Historian of the early Church, hagiographer, archeologist, and prelate; b. Saint-Servan, France, Sept. 13, 1843; d. Rome, April 21, 1922. Duchesne made his theological studies in Rome, where he developed a keen interest in Christian archeology and the history of the early Church under the direction of G. B. de rossi. Ordained in 1867, he taught at the École S.-Charles de S.-Brieuc (1867–71) and then turned to higher studies at the École des Carmes and the École des Hautes Études in Paris (1871–73). Appointed a member of the École archéologique française de Rome, he was charged with scholarly missions and research in Epirus, Thessaly, Mt. athos, and Asia Minor (1874–76), and accepted the chair of Church history at the Institut catholique of paris (1877–85). Criticism raised against his lectures on the development of pre-Nicene doctrine and the foundation of the ancient Church in France occasioned his resignation, and he was given a chair at the Ecole supérieur des lettres (1885–95). From 1895 to his death, he served as director of the École archéologique française de Rome. In 1900 Pope leo xiii made Duchesne a prothonotary apostolic, and in 1910 he replaced Cardinal Mathieu as a member of the French Academy.
Duchesne's first publication was concerned with the 5th-century apologist macarius magnes; then followed a study of the liber pontificalis. Possessed of a sharp critical sense, and capable of indefatigable research, combined with lucid and at times ironic exposition, Duchesne frequently provoked violent reaction by his intolerance of pious fraud in history, particularly in regard to claims of apostolic foundations of the Church in France. During the crisis over Modernism, his three-volume Histoire ancienne de l'Église chrétienne (Paris 1906–10) was put on the Index despite the fact that it had received an imprimatur before publication. It was translated into English as the Early History of the Church (3 v. London 1905–24), and has undergone six reprintings, serving as a standard introduction to the complex problems of the first five centuries of the Church's development. A fourth volume, L'Église au VIième siècle, though incomplete, was edited by H. Quentin (Paris 1925). Though many of Duchesne's opinions have to be modified in the light of new documents and research, his fundamental judgments, based on deep and solid investigation, have proved invaluable.
Duchesne edited the Liber pontificalis with a commentary (2 v. Paris 1886–92; 2d ed., C. Vogel, 1955–57); and with G. B. de Rossi he edited the martyrology of st. jerome (Martyrologium Hieronymianum ) for the Acta Sanctorum, Nov. (1894) 2.1. He produced the Les Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule (3 v. Paris 1894–1915), the "Liber Censuum" de l'Église romaine (Paris 1905), Les premiers temps de l'État pontifical 757–1073 (Paris 1898), the Autonomies ecclésiastiques: Église séparées (Paris 1905), and Les origines du culte chrétien (Paris 1889; Eng. ed., London 1903), all based on numerous studies of papal and early Church history and archeology that resulted from his discoveries of MSS and other unused sources. A conscientious historian and a sincere churchman, he suffered unflinchingly under the suspicions of the anti-Modernists, but continued his invaluable contributions to the study of the Church's origins and early development in all its phases.
Bibliography: j. colin, Mgr. Duchesne (Rome 1922). f. cabrol, "Mgr. L. D.: Son oeuvre historique," Journal of Theological Studies 24 (1922–23) 253–281, bibliog. e. dupont, Mgr. Duchesne, chez lui, en Bretagne (Rennes 1928). h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgi, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou (Paris 1907–53) 6.2:2680–2735. g. bardy, Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947–) 3:1144–46. c. vogel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 3:593. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 425.
[f. x. murphy]
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