Visions of episcopacy in seventeenth-century France

This book explores how conceptions of episcopacy (government of a church by bishops) shaped the identity of the bishops of France in the wake of the reforming Council of Trent (1545–63). It demonstrates how the episcopate, initially demoralised by the Wars of Religion, developed a powerful ideology of privilege, leadership and pastorate that enabled it to become a flourishing participant in the religious, political and social life of the ancien regime. The book analyses the attitudes of Tridentine bishops towards their office by considering the French episcopate as a recognisable caste, possessing a variety of theological and political principles that allowed it to dominate the French church.

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Alison Forrestal

, Barthélemy des Martyrs and the acclaimed archbishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo, as examples of the excellent Tridentine bishop, Jedin straightforwardly characterised this model as a pastorate imbued with sane doctrine, preaching and administrative zeal and personal virtue.5 This was the episcopal spirit of the Counter-Reformation, a powerful contributor to the fervour of action and engagement with the world that Outram Evennett identified as the fundamental characteristic of Catholic reform during the early modern era.6 With some significant exceptions, however, bishops

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Alison Forrestal

immediately put into practice by bishops; the theological underpinning of these rules was partially sacrificed in order to restore momentum to conciliar deliberations. Yet this simply postponed the problems of jurisdiction and droit divin for the future. A slightly similar result arose in relation to those decrees describing the episcopal pastorate and bishops’ spirituality, but for quite different reasons. Any analysis of this legislation is complicated by the fact that successive historians have read its directives rather differently. According to Giuseppe Alberigo, one

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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Mirrors of French ideals?
Alison Forrestal

function as guidebooks for bishops. However, the abundance of texts means that they repay closer exploration on several fronts, for they teach much about the germination and dissemination of episcopal ideals. First, how did their detailed construction of episcopacy compare with those described in the previous chapters? The answer to this question is as relevant for the pastoral angle of episcopacy as it is for the jurisdictional and theological, and is directly related to the chapter’s second major objective of tracking the emergence of the ideal episcopal pastorate

in Fathers, pastors and kings
Open Access (free)
Alison Forrestal

extraordinary spectacle. The newly popular notion of preaching as a worthy and vital occupation for bishops, and as a skill to be admired and valued, was quickly grasped by many prelates who understood that this was a means of fulfilling the demands of their office. Episcopal preaching came to be widely considered as both pre-eminent and customary. While French churchmen agreed on the premier position of bishops within the hierarchy as well as on the character of the spirituality that was to motivate their pastorate, they managed, however, to concur about little else

in Fathers, pastors and kings