Jacques-Olivier Boudon: Les Elites réligieuses à l’époque de Napoléon (The religious elite at the time of Napoleon)

2002BoudonElitesReligieuses“The leaders of the Catholic clergy, that is to say, the bishops and vicars, are enlightened and tied to the government”, declared Napoleon Bonaparte in front of the Conseil d’état in 1804, only two years after the establishment of the Concordat with the Church. Whilst the bishops that Napoleon popularized as purple “préfets” are well-known, we know almost nothing about their collaborators, the “vicaires généraux” whose role was nevertheless decisive in the reorganisation of the Catholic Church. The work of Jacques-Olivier Boudon provides insight into the ecclesiastical elites of Napoleonic France, ubiquitous in society, appearing at Napoleon’s coronation and the baptism of the imperial prince. Following an overall presentation of the higher clergy, this work offers a portrait of all the 92 Bishops and 250 “vicaires généraux” of Napoleonic France with reference to its borders of 1802, that is to say, encompassing the Belgian and Rhenish departments. These individual careers, from the Ancien Régime to the Revolution, are revealing of one of the most turbulent times of the Catholic Church. They also highlight the work of these men who were the principal actors of the Concordat reconstruction, without neglecting the (sometimes conflictual) relationships with the Napoleonic state.

Paris: Éditions of the Fondation Napoléon – Nouveau Monde Éditions, 2002, Series Études, 312 pages. Language: French.