City on both banks of the Meuse River in east Belgium; capital of Liège Province; and a diocese (Leodiensis ) comprising Liège and Limburg Provinces, 2,426 square miles in area.
Liège owes its origin to the fact that lambert, Bishop of Maastricht, built near a Merovingian portus an oratory where he was murdered. His successor, Hubert, impressed by the miracles that took place, established his see there (717–718), suffragan to cologne. Liège became an ecclesiastical principality under the German Holy Roman Empire c. 980 and remained so until the French Revolution. Under the first prince-bishop, Notker (972–1008), and his successor, wazo, the cathedral school flourished, "the Athens of the North," until it gave way to the University of Paris. ratherius of verona (d. 974) and heriger of lobbes were literary figures associated with Liège. The Peace of God was introduced into the Empire form Liège (1082). juliana of liÈge in 1246 had Bishop Robert establish a special feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, which Urban IV prescribed for the whole Church. Bishops of the 16th century successfully opposed various Protestant movements.
When new dioceses were created in the Low Countries (1559), the bishop of Liège lost half his see but nonetheless promulgated the reforms of the Council of Trent and founded a seminary. In the 18th century the enlightenment made progress; Bp. François-Charles de Velbruck (1772–84) belonged to the Masons. In 1795 France annexed the town and principality. The concordat of 1801 gave Liège its present territory with the collegiate church of St-Paul as cathedral; St-Lambert having been demolished by French Revolutionaries. In 1815 Liège went to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and in 1830 became part of Belgium. The city, which in the 16th century had a school of humanities, obtained a university in 1816. The fact that Liège was for many centuries the seat of a diocese and of an ecclesiastical principality explains its riches in churches, abbeys, and convents, as well as the anticlerical feeling of the population.
St-Paul, founded in 969, built in the 13th and restored in the 16th century, the cathedral since 1802, contains the shrine of St. Lambert in gilded silver. The collegiate St-Barthélémy, in part 11th and 12th century, has famous baptismal fonts by Renier de Huy (1111–18). St-Croix, founded by Notker, has a west apse in 13th-century Rhenish Romanesque. St-Denis, with the oldest Romanesque tower in Belgium, has a 14th-century Gothic choir. St-Jacques, rebuilt in 16th-century flamboyant Gothic; has a rich decor and a Renaissance side portal. The palace of the prince-bishops (1526–38), now the Palais de Justice, has an inside court with original composite columns. The church of the Benedictine Abbey of St-Jacques (1015), which was suppressed in the French Revolution, became a parish church.
Bibliography: j. daris, Notices historiques sur les églises du diocèse de Liège, 17 v. (Liège 1867–99). t. gobert, Liège à travers les âges, 6 v. (2d ed. Liège 1924–29). j. paquay, ed., La Collégiale de Saint-Barthélémy à Liège (Liège 1935). g. de froidcourt, François-Charles, comte de Velbruck, prince-évêque de Liège, franc-maçon (Liège 1936). É. de moreau, Histoire de l' Église en Belgique, 5 v. (Brussels 1945–52), 2 suppl. j. lejeune, La Principauté de Liège (Liège 1948). j. philippe, L'Ancien palais des princes de Liège (Liège 1949). j. stiennon, Étude sur le chartrier et le domaine de l'Abbaye de Saint Jacques de Liège, 1015–1029 (Liège 1956). l. dewez, La Cathédrale Saint-Paul à Liège (Liège 1956). p. harsin, Études critiques sur l'histoire de la principauté de Liège, 1477–1795, 3 v. (Liège 1956–59).