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Concordat of 1801 (France)


Concordat between pius vii and Napoleon Bonaparte (see napoleon i), which regulated Church-State relations in France for more than a century.

Negotiations. In arranging this agreement Napoleon was inspired solely by political considerations; Pius VII, entirely by religious aims. While terminating the french revolution, the First Consul intended at the same time to consecrate the principles of 1789, which had characterized its start; but the pope sought to safeguard the Church's principles. Progress to final accord, despite the disparity of the two men's views and the lively opposition that Napoleon met in Paris and the pope in Rome, required strong determination on both sides. Ever since the pacification of the Vendée by Bernier, Bonaparte had secretly formed a plan of coming to an understanding with the Holy See, but he waited until his authority was firmly established before initiating negotiations. The victory at Marengo (1800) supplied his regime with the desired strength. Before returning to France Napoleon stopped at Vercelli in Italy, where he exposed his plan to Cardinal Carlo della Martiniana, whom he delegated to transmit his overtures to the pope. Pius VII immediately welcomed the First Consul's advances, although he had no illusions about the obstacles ahead. When he ordered Martiniana to notify Napoleon of his acceptance and to seek further details, he also sent Giuseppe spina to Vercelli, since he had slight confidence in the capabilities of the bishop of Vercelli. The First Consul insisted that negotiations be conducted in Paris, where the papal representative would be isolated and more accommodating; he then furnished the envoy with passports for Paris without informing the Holy See. This was the first of many improper acts.

Spina arrived in Paris (Oct. 20, 1800) accompanied by the Servite Father (later Cardinal) Carlo Caselli (who replaced Martiniana) and supplied with instructions limiting his powers. Thus he was authorized to discuss the French government's proposals, but not to pass final decision on them. In discussions with the industrious ber nier, who represented the French government, Spina was circumspect and patient. Four successive schemes were studied, modified and then rejected. Thanks to Spina, definitive agreements were attained on some points, although not on the crucial ones where conflict existed between the principles of the civil and religious powers. In his impatience Bonaparte then drew up a fifth project and sent it to Rome to obtain approval without any amendment. When the Holy See delayed its response, Napoleon dispatched an ultimatum that ordered Cacault, his representative, to quit Rome and commanded the army of murat to march on the Eternal City. Cacault saved the situation by advising Cardinal consalvi, the papal secretary of state, to go to Paris and reopen the negotiations. Consalvi rejected Bernier's sixth plan but accepted the seventh one after two revisions. But when Consalvi presented himself (July 13, 1801) to sign it, he perceived that many alterations had been introduced into the text agreed upon and refused his assent. Bonaparte flung an eighth scheme into the fire and then produced a ninth one, which was also judged inadmissible. The tenth one proved acceptable to both sides and it was signed at midnight on July 15. Pius VII ratified it on Aug. 15; Napoleon, on Sept. 8. The French legislature approved the concordat, along with the Organic Articles, on April 8,1802. Solemn promulgation on Easter Sunday (April 10) was marked by a Te Deum in Notre Dame cathedral.

Contents. In the brief preamble opening the concordat the French government admitted that Roman Catholicism was the religion of the majority of Frenchmen, and the pope expressed his expectation that the greatest good would follow the establishment of the Catholic cult in France and the particular profession that the consuls make. The 17 articles in the concordat treated the following subjects. The agreement permitted freedom of action for the Catholic religion and for public worship, but public worship must be conducted in conformity with such police regulations as the government might judge necessary for public tranquility (art. 1). New boundaries for dioceses (art. 2) and parishes (art. 9) were to be drawn in collaboration with the government. All titulars of French dioceses must resign. If they refused to do so, the pope was to replace them (art. 3). Bishops were to be nominated by the First Consul (art. 4) and then receive canonical institution from the pope (art. 5). Pastors were to be named by their bishops acting in accord with the government (art. 10). Each diocese was authorized to have a chapter and a seminary, but the government did not obligate itself to endow them (art. 11). A new regime of ecclesiastical properties was introduced whereby all churches that were not already alienated were placed at the disposal of the bishops (art. 12). The pope promised not to disturb those who had acquired alienated ecclesiastical goods (art. 13). The government, on its part, assured a suitable income to bishops and pastors (art. 14) and promised to take steps so that Catholics could endow ecclesiastical foundations but only in the form of government bonds (art. 16). The First Consul and the Republic were given the same rights and privileges as former governments but provision was made for a new agreement in case Napoleon should have a non-Catholic successor (art. 17). Bishops and priests were required to take an oath of obedience and loyalty to the government (art. 6). The prayer Domine salvam fac Rempublicam, salvos fac consules (O Lord, save the Republic and our consuls) was to be recited in all churches at the end of the Divine Office (art. 8).

