The beginning of evangelisation
Christianity was established early in this part of France. According to the legend, it was St Irineaus’ disciples who brought the Gospel to Valence, already at the end of the IInd century. Even among modern historiens, this is considered as being plausible.
The episcopal seats were introduced between the beginning of the IIIrd and the end of the Vth century. St Niceaus, bishop of Die signes at the Nicean council in 325 - the only bishop from Gaul- ; Vérus seats in Vienne in 314 ; St Emilien welcomes Valence’s first council in 374. And, we have to wait until 517 to find a reliable document certifying a bishop in Saint- Paul, the liturgical tradition having maintained the memory of his predecessors.
During the invasions
The bishops in the Rhone Valley suffer from the numerous comings and goings of the invadors.
At the end of the Vth and at the beginning of the VIth century, Apollinarius in Valence, and his brother Avit, in Vienne, are both outstanding personalities. Protectors of the cities, last witnesses of the ’Roman way of life’, eager witnesses of the Christian faith against a dominating Aryanisme, missionaries among the pagans, they are the craftsmen behind the Epaone’s Coucil which, in 517, reorganizes the church in Burgondy.
The Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, monasteries flourished. One of them, Aiguebelle (founded in 1137) is still active today. The city of Valence keeps the memory of the monastery of St Ruf, Seat of an international order with over 800 chapters of canons from Norway and Iceland to Greece and Portugal. It was a local man, Hugues from Romans, bishop of Die, and later of Lyon, who became Papal Legate and thus, the redoubtable promoter of the Gregorian Reformation in Gaul. In 1080 he recommends a canon from Valence to become the Bishop of Grenoble. The canon was Saint-Hugues from Châteauneuf- sur- Isère who, with his former master saint Bruno, will found the Grande Chartreuse in 1083. In 1095, The Pope Urbanus IInd, on his way to the Clermont Coucile, stoppes in Valence where he sanctifies the Cathedral. The bishop of Valence, Gontard, who was also a promoter of the Gregorian Reformation, had just begun the construction of this new church.
During the XIIth century, in a world of deep changes, the church can, at last, benefit from the monastic Reformation enhanced at Citeaux. Abbot Jean of Bonneveaux, in the diocese of Valence gathers many young men around him. We can find Amédée from Hauterives, the Emperor’s cousin, who becomes a lay brother and participates at the foundation of the Léoncel Abbay. Also Hugues from Châteauneuf who will become the second abbot of the new monastery. Both families will give numerous saints to the church. Saint Jean will be the bishop of Valence from 1141 to 1145, whereas saint Hugues will become the abbot of Bonnevaux, "mother of saints".
In 1275, the Pope Gregorius X, former clerc from Valence, unites the dioceses of Valence and of Die in order to protect them from the increasing claims coming from the Counts living in the surroundings. This union will last until 1687.
The end of the Middle Ages distingushes by the outstanding personality of Béatrice d’Ornacieux, a Carthusian nun, witness of the mysticisme of her time. In 1452 the Crown-prince Louis II founds, in Valence, a University including a Faculty of Divinity.
Reformation and Counter- Reformation
This period in French history is a time of terrible fightings. It all beginns through the clergy ; Michel d’Arande, bishop of Saint-Paul and Pierre Gay, priest in Die at the same time.
The first pastors come to Valence around 1555.
In this time of war and of executions, we count the existance of 38 Protestant churches within the area corresponding to the current deparment of la Drôme. They will all be swept away by the Edict of Fontainebleau which, in 1685, revokes the Edict of Nantes.
The XVIIth and the XVIIIth centuries are those of the Catholic Reformation. Reforming bishops (les Suares of Vaison, les Gelas de Lebéron of Valence and of Die) are leaning on new spiritual currents which have been brought forward by the Council of Trient. This is to the benefit of new Congregations such as "The Visitation", "The Ursulines", "Récollets" (i.e. Franciscans of a more severe obedience), "the Capuchins", "the Missionaries of the Holy Sacrement", "the Trinity Order"...
They also provide with training for lays through "missions" structured into brotherhoods and associations. They lead a renewed clergy by the establishement of seminaries as early as in 1639 ( i.e. four years before those of Saint- Sulpice in Paris), and continous training ( "the conferencies") is provided.
One man and one woman stand as symbols for these efforts : Christophe d’Authier from Sisgau (+ 1667) and Marie of Valence (+ 1648).
From the French Revolution until the XXth century.
The French Revolution will strike a blow to these flourishing churches.
The choice of accepting or refusing the Secular Constitution of the Clergy will dammage the unity of the catholics. The churches will pay a heavy tribute to martyrdom (nuns executed in Orange, priests deported or executed). In 1799, the Pope Pius VI dies in Valence where he is held captive.
The Concordat establishes a new diocese and entrusts it to a former ’constitutional’ : Fr. Bécherel. With the assistance from Jean-Joseph Mézard, former member of the Order of the Holy Sacrament who has become vicaire- general and considered as the consciousness of the diocese, they will reorganize the Church.
During the XIXth century, the great preoccupation among the bishops remains the ministry of Calling for the Chruch : Rivoire de la Tourett (+1840) ; Chatrousse (+1857) ; efficient administrator : Lyonnet ( 1857- 64), pugnacious ; Cotton (+ 1905), Chesnelong (1906-12) will watch over a diocese going through the great times of Catholicisme during the XIXth century.
The XXth Century
The XXth century beginns with the vitality of the catholic fellowships ( youth clubs, sports associations, workers’ educational clubs, farmers’ unions, the catholic union for railroad employees).
"Le Sillon" (litt : the furrow) is of great importance. Inside this movement will rise the glorious days of ’l’Action Catholique’, movements among children, and of scouting.
The second World War will again bring a time of martyrdom to the church. Jean Perriolat, member of the Catholic movement among young workers (joc) is one example among others.
The bishops during this period are also outstanding men ; Emmanuel Martin de Gibergues and Camille Pic, are the compagnons of these times filled with missionary fervour.
After Didier- Léon Marchand, bishop from 1978 to 2002, the fifteenth bishop of Valence, Die and Saint- Paul- Trois- Châteaux is now P. Jean- Christophe Lagleize.