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The Archbishopric of Vienne, named after its episcopal see Vienne in the Isère département of southern France, was a metropolitan Roman Catholic archdiocese. It is now part of the Archdiocese of Lyon.
The legend according to which Crescens, the first Bishop of Vienne, is identical with the Crescens of Saint Paul's Second Letter to Timothy, iv, 20 certainly postdates the letter of Pope Zosimus to the Church of Arles (417) and the letter of the bishops of Gaul in 451; because, although both these documents allude to the claims to glory which Arles owes to St. Trophimus, neither of them mentions Crescens. Archbishop Ado of Vienne (860–875) set afoot this legend of the Apostolic origin of the See of Vienne and put down St. Zachary, St. Martin and St. Verus, later successors of Crescens, as belonging to the Apostolic period. This legend was confirmed by the Recueil des privilèges de l'Eglise de Viene, which, however, was not compiled under the supervision of the future Pope Callistus II, as M. Gundlach maintained, but a little earlier, about 1060, as Louis Duchesne proved. This collection contains the pretended letters of a series of popes, from Pius I to Paschal II, and sustains the claims of the Church of Vienne. Le Livre épiscopal de l'archevêque Léger (1030–1070) included both the inventions of Ado and the forged letters of the Recueil.
It is historically certain that Verus, present at the Council of Arles (314), was the fourth Bishop of Vienne. In the beginning the twelve cities of the two Roman Vienne provinces were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Vienne, but when Arles was made an archbishopric, at the end of the fourth century, the see of Vienne grew less important. The disputes that later arose between it and the metropolitan of Arles concerning their respective antiquity are well known in ecclesiastical history.
In 450 Pope Leo I gave the Archbishop of Vienne the right to ordain the Bishops of Tarantaise, Valence, Geneva and Grenoble. Many vicissitudes followed, and the territorial limit of the powers of Metropolitan of Vienne followed the wavering frontier of the Kingdom of Burgundy and in 779, was considerably restricted by the organization of a new ecclesiastical province comprising Tarantaise, Aosta (in Italy) and Sitten (or Sion in French; in Switzerland).
In 1120 Calixtus II, who had been Bishop of Vienne, decided that the Archbishop of Vienne should have for suffragans the Bishop of Grenoble, Bishop of Valence, Bishop of Die, Bishop of Viviers, Bishop of Geneva, and Bishop of Maurienne; that the Archbishop of Tarantaise should obey him, notwithstanding the fact that this archbishop himself had suffragans, that he should exercise the primacy over the province of Bourges, province of Narbonne, province of Bordeaux, province of Aix, province of Auch and province of Embrun, and that, as the metropolitans of both provinces already bore the title of primate, the Archbishop of Vienne should be known as the "Primate of Primates".
In 1023 the Archbishops of Vienne became secular lords paramount. They had the title of Count, making them prince-archbishops, and when in 1033 the Kingdom of Arles was reunited to the Holy Roman Empire, they retained their independence and obtained from the empire the title of Archchancellors of the Kingdom of Arles (1157).
Besides the four Bishops of Vienne heretofore mentioned, others are honoured as saints. According to the chronology created by M. Duchesne, they are: St. Justus, St. Dionysius, St. Paracodes, St. Florentius (about 374), St. Lupicinus, St. Simplicius (about 400), St. Paschasius, St. Nectarius, St. Nicetas (about 449), St. Mamertus (died 475 or 476), who instituted the rogation days, whose brother Claudianus Mamertus was known as a theologian and poet, and during whose episcopate St. Leonianus held for forty years the post of grand penitentiary at Vienne; St. Avitus (494 – 5 February, 518), St. Julianus (about 520–533), Pantagathus (about 538), Namatius (died 559), St. Evantius (died 584–586), St. Verus (586), St. Desiderius (Didier) 596–611, St. Domnolus (about 614), St. Ætherius, St. Hecdicus, St. Chaoaldus (about 654–664), St. Bobolinus, St. Georgius, St. Deodatus, St. Blidrannus (about 680), St. Eoldus, St. Eobolinus, St. Barnardus (810–841), noted for his conspiracies in favour of the sons of Louis the Pious, St. Ado (860–875), author of a universal history and two martyrologies, St. Thibaud (end of the tenth century).
Among its later bishops were Guy of Burgundy (1084–1119), who became Pope Callixtus II; Christophe de Beaumont, who occupied the see of Vienne for seven months of the year 1745 and afterwards became Archbishop of Paris; Jean Georges Le Franc de Pompignan (1774–1790), brother of the poet and a great enemy of the "philosophers", and also d'Aviau (1790–1801), illustrious because of his strong opposition to the civil constitution of the clergy and the first of the émigré bishops to re-enter France (May, 1797), returning under an assumed name and at the peril of his life.
Michael Servetus was living in Vienne, whither he had been attracted by Archbishop Pierre Palmier, when Calvin denounced him to the Inquisition for his books. During the proceedings ordered by ecclesiastical authority of Vienne, Servetus fled to Switzerland (1553).
In 1605 the Jesuits founded a college at Vienne, and here Massillon taught at the close of the 17th century. The churches of Saint-Pierre and Saint-André le Haut are ancient Benedictine foundations. The famous council of Vienne was held at Vienne in 1311 (see also Templars).
After the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801, the archiepiscopal title of Vienne passed to the see of Lyon, whose Metropolitan was henceforth called "Archbishop of Lyons and Vienne", although Vienne belongs to the Diocese of Grenoble.