Application. Agreements are worth as much as the application they receive. To facilitate and accelerate the concordat's application, Bonaparte asked that a papal legate a latere be sent to Paris and endowed with wide powers. The person he designated was Cardinal ca prara, whom he knew to be conciliating to the point of weakness. Napoleon created a minister of cults and confided the post to Jean Portalis, a legist imbued with gal licanism but very well disposed toward the Church. Bernier was appointed to act as the unofficial but shrewd liaison man between Caprara and Portalis.

The first problem to be resolved was that of the boundaries of dioceses, whose total number was reduced to 60. The solution was inspired mainly by political considerations in order to give more dioceses to the Vendée region and to the territories along the eastern and northern borders. All the constitutional bishops agreed to resign, but 45 of the 97 nonjuring bishops of the ancien régime refused to do so (see civil constitution of the cler gy). Opposition to this section of the concordat gave rise to the schismatic petite Église. Bonaparte selected the new hierarchy in accordance with his principle of amalgamation to avoid the appearance of favoring any party. As a result he nominated as bishops 16 who had been bishops during the ancien régime, 12 who had been constitutional bishops and 32 priests. The government sought men who were morally irreproachable, moderate and good administrators.

It was with considerable difficulty that Rome resigned itself to accepting former constitutional bishops. It demanded that before these prelates receive canonical institution they must subscribe to an act of submission to Roman decisions concerning French religious affairs, which was equivalent to a condemnation of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and to a retraction. As matters turned out the majority of the constitutional bishops refused to make the retractions that Bernier claimed to have obtained; it was not until 1805 that they received from the Holy See their confirmation; Pius VII was unable to obtain from the most tenacious among them formal disavowals previous to their consecration. Napoleon was so anxious for appeasement that he did not permit any further demands besides the acceptance of the concordat, arguing that this in itself implied the renunciation of the Civil Constitution. Motivated by the same principles of appeasement and amalgamation the government insisted that bishops reserve to constitutional priests some of the positions as canons, vicars-general, pastors and curates; it also forbade that jurors be obliged to make retractions. To the Holy See's great discontent Caprara gave way on this last point.

At Napoleon's urging Rome regularized the situation of the hundreds of secular priests who had contracted marriage during the Reign of Terror in order to escape persecution. By his brief to Spina, Etsi apostolici principatus (Aug. 15, 1801), Pius VII conferred the necessary powers to remove the censures incurred by these clerics and permitted the delegation of these powers to bishops and pastors. All priests who had married before Aug. 15, 1801, were laicized, but they could have their marital unions validated. The papal brief Inter plura illa mala (Oct. 27, 1802) regulated the status of religious of both sexes who had married before Aug. 15, 1801. In the case of talleyrand, the pope granted his wish to be laicized, but he refused to relieve the famous statesman, who was also bishop of Autun, of his vow of chastity or to authorize him to marry.

So slowly were seminaries organized that clerical recruitment was retarded. Bishops lacked priests and priests lacked resources. For a while curates (desservants ) had no assured income. Their status improved when the emperor provided an annual remuneration of 500 francs to 23,000 of them in 1804 and to 30,000 of them in 1807. The laws that prohibited religious congregations remained in force, except for those engaged in teaching and hospital work and some dedicated to the foreign missions.

