« Arkites Arles, Archbishopric of Arles, Synods of »

Arles, Archbishopric of

ARLES, ɑ̄rl, ARCHBISHOPRIC OF: An ancient see in southern France (44 m. n.w. of Marseilles), whose incumbents from the early part of the fifth century to the early part of the seventh, bore the title of primate, descriptive of their position as representatives of the Roman curia in that country and first among the bishops of the Gallic Church. The gospel was brought to Arles from Marseilles about the beginning, probably, of the third century and the first mention of a bishop of Arles occurs about 255. With the division of the empire by Diocletian and the subsequent rapid decline of Lyons, Arles rose to an eminent position as a commercial and administrative center and a stronghold of Roman civilization in Gaul. Its bishops, however, were formally under the authority of the bishop of Vienne as metropolitan till about the year 400 when Arles succeeded Treves as the residence of the prefect of Gaul, becoming, thereby, the capital of the Roman power in western Europe.

The metropolitan rights of Vienne were thereupon brought into question, and, after a synod at Turin (401) had failed to arrive at a decision in the matter, a grant of extensive privileges was obtained in the year 417 from Pope Zosimus by Patroclus, bishop of Arles since 412. The territory of the see of Arles was increased at the expense of Marseilles, and upon Patroclus was conferred the title of metropolitan of the Viennois with authority over the episcopal sees of Narbonne and Aix. To raise the ecclesiastical authority of Arles to a degree commensurate with its political importance the pope conferred upon its bishop the title of primate, and with it, the power to intervene as arbiter in such disputed church questions as were not reserved for the decision of the bishop of Rome.

The primacy of Arles had some justification and much of the authority which it rapidly gained from a legend which makes its appearance about this time connecting Arles with the name of Trophimus who, sent by the Apostle Peter to preach the gospel in Gaul, was reputed to have made that city the scene of his first labors. Subsequently the legendary Trophimus was identified with the person of that name mentioned in the New Testament (Acts xx. 4, xxi. 29; II Tim. iv. 12). As a result of the dispute between Hilary, Bishop of Arles from 429 (see Hilary, St., of Arles), and Pope Leo the Great, the primatial dignity was abolished in 445 and the office of metropolitan was transferred to Vienne. So firmly grounded, however, was the authority of Arles by this time that in 450 the claims of the church of Trophimus to the primacy and the vicariate were brought before the pope by nineteen bishops of Gaul, and though Leo refused to admit the validity of these claims he receded so far from his position as to divide the metropolitan dignity between Vienne and Arles. Actually, Arles retained such preeminence as to make it still the first of Gallic episcopates. The incursion of the Visigoths into Provence in 466 severed all relations between Arles and Rome for nearly thirty years, but the rise of the Arian power in southern France and in the north of Italy, led to a reestablishment of the Roman connection, in defense of the threatened cause of orthodoxy. Upon Cæsarius, bishop of Arles, was conferred, in 513, the pallium as token of the vicarial office (for the first time in the history of the Western Church) together with the right of exercising pastoral supervision over the churches in Gaul and Spain. As administrator and, more important still, as a formulator of ecclesiastical legislation Cæsarius made his influence felt throughout the country and traces of his work were to be found in Spain, Ireland, Italy, and Germany (see Cæsarius of Arles). But with the rise of the national Frankish Church and the removal of the political center of the kingdom to the north the authority of the bishops of Arles rapidly declined. As late as 613 they appear in the character of papal vicars but their importance soon became second to that of the bishops of Lyons. In 794 the number of suffragans under the authority of the Archbishop of Arles was eight; in 1475 they numbered only four. The bishopric was abolished in 1802 but the title of primat des primats des Gaules is still borne by the archbishop of Vienne. [Among the ninety-six incumbents of the see the most distinguished, besides those already mentioned, were Vigilius (588-610), who was apostolic vicar under Gregory the Great over all the bishops of Burgundy and Austrasia, Cardinal Peter de Foix (1450-62), an important ecclesiastical statesman, and the last archbishop, Jean Marie Dulan (1775-92), who was guillotined at the age of eighty-seven by the revolutionary authorities.]

(F. Arnold.)

Bibliography: For sources consult Epistolæ Arelatenses genuinæ and Epistolæ Viennenses spuriæ, in MGH, Epist., iii. (1891) 1-109. On the general subject, M. Trichaud, Histoire de la sainte église d’Arles, 4 vols., Paris, 1858-65; E. Löning, Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenrechts, i. 436-498, Strasburg, 1878; J. Langen, Geschichte der römischen Kirche, i. 742-785, Bonn, 1881; W. Gundlach, Der Streit der Bistümer Arles und Vienne, Hanover, 1890; D. Bernard, La Basilique primatiale de St. Trophime d’Arles, Paris, 1893; L. Duchesne, Fastes épiscopaux de l’ancienne Gaule, i., chap. ii. 84-144, Paris, 1894.

« Arkites Arles, Archbishopric of Arles, Synods of »
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