Tillemont, Louis Sébastien le Nain de
TILLEMONT, LOUIS SÉBASTIEN LE NAIN DE
Historian; b. Paris, Nov. 30, 1637; d. Tillemont, near Paris, Jan. 10, 1698. He was educated at port-royal under P. nicole and read classical authors, especially Livy, and the Annals of baronius. At 18, he began a scrupulous collection of literary and historical data concerning early Christianity to a.d. 513. Although a member of the Jansenist sect (see jansenism), Tillemont took no part in its controversies. Directed by M. de Sacy, he entered the seminary at Beauvais in 1661, and was ordained in 1676. After 1665 he helped G. Hermant in the composition of the lives of SS. Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Ambrose; and after 1669 he collaborated in Paris with others in the edition of patristic texts (Origen, Tertullian, Augustine). In 1667 he took up residence at Port-Royal, but the persecution of 1679 forced him to leave for Tillemont, where, except for a trip to Holland, he followed a regime of seclusion, studying Church history. A pious, usually retiring and humble
man, he never accepted ecclesiastical office and willingly allowed his own work to be published under others' names. At Tillemont, he spent leisure moments catechizing children and aiding the poor. His work is characterized by great thoroughness and exactness. The first volume of his Histoire des empereurs (6 v., 1690–1738), which was intended as an integral part of his great Church history, had to be published separately because a censor asked for changes in his "Histoire ecclésiastique." Other censors, however, approved the work as Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique des six premiers siècles (16 v., 1693–1712); volume five was in press at Tillemont's death and the remaining volumes appeared at subsequent intervals. He also compiled a compendious life of St. Louis, published in a pirated edition by Filleau de la Chaise (1688), and edited in its original form by J. de Gaulle (6 v., Paris 1847–51). Though limited by the contemporary state of historical studies and inadequate editions of the sources, as well as by his total neglect of archeological evidence, Tillemont's ecclesiastical history is still unsurpassed for its comprehensiveness and exactitude of detail. The Mémoires, delated to the Holy Office, were vindicated by Pope clement xi, and acknowledged by Edward Gibbon as the guide whose "inimitable exactitude" led him through the rocky paths of later Roman history with the sure-footed sagacity "of an Alpine mule."
Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 6.2:2624–38. g. bardy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables Générales 1951–) 15.1:1029–33.
[f. x. murphy]