Lyon, Aries, Vienne and Embrun.

23. Eubel, , Hierarchia catholica, 3. There are figures available for 26 out of the 34 dioceses held by foreigners and for 69 out of the total 114 archdioceses and dioceses.

24. All letters of naturalization are in Catalogue des actes de François I, 10 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 18871908).

25. The candidate for an episcopacy had to be at least twenty-seven years old; a doctor or licentiate in canon or civil law, or a master or licentiate in theology.

26. Information on non-residency can be gleaned from biographical accounts, particularly those found in Ste-Marthe, Gallia Christiana.

27. See Edelstein, “The Recruitment of the Episcopacy.”

28. Opposition was particularly evident in the Parlement of Paris and the provincial councils as cited in Doucet, , Étude, chapters three and nine and Mathorez, “Le clergé italien,” pp. 430431.

29. The author is aware that the areas where Protestantism spread also happened to be areas of previous heresies in the Middle Ages.

30. It would be particularly interesting to study in depth foreign appointments in the seventeenth century to determine, for example, why the practice seems to have increased slightly and why it came to an end under Louis XIV. We also need more information on the attitude of the clergy toward foreign appointments and its effect on the kings' policies.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
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