Papal legate to India and China, cardinal, born of a noble Savoyard family at Turin, 21 December, 1668; died in confinement at Macao, 8 June, 1710. After graduating in canon and civil law he went to Rome where he gained the esteem of Clement XI, who on 5 December, 1701, appointed him legate a latere to India and China. The purpose of this legation was: to establish harmony among the missionaries there; to provide for the needs of these extensive missions; to report to the Holy See on the general state of the missions, and the labours of the missionaries; and, finally, to enforce the decision of the Holy Office against the further toleration of the so-called Chinese rites among the native Christians. These rites consisted chiefly in offering sacrifices to Confucius and the ancestors, and in using the Chinese names tien (heaven) and xang ti (supreme emperor) for the God of the Christians. On 27 December, 1701, the pope consecrated Tournon bishop in the Vatican Basilica, with the title of Patriarch of Antioch.
The legate left Europe on the royal French vessel Murepas, 9 February, 1703, arriving at Pondicherry in India on 6 November, 1703. It was with greater zeal than prudence that he issued a decree at this place, dated 23 June, 1704, summarily forbidding the missionaries under severe censures to permit the further practice of the Malabar rites. On 11 July, 1704, he set sail for China by way of the Philippine Islands, arriving at Macao in China, 2 April, and at Peking on 4 December, 1705. Emperor Kang hi received him kindly at first, but upon hearing that he came to abolish the Chinese rites among the native Christians, he demanded from all missionaries on pain of immediate expulsion a promise to retain these rites. At Rome the Holy Office had meanwhile decided against the rites on 20 November, 1704, and, being acquainted with this decision, the legate issued a decree at Nanking on 25 January, 1707, obliging the missionaries under pain of excommunication latae sententiae to abolish these rites. Hereupon, the emperor ordered Tournon to be imprisoned at Macao and sent some Jesuit missionaries to Rome to protest against the decree. Tournon died in his prison, shortly after being informed that he had been created cardinal on 1 August, 1707. Upon the announcement of his death at Rome, Clement XI highly praised him for his courage and loyalty to the Holy See and ordered the Holy Office to issue a Decree (25 September, 1710) approving the acts of the legate. Tournon's remains were brought to Rome by his successor, Mezzabarba, and buried in the church of the Propaganda, 27 September, 1723.
Memorie stor. dell' Em. Mgr. card. di Tournon esposte con monumenti rari ed autentici non piu dati alla luce (8 vols., Venice 1761-2), anti-jesuitical; (VILLERMAULES), Anec. sur l'etat de la religion dans la Chine (7 vols., Paris, 1733-42), Jansenistic and extremely biased against the Jesuits; PRAY, Hist. controvers. de ritibus sinicis (Pest, 1789), German tr. with numerous additions (Augsburg, 1791). Concerning his alleged murder by the Jesuits see DUHR. Jesuiten-Fabeln (4 ed. Freiburg, 1904), 776, 786.