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La paroisse, communauté et territoire

Bernard Merdrignac
Daniel Pichot
Georges Provost
et al.


Texte intégral

Nous remercions vivement notre collègue Jacques Even qui a gracieusement accepté de relire les traductions anglaises des résumés ci-joints et de les rectifier, le cas échéant.

  • 1 Nous remercions vivement notre collègue Jacques Even qui a gracieusement accepté de relire les tra (...)

1Louisa Plouchart

2Le diocèse de Rennes, Dol et Saint-Malo : maillage paroissial et pratiques religieuses

3The subject belongs to the scientific field of social geography. The article proposes to tackle new elements of the territories of religion and faithful catholics in the dioceses of Rennes, Dol and St. Malo. The determination of a new territoriality has led to the defining of new ways of functioning for the faithful/devout catholics and the local communities. Our study, nourished from qualitative field studies, throws a light on these new forms of organisation based on spatial domaines. Rural parishes, peri-urban or urban ones served as a framework to the study, thus giving an appreciation of the characteristics of the faithful who were questioned, their perception of traditional recomposition, diocesan-life and their socio-spatial and religious practices. These newly determined geographical configurations show a wide variety of social affiliations; whose sources, both past and present, bear witness to a state of transition for the Church and its faithful followers.

4Yohann Abiven

5L’Église peut-elle encore produire du territoire ? L’exemple de la recomposition paroissiale dans la région de Landerneau (Finistère)

6The Leon district in Brittany is an area that has been rich in religious vocations for a very long time. As early as the 1960s though, the drying up of ecclesiastical recruiting started – without necessarily provoking any real drama on the part of Episcopal authorities but in a manner serious enough to prudently question the parochial model built from the council of Trente. The progressive decline of active priests in the parishes encouraged quite decisively a move towards a realignment of the pastoral districts. As a pioneer in the sociological outlook over a society undergoing full secularisation the bishopric of Quimper has reached quite rapidly the point of proposing to its faithful some quite original geographical configurations. First to reconquer and finally to survive. How will the faithful react to all these transformations? Will these territories be fertile to the faith?

7Jean René Bertrand

8Le renouveau des paroisses catholiques en France

9For thirty years Catholic bishops have been contributing to the revival scheme of almost all French dioceses. They have reduced the number of territorial units. However each bishop has remained responsible for his own parochial system. The sizes, names and ways of parishes amalgamation (federating or merging) appear as highly contrasted. Population density, religious observance and number of priests do not fully explain these contrasts. Church and State’s territorial changes don’t usually match up.

10Olivier Bobineau

11Histoire du pouvoir de la paroisse catholique romaine : entre coopération et domination

12The study of the political power of parishes and the analysis of its historical implication can be carried out with the help of a reading framework borrowed from political philosophy. Two major traditions in the conception of power nourish political reflection. On the one hand, the paradigm of cooperation between free and equal individuals generating collective and deliberative procedures.

13On the other hand, the paradigm of domination establishing and unegalitarian and hierarchical balance of forces based on the logic of the master/servant relationship. Hence, through the centuries, the history of parochial government has remarkably illustrated the constant work performed by the parochial community between these two aspects of the conception of power as seen through the sharing of the powers between laymen and clerks in particular, the latter often keeping and advantage over the believers.

14Nicolas Champ

15La paroisse concordataire, un espace religieux entre contraintes administratives et aspirations communautaires

16During the nineteenth century, the parish is a constrained space. Because of the system of concordat, the creation of a parish depends on public funding and is therefore subject to swings in relations between Church and State. During the setting up of the parochial network, the number of parishes was strongly reduced compared to the network of the Ancien Regime. The drawing of new parishes is far from satisfying completely pastoral needs. Until the early 1880s, religious and administrative authorities appeared anxious to reduce inequalities and break the isolation of rural religious: the rural parishes are very dense and well designed space freezes. In contrast, urban density parish is clearly insufficient, especially in great cities.

17Georges Provost

18Territoire ou communauté : les paroisses urbaines en question dans la Bretagne du XVIIIe siècle

19In 18th c. Brittany, urban parishes often stood as complex territories of various sizes and were only imperfectly fit for the living space of a community’s life. This study aims at showing how this inherited situation evolved under the influence of the Catholic Reformation, urban development (particularly in Nantes, which new neighbourghood île Feydeau is specifically scrutinised here) and the resetting of parishes at the beginning of the Revolution. The current research leads to the conclusion that the climax of the “territorial parish” was slower and shorter in towns than in the countryside.

