Louis Duchesne

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Louis Duchesne (1920)

Louis Marie Olivier Duchesne (born September 13, 1843 in Saint-Servan near Saint-Malo ( Département Ille-et-Vilaine , Brittany ); †  April 21, 1922 in Rome ) was a French Catholic church historian .


Duchesne came from a family of Breton fishermen and was orphaned at an early age. He first attended the Collège in Saint-Brieuc , then entered the local seminary and was for a period of study in Rome (1863-1865) on 21 December 1867 priests ordained. From 1871 he attended the École des Carmes in Paris, where he obtained his licentiate in 1872 . At the same time he studied classical philology and ancient studies at the École pratique des hautes études . From 1874 to 1876 he was one of the first members of the École française de Rome , where he became interested in archeology and made trips to Athos and Asia Minor , among other things . He received his doctorate in 1877 at the University of Paris with a thesis on Liber Pontificalis . From 1877 he taught church history at the École des Carmes, which was renamed Institut Catholique in 1880 . In 1883 he switched from the theological to the philosophical faculty, as the results of his research were attacked by the Catholic side. From 1885 he also taught ecclesiastical history at the École pratique des hautes études and thus worked at both a church and a state university. From 1895 to 1922 he reached the peak of his academic career as director of the École française in Rome.

Scientific work

Duchesne researched above all the church history of the first centuries as well as the origins of the papal state . Of decisive importance is his first critical edition of the Liber Pontificalis , the early papal vites . He also applied the historical-critical method consistently to church history. To spread his method, he founded the Bulletin critique de littérature, d'histoire et de théologie in 1880 .

In parts of the Catholic Church, his portrayal of the early history of the Gallic and Roman Church was less popular, and he was also accused of being close to modernism , and so his Histoire ancienne de l'Église was banned for use in church schools in 1911 and indexed in 1912 . Leading Protestant church historians such as Adolf von Harnack value his work very much.


Duchesne received high honors and was a member of numerous scientific institutions. In 1888 he became a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres . From 1890 he was a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . From 1891 he was a corresponding member of the philosophical-historical class of the Society of Sciences in Göttingen , from 1893 to the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences , from 1901 as a full member of the Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia . In 1903 Louis Duchesne was appointed Commander of the Legion of Honor . He was also an honorary member of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and a member of the Academy of Turin .

In 1910 he received the highest academic award that France can bestow, he was elected to the Académie française . The election to the seat of Cardinal François-Désiré Mathieu there was 1909, a jump-off between Duchesne and the Bishop of Montpellier Anatole de Cabrières whose only literary merit was a collection of pastoral letters. It ended in a draw and de Cabrières was supposedly named cardinal by the Pope for consolation. In the new ballot in 1910, Duchesne then prevailed against another competitor, the Catholic historian and rector of the Institut Catholique Alfred Baudrillart .

Fonts (selection)

  • with Charles Bayet : Mémoire sur une mission au Mont Athos. Thorin, Paris 1876 ( full text ).
  • Les Sources du martyrologe hiéronymien. In: Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire 5, 1885, pp. 120–160 ( full text ).
  • with Giovanni Battista de Rossi : Martyrologium Hieronymianum . (= Acta Sanctorum Novembris. Tomi II pars prior), Société des Bollandistes, Brussels 1894.
  • Le Liber Pontificalis. Texts, introduction and commentary. (= Bibliothèque des Écoles Françaises d'Athènes et de Rome. Sér. 2, T. 3, 1–2). 2 volumes. Thorin, Paris 1886–1892 ( full text vol. 1 ), ( full text vol. 2 ) (reprint de Boccard, Paris 1955).
    • Vol. 3: Le Liber Pontificalis. Additions et corrections de Mgr. L. Duchesne , ed. by Cyrille Vogel , de Boccard, Paris 1957.
  • Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule . 3 volumes, Fontemoing, Paris 1894–1900; 2nd Edition. 1907-1915.
  • Origines du culte chrétien. Etude sur la liturgie latine avant Charlemagne. Thorin, Paris 1889 ( full text ).
  • Églises séparées. Thorin / Fontemoing, Paris 1896 ( full text ).
  • Les premiers temps de l'État pontifical. Fontemoing, Paris 1898.
  • Histoire ancienne de l'Église , 3 volumes, Fontemoing, Paris 1906–1910.
  • Scripta minora. Études de topographie romaine et de geographie ecclésiastique. (= Collection de l'École française de Rome vol. 13). École française de Rome, Rome 1973.

Complete list of scriptures in: Scripta minora. École française de Rome, Rome 1973, pp. IX – L.



  1. Member entry of Louis Duchesne at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on January 29, 2017.
  2. ^ Archives nationales, Paris, (Légion d'honneur - Louis Duchesne) .
  3. René de Castries : La vieille dame du quai Conti. Une histoire de l'Académie française. Perin, Paris 1978.

Web links

Commons : Louis Duchesne  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files