Results. For the Church the concordat represented a mixed blessing. It involved huge financial sacrifices in its renunciation of all claims for the restitution of alienated ecclesiastical goods. Pius VII made another temporal sacrifice when he did not seek to obtain the restoration of the legations, the sections of the states of the church ceded by the Treaty of Tolentino. avignon and Venaissin remained in French possession. Great personal sacrifices were imposed by the clause requiring the resignation of the entire hierarchy. It was a sacrifice for the Church to concede to Napoleon the right of making episcopal nominations. The concordat did not recognize Catholicism as de jure the state religion but only as de facto the religion of most Frenchmen. The Organic Articles, soon joined to the concordat by Napoleon's unilateral action, still further diminished the value of the agreement.

On the other hand the disavowal of the Civil Constitution ended a dangerous schism. The papal right to institute and to depose bishops was officially admitted. The government issuing from the Revolution recognized the authority of the head of the Church. It was also a great advantage for the Church in France to regain legal existence, which enabled it to undertake a badly needed religious regeneration of the country. Religious unity was gradually attained.

The Concordat of 1801 served as a model for concordats concluded with about 30 other countries during the 19th century. It remained in force in France until 1905, because Rome repudiated the so-called concordat of fontainebleau (1813) and that which Louis XVIII tried to obtain in 1817 in order to abrogate the concordat of the usurper Napoleon. Successive French governments put into effect with more or less benevolence the provisions of the Concordat of 1801, as well as those of the Organic Articles. During the Restoration period (181530) Catholicism regained recognition as the state religion, but the July Monarchy (183048) reverted to the text of the Concordat of 1801, which spoke of Catholicism merely as the religion of the majority of Frenchmen. The Bourbons reestablished 30 former sees in 1823. Laval was created as a new diocese in 1854; sees were erected also in Algeria, Martinique and Carthage. The concordat was applied to Algeria in 1848 and to Nice and Savoy in 1860. The Third Republic proposed in 1878, 1902 and 1904 to abolish the concordat and finally did so by vote of the Chamber of Deputies (Dec. 6, 1905). In his encyclical Vehementer nos Pius X protested against this unilateral action and renewed the condemnations of Gregory XVI and Pius IX against separation of Church and State. The Concordat of 1801 is still in force in Alsace-Lorraine, which was annexed by Germany in 1871 and restored to France in 1918.

Bibliography: a. mercati, Raccolta di Concordati (Rome 1954) 1:561565 has the text of the concordat. Eng. tr. in f. mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, tr., n. thompson, v.7 (St. Louis 1955) 562564. a. boulay de la meurthe, Documents sur la négociation du Concordat et les autres rapports de la France avec le Saint Siège en 1800 et 1801, 6 v. (Paris 18911905); Histoire de la négociation du Concordat de 1801 (Tours 1920). a. theiner, Histoire des deux Concordats de la République française et de la République cisalpine, 2 v. (Paris 1869). i. rinieri, La diplomazia pontifica nel secolo XIX, 2 v. (Rome 1902), v.1; Concordato tra Pio VII e il primo console anno 18001802. f. d. mathieu, Le Concordat de 1801 (Paris 1903). c. constantin, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 3.1:744779. h. h. walsh, The Concordat of 1801 (New York 1933). r. naz, Dictionnaire de droit cannonique, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 3:140430. j. leflon, Étienne-Alexandre Bernier, évêque d'Orléans, 2 v. (Paris 1938); Monsieur Émery, 2 v. (Paris 194546), v.2; La Crise révolutionnaire, 17891846 [Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours, eds., a. fliche and v. martin, 20; 1949]. a. latreille, L'Église catholique et la révolution française, 2 v. (Paris 194650), v.2; et al., Histoire du catholicisme en France, v.3 (Paris 1962). s. delacroix, La Réorganisation de l'Église de France après la Rèvolution, 18011809 (Paris 1962), v.1. a. dansette, Religious History of Modern France, tr., j. dingle, 2 v. (New York 1961) v.1.

[j. leflon]

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