20Bruno Restif

21La communauté paroissiale dans les statuts synodaux français du XVIIe siècle

2217th century’s French synodal statutes point the parish as the major religious unit, which is, at this level in any case, mainly an unprecedented occurrence in this type of statutory production. The parish appears as a community whose life is built upon rites, of which the main is the parochial mass. And it is through the ritual settings that the developpement of the pastoral care and the devotional reorientations take place. The growing interest of the church authorities for the parishes is also seen through their will to control the governance by the churchwardens (“fabrique”), which reveals a social and political geography.

23Georges Provost

24Une forme spécifique de territorialisation paroissiale : les chapelles de quartier bretonnes

25This contribution is at bringing light on the historical meaning of the network of neighbourhood chapels (“frairies”) spread over the two thirds of Western Brittany. This distributional pattern belongs to the Breton spatial limits in the Early Middle Ages, but their framework was only established later (from the 13th century onwards), flexibly completing an already constituted parochial structure. The question also concerns the existing links between these chapels and the keeping of a very numerous local clergy, varying in number in the different dioceses.

26Nicolas Richard

27Paroisse, territoire et communauté dans la Bohême de l’époque moderne

28Parishes were a stake in the recatholicization of Bohemia: since 15th cent., Utraquists and Catholics had theoretically controlled parishes but after the (1609) Letter of Majesty, this pre-hussite network was no longer legal reference. This new situation soon changed with the White Mountain catholic victory (1620), initiating Bohemia’s return to the catholic faith. This drastically reduced the number of parishes. The re-forming of a parochial network was the major task from 1648 to Josef II. To assume cura animarum where parishes lacked, the exemption of the regulars was, paradoxically, the prerequisite condition to conversion, pastoral care and reconstruction of parishes.

29Angelo Turchini

30Les visites pastorales en Italie après le concile de Trente

31After the concile of Trento there is a dissemination of the institute of the pastoral visits, important from the administrative point of view. Visits offer precious informations on the institutional reality and the organization of the diocesan territory. Vitality of the parishes show the importance of the vicaritati ones like of the atypical parishes in rich dialectic between centers ant the perifery, between Northern Italy and the South.

32Soazick Kerneis

33Les premières plebes d’Armorique. Le soin des âmes et l’administration des corps

34In Brittany, the toponomy points at the frequency of place-names in “plou” which has no equivalent in the other parts of France. These specific toponyms have been the topic of great controversial dispute. Are these plou a secular or a religious institution? And are they linked to the British settlement of Brittany? For a part of the historiography since XIXth century, they have been connected to the second British migration so that the first plou were dated of the period after 500. But as Gildas Bernier emphasized, there is a strong parallel between the Italian pievi in the Alpine valley and the Breton plou so that the two institutions must be studied together.

35This paper tries to follow this suggestion with the hypothesis that the Breton plou, like the Italian pieve, date back to late Roman Antiquity. It was a time when the Roman Empire had to manage the establishment of barbarian communities. At the end of the fourth century and in the first half of the fifth century, some rural communities, not yet well romanized and with strong traditions, received a sort of privilege: as specific communities, they enjoyed a peculiar form of government with self-rule. Their principes have got a delegation from the imperial administration and are recognized as warrants of the population they must care about. The religious framework is also quite specific, with local priests under the control of an episcopus Britannorum. The conclusion would be that the plou is not a Breton institution but rather an institution of the Late Empire which intend to set a government of rural communities by means of a larger autonomy. It is the same solution which has been applied in the north of Italy and in Brittany, but in different contexts the applications are not quite similar.

36Éric Van Thoroudt

37La formation des territoires paroissiaux en Normandie occidentale aux XIe-XIIIe siècles

38How and when were parish territories created in Normandy? The question needs to be addressed from a new theoretical standpoint. After a short historiography, we will reconsider the equation: ecclesia + villa= “parish”.

39The study of three cases located in the dioceses of Coutances and Avranches suggests that this new division of the territory into small standardized parishes is the combined result of the social, political and economic backgrounds of the XIth, XIIth and XIIIth centuries. These territorial units were set up by monks (in Lessay) and feudal lords (Néhou and Saint-Marcouf) who reorganised numerous pre-existing stuctures (churches, hermitages and former abbeys).

40Samuel Leturcq

41Les « territoires alternatifs » dans la France de l’Ouest

42From the beginning of the 13th century, parishes are defined as sharply delineated territories. The parishioner’s identity is determined in vertue of his living location, his home, into the parish’s boundaries. However the rule might be different in Maine and Touraine. Some small villages located at the borders of 2, 3 or 4 parishes switch every year from a parish to another. This regular alternation is decided by custom, and is the result of compromises passed by owners of right. It enables an equal distribution of the parish’s revenus and taxes (tithes). Far from beeing an oddity, the use of alternation within parishes is a common practice in the west of France for the priest’s nomination.

