Fesch, Joseph

Fesch, Joseph a French cardinal, was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, Jan. 3, 1763. His father's second wife was the mother of Laetitia Bonaparte. He studied at the College of Aix, in Provence, entered the Church, and was archdeacon and provost of the chapter of Ajaccio when the revolution broke out. The Bonaparte family being exiled from Corsica in 1793 for their opposition to Paoli and his British allies, Fesch followed them to Toulon, where his circumstances compelled him to enter the commissariat of the army. In 1795 he was appointed to the commissariat of the Army of Italy, just placed under the command of his nephew, Napoleon Bonaparte. After the 18th Brumaire he resumed his ecclesiastical functions, and was actively engaged in the negotiations concerning the Concordat of July 15, 1801. Napoleon made him archbishop of Lyons, and Fesch took possession of that see Aug. 15, 1802. Six months later he was created cardinal of St. Laurent in Lucina. In 1804 he was appointed ambassador to Rome, and was accompanied in this mission by Chiateaubriand, who thus began his diplomatic career. He subsequently decided Pius VII to come to Paris to crown the emperor. Napoleon appointed him high almoner, commander of the Legion of Honor, and senator. Fesch paid great attention to the interests of his diocese, and established a high theological school. During the difficulties between Napoleon and the pope he showed much consideration for the latter, declining in 1809 the archbishopric of Paris, which was offered him-by the emperor, and even rejecting the petitions of the chapter that he would at least administer the diocese. In 1811 Napoleon called a council to settle his difficulties with Pius VII, and appointed Fesch its president, in which capacity he seems not to have acted according to the views of the emperor, for he was sent back to his diocese. A letter of his addressed to the pope, then at Fontainebleau, caused him to be deprived of his stipend. He introduced into France the order of the' "Brethren of the Christian Schools," founded at Lyons a college of home missions, and was instrumental in procuring the recall of the Jesuits. When Napoleon I was sent to Elba, Fesch withdrew to Rome, where he was well received by Pius VII. During the "hundred days" he returned to France and into his archbishopric. After the battle of Waterloo he returned to Rome, declining, however, to resign his office as archbishop of Lyons. He died May 13, 1839. See Biog. du Clerge contemporain; L' Ami de la Religion; L'Abbe Lyonnet, le Cardinal Fesch, fragments biographiques (Lyon, 1841, 2 vols. 8vo); La Verilt sur le cardinal Fesch (Lyon, 1842, 8vo); Thiers, Hist. du Consulat et de l'Empire, t. xiii; 'Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 17:572.

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