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Diocese of Fréjus (Forum Julii)
DIOCESE OF FRÉJUS (FORUM JULII).
Suffragan of Aix; comprises the whole department of Var (France). It was suppressed by the Concordat of 1801, re-established by that of 1817, and definitively established in 1823. The arrondissement of Grasse, which until 1860 belonged to the department of Var, when it was annexed to that of the Alpes-Maritimes, was, in 1886, separated from the Diocese of Fréjus and attached to that of Nice. A Brief of 1852 authorized the bishop to assume the title of Bishop of Fréjus and Toulon. The present diocese comprises the territory of the ancient Diocese of Fréjus as well as that of the ancient Diocese of Toulon.
Christianity would seem to have been introduced into Fréjus in the time of Emperor Constantine. History relates that in 374 a certain Acceptus falsely declared himself guilty of some crimes in order to rid himself of the episcopal dignity, and that the Council of Valencia besought the Church to name another in his stead. The following are named among the bishops of this see: St. Leontius (419-433), brother of St. Castor and friend of John Cassian, who dedicated to him his first ten "Collationes", and of St. Honoratus, founder of the monastery of Lérins; Theodore (433-455), Abbot of the Iles d'Hyères, to whom Cassian dedicated the last seven "Collationes"; St. Auxilius (c. 475), formerly a monk of Lérins, and later a martyr under Euric, Arian King of the Visigoths; Riculfus (973-1000), who restored the ruins made by the Saracens, and built the cathedral and the episcopal palace; Bertrand (1044-91), who founded the collegiate church of Barjols; Raymond Berengarius (1235-1248), who arranged the marriage of Beatrice, daughter of the Count of Provence, with Charles of Anjou; Jacques d'Euse (1300-1310), preceptor of St. Louis of Toulouse, and later pope under the name of John XXII; Cardinal Nicolò Fieschi (1495-1524), who at the time of his death was dean of the Sacred College; André-Hercule de Fleury (1698-1715).
The legend which states that a certain Cleon, who accompanied St. Lazarus to Gaul was the founder of the Church of Toulon, is based on an apocryphal document composed in the fourteenth century and ascribed to a sixth-century bishop named Didier. Honoratus and Gratianus, according to the "Gallia Christiana" were the first bishops of Toulon whose names are known to history, but Duchesne gives Augustalis as the first historical bishop. He assisted at councils in 441 and 442 and signed in 449 and 450 the letters addressed to Pope Leo I from the province of Arles. St. Cyprian, disciple and biographer of St. Cæsarius of Arles, is also mentioned as a Bishop of Toulon. His episcopate, begun in 524, had not come to an end in 541; he converted to Catholicism the Visigoth chiefs, Mandrier and Flavian, who became anchorites and martyrs on the peninsula of Mandrier.
The Island of Lérins, well known as the site of the celebrated monastery founded there in 410 (see ) was sold in 1859 by the Bishop of Fréjus to an English purchaser. A number of the saints of Lérins are especially honoured in the diocese. Among them are Sts. Honoratus, Cæsarius, Hilary, and Virgilius, all of whom became archbishops of Arles; Quinidius, Bishop of Vaison; Valerius, Bishop of Nice; Maximus, Bishop of Riez; Veranus and Lambertus, Bishops of Vence; Vincent of Lérins, author of the "Commonitorium", and his brother Lupus, Bishop of Troyes; Agricola, Bishop of Avignon; Aigulphus and Porcarius, martyrs. St. Tropesius, martyr during the persecution of Nero; St. Louis (1274-1297), a native of Brignoles, in the Diocese of Toulon, and later Archbishop of Toulouse; and the virgin St. Roseline, prioress of the monastery of La Celle-Roubaud, who died in 1329, and whose shrine, situated at Les Arcs near Draguignan, has been for six centuries a place of pilgrimage, are likewise especially honoured in the diocese. The sojourn in 1482 of St. Francis of Paula at Bormes and at Fréjus, where he caused the cessation of the plague, made a lasting impression. The chief places of pilgrimage in the Diocese of Fréjus and Toulon are those of Notre-Dame des Anges at Pignans, the chapel which King Thierry established in 508, for the veneration of a statue of the Blessed Virgin recovered by a shepherd and which, it was said, had been brought to Pignans by St. Nympha, niece of St. Maximinus and the companion of St. Mary Magdalen; Notre-Dame de Bénat, a shrine dating from the sixteenth century; Notre-Dame de Grâces at Cotignac, which dates from 1519, and later served by some priests who formed themselves into a religious community under the rule of St. Philip Neri, and were the first Oratorians in France. In 1637, as the result of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Frère Fiacre, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria sent him to Cotignac to offer up prayers. Anne of Austria became the mother of Louis XIV, and in 1660 he went in solemn state to Cotignac to return thanks to Notre-Dame de Grâces.
The church of St. Maximinus, begun towards the end of the thirteenth century by Charles II of Sicily and completed by the end of the fifteenth century, is the most beautiful example of pointed architecture in the south of France. The head of St. Mary Magdalen is honoured here, and the crypt contains tombs which date from the first centuries of the Christian Era. (For an account of the traditions on this subject, see LAZARUS and MARY MAGDALEN.) The celebrated preacher Massillon (1663-1742) was born at Hyères in this diocese. In 1905 (last year of the Concordat) the diocese numbered 326,384 inhabitants, 28 parishes, 142 succursal parishes, and 67 vicariates paid by the State. Before the enforcement of the law against the congregations in 1901 there were in the diocese communities of Trappists, Capuchins, Carthusians, Dominicans, Marists, Salesians, and Sulpicians. An important diocesan congregation founded in 1838, for teaching and hospital work, was that of Notre-Dame de la Miséricorde, the mother-house of which was at Draguignan. Before the law of 1901 the religious congregations possessed in the diocese 2 foundling asylums, 36 day nurseries, a seaside hospital for sick children, 2 orphanages for boys, situated in the country, 9 orphanages for girls, 6 workhouses, 2 houses of rescue, 3 houses of charity for the assistance of the poor, 30 hospitals or hospices, 2 houses of retreat, 7 religious houses for the care of the sick in their homes.
Gallia Christiana, Nova (1715), I, 418-447, 739-762; Instrumenta, 82-85, 129-131; ALBAN'S, Gallia Christiana novissima (Montbéliard, 1899); DUCHESNE, Fastes Episcopaux, I, 269-276; ESPITALIER, Les évêques de Fréjus (Draguignan, 1891-1898); LAMBERT, Histoire de Toulon (Toulon, 1892); DISDIER, Description historique du diocèse de Fréjus, d'aprés les manuscrits de Girardin et d'Antelmy (Draguignan, 1872); FOUGEIRET, Sanctuaires anciens et modernes de la Très-Sainte Vierge dans les diocèses de Fréjus et de Toulon (Toulon, 1891); CHEVALIER, Topo-bibl., 1240, 3125.