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The End of an ÉliteThe French Bishops and the Coming of the Revolution 1786-1790$
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Nigel Aston

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198202844

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202844.001.0001

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An apostolic élite: the bishops of the French Church at the end of the ancien régime

An apostolic élite: the bishops of the French Church at the end of the ancien régime

(p.5) 1 An apostolic élite: the bishops of the French Church at the end of the ancien régime
The End of an Élite

Nigel Aston

Oxford University Press

To be nominated and consecrated as one of the 130 bishops of the French Church was the highest ambition any cleric could hold in France under the ancien régime. The office of bishop was one of inherent authority and hierarchical supremacy which conferred membership of an exclusive elite within the First Estate of the realm. An expert administrator such as Archbishop J.-M. Champion de Cicé of Bordeaux found clerical Provincial Assemblies useful for the formal reminder of his primacy in Aquitaine. One interesting exception to archiepiscopal restraint in this field was Tours, where Joachim de Conzié brought his bishops together in 1780 to co-ordinate their suppression of selected local festivals. Otherwise Provincial Assemblies of clergy met primarily to elect deputies to each General Assembly of the Clergy. Bishops held approximately one-third of the seats at each General Assembly, whose operations reflected the principles of episcopal absolutism which underlayed policy-making in the Church as a whole.

Keywords:   bishops, French Church, ancien régime, First Estate, J.-M. Champion de Cicé, Joachim de Conzié, General Assembly of the Clergy, episcopal absolutism

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