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Diocese of Vannes
Comprises the Department of Morbihan, and was re-established by the Concordat of 1802; it was formed: (1) from the former Diocese of Vannes, excluding the parishes situated east of the Oust River, which were annexed to the Archdiocese of Rennes; (2) from the District of Roce-Bernard, detached from the Diocese of Nantes; (3) from the southern part of the former Diocese of St. Malo; (4) from the District of Gourin, detached from the Diocese of Quimper. It was a suffragan of Tours until 1859 and, since that time, of Rennes. The Department of Morbihan is that part of France where the greatest number of monuments of the old Gallic worship are preserved; the long avenues of menhirs at Carnac are famous.
According to tradition, St. Clair, first Bishop of Nantes, died in the third century during the course of his preaching in the Diocese of Vannes. The synodical epistle of the Council of Angers, on 4 October, 453, gives the names of four Breton prelates, one of whom was certainly Bishop of Vannes. St. Paternus, whose origin is much discussed by hagiographers, and who became bishop between 461 and 490, is the chief patron of the diocese. No document previous to the Charter of Quimperlé, which dates from the twelfth century, gives as bishops of Vannes, the saints Doininius, Clemens, Amans, Saturninus, Guinninus (Guenin), Vigorocus, Budocus, Hinguethenus, Meriadocus, Meldrocus, Comeanus, and Justocus who probably, without episcopal character, were engaged in evangelizing the country. Bishop Susannus was expelled from his see by the Breton king Nominoe (8484) because the latter wished to reorganize ecclesiastical Brittany. Among the subsequent bishops are mentioned: Pierre de Foix (1476-90), cardinal in 1476; Cardinal Laurent Pucci (1514-31); Cardinal Antoine Pucci (1531-44); Charles de Marillac (150-60), ambassador of the King of France in Turkey and in England.
St. Gildas "the Wise", or "Badonicus", born in Great Britain in 494, left there about 527, went to the Island of Houat, then to the Peninsula of Rhuis, where he founded the monastery of St. Gildas, and wrote two treatises which are a valuable source for the ancient history of the Britons; he died in 570. In the tenth century, the Northmen destroyed the monastery, then under the Abbot Dave. Abbot Dave brought the bodies of Saints Patricius, Albon, and Paternus to Bourg Deols in Berri, and there erected a monastery under the name of St. Gildas. In 1008, Geoffrey I, Duke of Brittany, asked Gauzlin, Abbot of Saint Benoit on the Loire, for religious to re-establish the monastery of St. Gildas of Rhuis. It was re-established by Abbot Felix, who died in 1038. Abelard, Abbot of Rhuis in 125, soon left the abbey, but retained the title of abbot until his death. Eudes de Kerlivio d'Hennebond, disciple of St. Vincent de Paul, and Father Huby, S.J., contributed greatly to the religious revival of the Diocese of Vannes, by the foundation of the seminary (1681). In the fourteenth century, during the wars in which Venerable Charles of Blois supported by Charles V and Jean de Montfort, aided by the English, contested the sovereignty of Brittany, Vannes was several times besieged. The battle of Auray (29 September, 1364), in which Venerable Charles of Blois was killed, put an end to the struggle between the two families of Blois and of Montfort. An army of émigrés, commanded by Puisaye, Sombreuil, and d'Hervilly, landed, June, 1795, on the Peninsula of Quiberon, was there joined by 10,000 Chouans, and was attacked by Hoche, who completely annihilated it, 16 July, 1795. Hercé, Bishop of Dol, was shot at Vannes by the Republican troops, on 3 July, 1795; 900 émigrés, who had landed at Quiberon, were shot at Blech, near Auray; their bones are kept at the Carthusian monastery of Auray, the ancient collegiate church founded in the fourteenth century by Jean de Montfort.
Councils were held at Vannes in 461 or 465, 818, 846. The Viscountship of Rohan, in the diocese, was erected in 1603, by Henri IV, into a duchy-peerage for Henri de Rohan (1574-1638), who became one of the leaders of the Protestant party under Louis XIII. A certain number of saints are connected with the history of the diocese: St. Eguiner or Guyomard (Guignerus), martyr at Ploudery in 499; St. Albinus (Aubin), Bishop of Angers from 529 to 549, native of the Diocese of Vannes; St. Salomon, Duke or King of the Bretons, martyr (ninth century); St. Goustan (Sulstanus), lay brother of the monastery of St. Gildas, d. about 1009; St. Vincent Ferrer (1357-1419), who died at Vannes, where he is buried, is patron of the episcopal city; Blessed Francoise d'Amboise, Duchess of Brittany, who, having become a widow, refuse the brilliant marriage which Louis XI suggested to her, founded the Carmelites of Vannes, and died in 1485. The chief pilgrimages of the diocese are: Notre-Dame de Larmor; Notre-Dame de Queleven, at Guern; Notre-Dame du Roncier, at Josselin; Notre-Dame du Voeu, at Hennebont; and above all the pilgrimage of Saint Anne d'Auray. From the earliest centuries, Brittany had erected a chapel to Saint Anne; it was destroyed at the close of the eighth century, but popular tradition forbade the sowing of the field of Bocenno, where the chapel had been erected. In 1623 and 1624, after visions, the farmer Yves Nicolazic obtained from the bishop permission for a new chapel. The image of St. Anne, which was venerated there, was burned in 1793; but a new statute of Saint Anne was solemnly consecrated by order of Pius IX, 30 September, 1868.
Before the application of the Law of 1901 to the congregations, there were in the Diocese of Vannes, Capuchins, Jesuits, missionary priests of the Society of Mary, Eudists, Picpusiens, Fathers of the Holy Spirit and of the Sacred Heart of Mary, and lay Brothers of St. Francis Regis. The powerful society of the Brothers of Christian Instruction had its mother-house at Ploermel, in the diocese. Many communities of women were originally of the diocese: the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, hospitallers and teachers, founded in 1803 by Mme de Malesherbes, widow of the defender of Louis XVI, and her daughter Mme Molé, with the mother-house at Vannes; the Daughters of Jesus, with the mother-house at Kermaria. At the end of the nineteenth century, the religious congregations conducted in the Diocese of Vannes: 2 infant asylums; 44 day nurseries; 1 school for deaf mutes; 3 orphan asylums for boys; 8 orphan asylums for girls; 4 industrial rooms; 1 home for unprotected young girls; 18 hospitals or refuges; more than 150 houses of religious for the care of the sick at their homes; 1 insane asylum. The Diocese of Vannes had in 1905 (at the end of the administration of the Concordat): 563,468 inhabitants; 38 livings; 238 parochial chapels; 279 vicariates, recompensed by the State.
Gallia christiana, XIV nova, (1856), 915-40, instr. 209-224; DUCHESNE, Fastes episcopaux, II (Paris, 1894-9); TRESVAUX, L'Eglise de Bretagne (Paris, 1839); LALLEMAND, Les origines historiques de Vannes (Vannes, 1904); LE MENE, Hist. archeologique, feodale et religieuse des provinces du diocese de Vannes (2 vols., Vannes, 1894); LUCO, Fouille historique de l'ancien diocese de Vannes (2nd ed., Vannes, 1908); ROSENZWEIG, La Chartreuse d'Auray (Vannes, 1863); NICOL, Sainte Anne d'Auray, hist. du pelerinage (Paris, 1878).