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Since 2002, the diocese has been suffragan to the Archdiocese of Poitiers, after transferral from the Archdiocese of Bourges. Until 20 September 2016 the see was held by François Michel Pierre Kalist, who was appointed on 25 Mar 2009. He was promoted to the See of Clermont.
Saint Gregory of Tours names St. Martial, who founded the Church of Limoges, as one of the seven bishops sent from Rome to Gaul in the middle of the 3rd century. An anonymous life of St. Martial (Vita primitiva), discovered and published by Abbé Arbellot, represents him as sent to Gaul by St. Peter. Controversy has arisen over the date of this biography. The discovery in the library at Karlsruhe of a manuscript copy written at Reichenau by Regimbertus, a monk who died in 846, places the original before that date. The biography is written in rhythmical prose; Charles-Félix Bellet thinks it belongs to the 7th century, while Charles De Smedt and Louis Duchesne maintain that the "Vita primitiva" is much later than Gregory of Tours (died 590). Charles Ferdinand de Lasteyrie du Saillant gives 800 as the date of its origin.
In addition to the manuscript already cited, the Abbey of St. Martial at the beginning of the 11th century possessed a circumstantial life of its patron saint, according to which, and to the cycle of later legends derived from it, St. Martial was one of the seventy-two disciples who witnessed the Passion and Ascension of Christ, was present on the first Pentecost and at the martyrdom of St. Stephen. followed St. Peter to Antioch and to Rome, and was sent to Gaul by the Prince of the Apostles, who assigned Austriclinium and Alpinian to accompany him. The three were welcomed at Tulle and turned away from Ahun. They set out towards Limoges, where St. Martial erected on the site of the present cathedral a shrine in honour of St. Stephen. A pagan priest, Aurelian, wished to throw St. Martial into prison, but was struck dead, then brought to life, baptized, ordained and later consecrated bishop by the saint. Aurelian is the patron of the guild of butchers in Limoges. Forty years after the Ascension, Christ appeared to Martial, and announced to him the approach of death. The churches of Limoges celebrate this event on 16 June. After labouring for twenty-eight years as a missionary in Gaul, the saint died at the age of fifty-nine, surrounded by his converts of Poitou, Berry, Auvergne and Aquitaine.
The writer of this "Life" pretends to be Aurelian, St. Martial's disciple and successor in the See of Limoges. Louis Duchesne thinks it not unlikely that the real authorship of this "apocryphal and lying" work should be attributed to the chronicler Adhémar de Chabannes, noted for his fabrications. M. de Lasteyrie however is of the opinion that the Life was written about 955, before the birth of Adhémar. Be that as it may, this "Vita Aureliana" played an important part at the beginning of the 11th century, when the Abbot Hugh (1019-1025) brought before several councils the question of the Apostolic date of St. Martial's mission. Before the Carolingian period there is no trace of the story that St. Martial was sent to Gaul by St. Peter. It did not spread until the 11th century and was revived in the seventeenth by the Carmelite Bonaventure de Saint-Amable, in his voluminous "Histoire de St. Martial". Duchesne and M. de Lasteyrie assert that it cannot be maintained against the direct testimony of St. Gregory of Tours, who places the origin of the Church of Limoges about the year 250.
The Council of Limoges, held in 1031, is noted not only for its decision with regard to St. Martial's mission, but because, at the instigation of Abbot Odolric, it proclaimed the "Truce of God" and threatened with general excommunication those feudal lords who would not swear to maintain it. Another council was held at Limoges by Pope Urban II in December 1095, at which Bishop Humbauld was deposed.
The Cathedral of St-Étienne was served by a Chapter, composed of three dignities (The Dean, The Precentor, and the Archdeacon), and twenty-nine canons. The Dean held a prebend, as did the Precentor. There was only one Archdeacon in the diocese, the Archdeacon of Limoges (sometimes called the Archdeacon of Malemort). The prebends were assigned by the Chapter, except those which belonged ex officio to the Bishop, the Dean, the Precentor, the Abbot of Benevent and the Prior of Aureil. By the seventeenth century the city of Limoges had a population of around 4,000, divided into two parishes; there was one collège (high school). By 1730 the population had risen to 30,000, and there were twelve urban parishes, but still only one college. In the city there were ten religious houses of men and eight monasteries of monks. The entire diocese was divided up into approximately 1,000 parishes, supervised by seventeen Archpriests.
The ecelesiastics who served the crypt of St. Martial organized themselves into a monastery in 848, and built a church beside that of St.-Pierre-du-Sépulchre which overhung the crypt. This new church, which they called St-Sauveur, was demolished in 1021 and replaced in 1028 by a larger edifice in Auvergnat style. Urban II came in person to reconsecrate it in 1095. In the 13th century the chapel of St. Benedict arose beside the old church of St-Pierre-du-Sépulchre. It was also called the church of the Grand Confraternity of St. Martial. The different organizations which were grouped around it, anticipated and solved many important sociological questions.
