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Maury, Jean Siffrein


Cardinal, orator, politico-ecclesiastical figure; b. Valréas in the Comtat-Venaissin, France, June 26, 1746;d. Rome, May 11, 1817. He was the son of a poor cobbler. He was ordained (1770) after studies in Avignon and Paris. Maury, vigorous in temperament and plebeian in manners, was noted for remarkable natural eloquence and restless ambition. In Paris from 1766 to 1791, he won renown as a preacher, delivering the Lenten sermons at Versailles before the king and court (1781). His often reprinted Essai sur l'Éloquence de la Chaire (1777) gained him fame as an author and membership in the French Academy (1785).

When the Estates-General met in 1789, he attended as elected deputy for the clergy of Péronne. He revealed himself a determined champion of the "aristocrats" and defended the cause of the privileged classes of nobles and clergy resolutely and passionately. Especially did he oppose the nationalization of ecclesiastical properties and the civil constitution of the clergy. With his sonorous voice, his witticisms, and skill in repartee, he did not fear to contest Mirabeau himself. When necessary, he addressed the public in the rostrum and in the streets.

Tempted occasionally to flee the Paris populace, he resisted courageously, being one of the last deputies of the Right to leave his post. Not until November 1791 did he join the émigrés, traveling to Belgium, Germany, and finally to Rome, where he was received as a hero. Pius VI showered on him marks of esteem, appointing him (1792) titular archbishop of Nicaea and nuncio extraordinary to Frankfurt, where he animated the zeal of Emperor Francis II for a crusade against the french revolution. In 1794 the pope made him bishop of Montefiascone in the States of the Church, and cardinal. King Louis XVIII also utilized him as his representative to the Holy See. Despite this accumulation of honors, he continued to be regarded by both adversaries and partisans as the Abbé Maury, the typical man of plebeian stock, reactionary by conviction, and indefectible as advocate of the union of throne and altar.

Maury returned to Rome after attending the conclave (1800) that elected Pius VII, but suffered from the minor role allotted him and from the prolongation of his exile. When he concluded that the Napoleonic Empire was solidly established and intended to act as protector of religion in the West, he arranged a return to Paris and offered his support to the regime. So clever was he as a courtier, even after the quarrel of napoleon i with the pope, so determined was he to accept all roles that finally the emperor, who scarcely esteemed him, granted him provisorily the administration of the Archdiocese of Paris, which fesch had turned down. At this point Pius VII sent to the Chapter of Paris a very severe reprobation of Maury and others who dared to promote the emperor's designs on the Church.

The fall of Napoleon definitely ruined Maury's career. He went to Rome, where he was imprisoned for six months and removed from control of his diocese. He passed his last few years in obscurity in the Roman monastery of San Silvestro.

Bibliography: j. s. maury, Correspondance diplomatique et mémoires inédits du Cardinal Maury, ed. a. ricard (Paris 1891). a. g. bonet-maury, Le Cardinal Maury d'après ses mémoires et sa correspondance inédits, 17461817 (Paris 1892). No satisfactory critical study exists.

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