43Anne Lunven

44La formation des paroisses dans les diocèses de Rennes, Dol et Alet/Saint-Malo (XIe-XIIIe siècle)

45This paper tries to demonstrate, through the examples of three dioceses in Haute-Bretagne (Upper Brittany-Rennes, Dol and Alet/St-Malo), that contrary to general belief, no gradual dismantling of large, primitive parishes occured during the Middle Ages. Instead, between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the setting up of a network among the largely pre-existing scattered churches, clearly defining the prerogatives and rights attached to each edifice, created an exclusive relationship between the believers and their church, ultimately resulting in the formation of a parochial territory.

46Jean-Claude Meuret

47Paroisses sur la limite orientale de la Bretagne aux XIe-XIIe siècles : évolution du réseau en contexte frontalier

48The study of the creation or attempts to create parishes in the east of Brittany in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries highlights the complexity and variability of a phenomenon in which the cemetery is of paramount importance.

49Many of these creations can be explained by demographic growth and agrarian development, but only a few castle and proto-urban creations can be observed.

50This research has especially shed light on the interaction between the pulling back and the settling of the eastern border of Brittany, which occurred before 1050, and the densification of the parochial network. Princely or lordly power led to several creations on the border. Episcopal initiatives, in which political goals are present, can also be observed. Finally, the new border sometimes cut and divided large religious entities from the high Middle Ages.

51Conscious of the coherence and primacy of the parish, secular power sometimes used it as an effective tool of territorial and geo-strategic planning: the Sword gave way to the Cross in order to better provide sanctuary for its conquests.

52Daniel Pichot

53L’espace des paroissiens. Construction du territoire paroissial dans le bas-Maine au Moyen Âge

54In western France, the prestigious status gained by Marmoutier Abbey resulted in the establishment of more than thirty priories in the Duchy of Brittany, firstly with ducal support leading to the donation at the beginning of the XIth century of Gahard – the first example of these priories – secondly with the support of the ruling barons. This explains the high level expertise of the abbey in founding major sites close to castles, bearing in mind the idea of creating strong links with the most powerful ruling families. The priories originated in the merging strategies of the lineages and of the great Monastery. Such installations organised by the mighty abbots Aldebert and Barthélémy flourished in the second half of the XIth century and favoured Upper Brittany. These, often present, abbots encouraged this policy of settlement which meant a strong involvement of the monks in social life, on a spiritual level, as well as on social and economic basis thanks to the dynamism of their fortified burghs or villages (« bourgs castraux »).

55Bernard Merdrignac

56Eppur si muove : quelques notes sur le dos d’une enveloppe…

57Certainly, it would be anachronistic to reconstruct the ecclesial space, as it existed before the tenth century, from the modern parochial network, with its precisely delineated boundaries. However, the concept of “enveloppe territoriale”, an expression coined in order to take into account the flexibility of the medieval entities, may lead to confusion. It was in the interest of medieval scholars to choose their words carefully. The lexical study of a primarly Breton corpus would suggest that several notions of the parochial space coincide in Latin texts. Hence the importance of distinguishing the territory determined by the Church from the space experienced as a landmark by rural communities. Those who lived in such communities occupied a landscape whose demarcations were well-suited for extensive farming and they adapted as best they could to the presence of a clergy within their local church whose responsibility was to manage, on their behalf, their relationship with God.

58Patrick J. Duffy

59La morphologie de la paroisse en Irlande

60The geography of parishes in Ireland focuses attention on their territorial endurance and social cohesion through history. Geographical continuity was buttressed by their functions as centres of worship for the delivery of religious services such as baptism, marriage, communion and burial. They were also importantly areas providing taxation (tithes) to the church. These function consolidated to a sense of identity and belonging to the parish. Churches were probably among the first significant central places in the Irish landscape, dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries. Early medieval churches closely reflected local secular kingroup structures in “pre-parochial” formations. When dioceses and parishes were officially established in Roman reform synods in the twelfth century, they matched contemporary political and tribal territorial arrangements.

61The medieval parish structure, designated as a ‘civil’parish following its use as a convenient administrative unit by the colonial state from the seventeenth century, reflects the realities of settlement and society in the middle ages. These parishes were inherited by the Church of Ireland following the Protestant Reformation, and the medieval boundaries and accompanying rights and tithes were maintained, though many unions of parishes were formed where the Church of Ireland population was small. While the Catholic church was oppressed by anti-catholic legislation in the 17th and 18th centuries, its association with the parish structure was disrupted. With the gradual removal of penal legislation, Catholic attachment to the older medieval entities survived, though in many cases the medieval parishes were too small for the teeming Catholic populations. New unions of the older parishes were formed to more adequately reflect emerging modern patterns of population and settlement.


1 Nous remercions vivement notre collègue Jacques Even qui a gracieusement accepté de relire les traductions anglaises des résumés ci-joints et de les rectifier, le cas échéant.

© Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2013

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