In the Middle Ages, Limoges comprised two towns: one called the "City", the other the "Chateau" or "Castle". The government of the "Castle" belonged at first to the Abbots of St. Martial who claimed to have received it from king Louis the Pious. Later, the viscounts of Limoges claimed this authority, and constant friction existed until the beginning of the 13th century, when owing to the new communal activity, consuls were appointed, to whose authority the abbots were forced to submit in 1212. After two intervals during which the English kings imposed their rule, king Charles V of France in 1371 united the "Castle" with the royal demesne, and thus ended the political rule of the Abbey of St. Martial. Until the end of the old regime, however, the abbots of St. Martial exercised direct jurisdiction over the Combes quarter of the city.
In 1370 the city was completely sacked by Prince Edward, the Black Prince, causing a diminution in the size of the population of more than 3,000 persons. The city had been handed over to the French in an act of treachery by the Bishop, Jean de Cros, who had been a personal friend and Councillor of the Black Prince, and when the city was taken, the English revenge was all the more vigorous. Bishop de Cros was captured by the English, and the Prince threatened to have the bishop's head cut off. Only the intervention of the Duke of Lancaster saved Bishop le Cros.
In 1534, Abbot Matthieu Jouviond, finding that the monastic spirit had almost totally died out in the abbey of St. Martial, thought best to change it into a collegiate church, and in 1535 King Francis I and Pope Paul III gave their consent. The Collegiate Church was suppressed in 1791, and early in the 19th century even the buildings had disappeared. In the 13th century, the Abbey of St. Martial possessed the finest library (450 volumes) in France after that of Cluny Abbey (570 volumes). Some have been lost, but 200 of them were bought by Louis XV in 1730, and to-day are part of the collections in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. Most manuscripts, ornamented with beautiful miniatures, were written in the abbey itself. M. Émile Molinier and M. Rupin admit a relation between these miniatures of St. Martial and the earliest Limoges enamels, but M. de Lasteyrie disputes this theory. The Franciscans settled at Limoges in 1223. According to the chronicle of Pierre Coral, rector of St. Martin of Limoges, St. Anthony of Padua established a convent there in 1226 and departed in the first months of 1227. On the night of Holy Thursday, it is said, he was preaching in the church of St. Pierre du Queyroix, when he stopped for a moment and remained silent. At the same instant he appeared in the choir of the Franciscan monastery and read a lesson. It was doubtlessly at Châteauneuf in the territory of Limoges that took place the celebrated apparition of the Infant Jesus to St. Anthony.
A benefit to Limoges before the Revolution was the appointment of Anne Robert Jacques Turgot as Intendant of the genéralité of Limoges (1761-1774). He managed to get a major reduction in the tax burden of the province, had a new survey completed which made possible a more just imposition of taxes, and replaced the corvée (compulsory labor) with a tax which was used to hire professional road builders, thereby greatly improving communications in the area. In the famine of 1770-1771, he required land owners to relieve the want of the poor. On 10 February 1770, he issued the "Lettre-circulaire aux curés", in which he advised the clergy on the steps which had to be taken to form local charity bureaus. He placed the Bishop of Limoges, Louis-Charles du Plessis d'Argentré, at the head of the bureau of charity in his episcopal city. The bishop and Turgot had been fellow students at the Sorbonne and were friends. Turgot also promoted the growing of the potato, the use of the spinning wheel, and the manufacture of porcelain.
Since the separation of churches and state in 1905
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In 994, when the district was devastated by a plague (mal des ardents), the epidemic ceased immediately after a procession ordered by Bishop Hilduin on the Mont de la Joie, which overlooks the city. The Church of Limoges celebrates this event on 12 November.
^Duchesne, pp. 104-117, especially p. 115, where he calls Adhemar '"champion fougeux et peu scrupuleux de cette innovation", and calls his narration of the Council of Limoges in 1031 "plus ou moins imaginaire."
^Exochius is known only from a manuscript copy of his epitaph. Duchesne, p. 51, no. 4.
^Ferreolus is mentioned by Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum V. 28 and VII. 10, in connection with a riot of 1 March 579 and a fire of 584. He was present at the Council of Macon in 585, and was present at the deathbed of St. Yrieux in 591. Duchesne, p. 51, no. 5.
^Humbauld was deposed in a Council held at Limoges by Pope Urban II on 23 December 1095. J.-D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio editio novissima XX (Venice 1775), p. 922.
