Fleury, Claude

views updated


Church historian, educator, and jurist; b. Paris, Dec. 6, 1640; d. Paris, July 14, 1723. The son of a lawyer from Normandy, he was educated in the Jesuit College of Clermont, studied law, was called to the bar at 18 years of age, and practiced law in Paris for about ten years. During this period he read assiduously in civil and Canon Law, history, literature, and archeology. He became a friend and protegé of Bossuet, whom he met in the salon of Guillaume de Lamoignon, first president of the parliament of Paris. He was introduced to and accepted by the intellectual celebrities of FranceBossuet, Louis bourdaloue, Boileau-Despréaux, etc. At this time he wrote l'Histoire du droit francais and l'Institution au droit ecclesiastique, both published in Paris some years later, the first in 1674 and the second in 1677. Meantime, in 1669, he was ordained and through Bossuet was introduced into the French court, where he held positions most of his remaining years. In 1672 he became tutor to the Princes of Conti, whom Louis XIV wished educated with the Dauphin. When this task was completed in 1680, he became tutor to the legitimized son of Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière. When the young Count died in 1684, the King named Fleury abbot of Loc-Dieu in the Diocese of Rodez. Until 1689 he assisted Bossuet in the administration of his diocese. Then through fÉnelon he was recalled to court to be tutor of the grandsons of Louis XIV, the young dukes of Burgundy, of Anjou, and of Berry. For 16 years he held this position. In recognition of his services he was made prior of Notre-Dame d'Argenteuil in 1706. A quiet and holy man, averse to disputes, he held aloof from the Jansenist difficulties of Port-Royal. In the controversy between Bossuet and Fénelon over quietism, he retained the friendship of both. He was a member of the French Academy, succeeding Jean de La Bruyère in 1691. He wrote a number of educational works that connect him with the ideas of Port-Royal and of the Oratory, such as Traité du choix et de la méthode des études (Paris 1686), which was translated into Spanish, German, and Italian and reprinted eight times in Paris. His Les Moeurs des Israélites (Paris 1681) anticipated the approach of Voltaire in dealing with the manners and customs of nations and was followed by his Les moeurs des chrétiens (Paris 1681) and the Catéchisme historique (Paris 1683). Fleury's most important work was the monumental Histoire ecclésiastique (20 v. Paris 16901720), from Christian origins to 1414. This clearly evidenced Fleury's Gallican tendencies, and was considered a standard reference throughout the 18th century. Even more obviously Gallican was his Discours sur les libertés de l'Église gallicane (Paris 1724), written in 1690 but published posthumously.

Bibliography: f. gaquÉre, La Vie et les oeuvres de C. Fleury (Paris 1925). c. constantin, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 6.1:2124. a. dodin, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 5:412419. j. calvet, Catholicisme 4:134344.

[m. m. barry]