Family name of three French churchmen of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Robert, prelate and statesman remembered for his improvement of the French fiscal system; place and date of birth uncertain; d. Moulins, June 3, 1497. Through the influence of his younger brother Guillaume (d. 1514) he received important appointments to ecclesiastical and secular positions. After serving as canon of St. Aignan and abbot of St. Vaast, he was appointed archbishop of Reims in 1493. Charles VIII made him chancellor of France (1495), an office he fulfilled until his death.
Guillaume, cardinal of Saint-Malo and principal adviser to Charles VIII; b. Tours, c. 1445; d. Narbonne, Dec. 14, 1514. Guillaume entered the religious life after the death of his wife and became bishop of St. Malo (1493), archbishop of Reims (1497) and Narbonne (1507). He accompanied Charles VIII on his Italian expedition from 1494 to 1495, at which time he was created a cardinal by Alexander VI. In 1498 he crowned Louis XII king of France in the cathedral at Reims. During the pontificate of julius ii he led a movement among the cardinals, culminating in the council of Pisa-Milan, to force the pope to undertake reform. Julius summoned him to Rome, where he was stripped of his office and excommunicated. When leo x became pope (1513) the censure was lifted and Guillaume was restored to his cardinalate.
Guillaume, bishop and advocate of church reform; b. Tours, 1472; d. Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Jan. 24, 1534. He was the son of Guillaume the cardinal. Briçonnet served as bishop of Lodève (1504) and director of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1507), where he began a series of reforms. He carried out missions to Rome for both Louis XII and Francis I. Upon his appointment as bishop of Meaux (1516) he supported a reform movement through a group of intellectuals known as the "Meaux reformers." Some of its members turned too favorably toward the Lutheran movement, and Guillaume was accused of heresy. The group was dispersed in 1535. Briçonnet successfully defended himself against the charge of heresy and died a Catholic.
Bibliography: p. imbart de la tour, Les Origines de la réforme, 4 v. (Paris 1905-35) v. 3. a. renaudet, Préréforme et humanisme à Paris pendant les premières guerres d'Italie, 1494–1517 (2d ed. Paris 1953). g. bretonneau, Histoire généalogique de la maison de Briçonnet (Paris 1620). a. fliche and v. martin, eds. Histoire de Péglise depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours (Paris 1935–) v. 15. Gallia Christiana v. 6, 9. m. lecomte, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912–) 10:677–682. a. duval, Catholicisme 2:263–265.
[w. j. steiner]