^Guillaume had been Prior of Saint-Martial. He was named bishop after the deposition of his predecessor, Bishop Humbald. Hated by the supporters of the deposed bishop, he was poisoned by a certain Martin Le chrétien in the third year of his episcopacy. F. Marvaud (1873). Histoire des Vicomtes et de la Vicomte de Limoges (in French). Tome premier. Paris: J.-B. Dumoulin. p. 153.Gallia christiana II, pp. 518-520.
^Bernardus died on 22 July 1226. Eubel, I, p. 301.
^Guy de Cluzel was elected in mid-October 1226 (in ocatvis S. Lucae) and died on 28 January 1235. Gallia christiana II, p. 528. Eubel, I, p. 301.
^Guillaume, who had been Canon of Angouleme, died within a year of his election, without having been consecrated. Gallia christiana II, p. 528. Eubel, I, p. 301.
^Durandus had been Provost of S. Junianus and Canon of Limoges. He was the subject of a disputed election, which was taken up by Pope Gregory IX on 18 January 1238. On 1 August 1240 Pope Gregory wrote to the Bishop of Bourges to ordain Durandus a priest and consecrate him a bishop. His bulls of consecration and installation were approved on 10 October 1240. Durandus died on 29 December 1245. A. Potthast, Regesta pontificum Romanorum I (Berlin 1874), p. 924, no. 10922. Eubel, I, p. 301, with note 1.
^Aimericus was elected on 19 October 1246, though he was still not a priest. On 17 January 1248 Pope Innocent IV summoned the Bishop-Elect to Rome to be consecrated. He died on 2 July 1272. Eubel, I, p. 301, with note 2.
^Jean de Cros was Doctor in utroque iure (Civil and Canon Law). He was approved as Bishop of Limoges by Pope Clement VI on 14 May 1347. He was named a cardinal by his uncle, Pope Gregory XI on 30 May 1371, and his successor at Limoges was appointed on 18 July 1371. Eubel, I, pp. 21 and 301.
^Bonnevalle had been Bishop of Bologna (1371-1378), but was removed on orders of Urban VI. He was appointed Bishop of Nîmes by Pope Clement VII (1383-1391). Eubel, I, pp. 141, 301, 361.
^Jean was elected on 11 April, and provided his bulls on 18 May 1457. He was transferred to the titular diocese of Nazareth (Palestine) on 10 March 1484. Eubel, II, p. 175, with note 1; p. 200.
^Jean was a nephew of his predecessor, and held a Licenciate in Civil and Canon Law. He was Provost of S. Junianus (Limoges). He was appointed on 10 March 1484. Eubel, II, p. 175, with note 2; III, p. 222, with note 2.
^De Prie had been created a cardinal by Pope Julius II on 18 December 1506. He was Bishop of Bayeux from 1498 until he was appointed to Limoges on 18 August 1514, which he resigned in 1516. Eubel, II, p. 101; III, pp. 11 and 222.
^Philippe was appointed on 5 December 1516. He died on 6 October 1519. Eubel, III, p. 222, with note 2.
^On 20 July 1615, Raymond de la Marthonie was created titular bishop of Chalcedon, and named Coadjutor Bishop of Limoges with right of succession. When Bishop Henri de la Marthonie died on 7 October 1618, he succeeded to the title of Bishop of Limoges. He died in January 1627. Gauchat, IV, p. 219 with note 2.
^Lafayette was nominated by King Louis XIII and approved by Pope Urban VIII on 29 November 1627. He died in November 1676. Gauchat, IV, p. 219 with note 3.
^D'Urfé: Jean, p. 113. Ritzler, V, p. 241 with note 3.
^Carbonel de Canisy: Jean, p. 114. Ritzler, V, p. 241 with note 4.
^Charpin de Genetines: Jean, p. 114. Ritzler, V, p. 241 with note 5.
^Born at L'Isle du Gast (diocese of Mans) L'Isle du Gast was Canon of Chartres. He was a Doctor of theology (Bourges, 1727). On 27 December 1729 he was nominated Bishop of Limoges by King Louis XV, and was approved (preconized) by Pope Clement XII on 14 August 1730. He was consecrated in Paris by Archbishop Charles de Vintimille. Jean, pp. 114-115. Ritzler, VI, p. 257, with note 2.
^Coëtlosquet: Jean, p. 115. Ritzler, VI, p. 257, with note 3.
^Gay-Vernon was consecrated in Paris on 13 March 1791. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly. He voted for the death of Louis XVI, and therefore was not included in the amnesty at the Restoration. He abandoned his priesthood in an announcement at the Convention. In 1795 he became a member of the Council of 500 under the Constitution of Year 3. In 1798 he was named Consul in Tripoli (Syria). He died on 22 October 1822. Pisani, pp. 428-430.