Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

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Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Bishop of Meaux
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet 1.PNG
Portrait of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet by Hyacinthe Rigaud
Church Roman Catholic Church
Diocese Meaux
See Cathedral of Saint Stephen
Installed17 November 1681
Term ended12 April 1704
PredecessorDominique de Ligny
Successor Henri-Pons de Thiard de Bissy
Personal details
Born(1627-09-27)27 September 1627
Dijon, France
Died12 April 1704(1704-04-12) (aged 76)
Paris, France
OccupationBishop, writer, tutor
Alma mater College of Navarre, Paris

Jacques-Bénigne Lignel Bossuet (French:  [bɔsɥɛ] ; 27 September 1627 – 12 April 1704) was a French bishop and theologian, renowned for his sermons and other addresses. He has been considered by many to be one of the most brilliant orators of all time and a masterly French stylist.

Kingdom of France kingdom in Western Europe from 843 to 1791

The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.

Theology Study of the nature of deities and religious belief

Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also especially with epistemology, and asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.

Sermon oration by a member of the clergy

A sermon is an oration or lecture by a preacher. Sermons address a scriptural, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of the sermon often include exposition, exhortation, and practical application. The act of delivering a sermon is known as preaching.


Court preacher to Louis XIV of France, Bossuet was a strong advocate of political absolutism and the divine right of kings. He argued that government was divine and that kings received their power from God. He was also an important courtier and politician.

Louis XIV of France King of France and Navarra, from 1643 to 1715

Louis XIV, known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who reigned as King of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history. In the age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV's France was a leader in the growing centralisation of power.

Divine right of kings political and religious doctrine of the legitimacy of monarchs

The divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandate is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm. It implies that only God can judge an unjust king and that any attempt to depose, dethrone or restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacrilegious act. It is often expressed in the phrase "by the Grace of God", attached to the titles of a reigning monarch.

God in Christianity is the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe God to be both transcendent and immanent. Christian teachings of the immanence and involvement of God and his love for humanity exclude the belief that God is of the same substance as the created universe but accept that God's divine nature was hypostatically united to human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, in an event known as the Incarnation.

The works best known to English speakers are three great orations delivered at the funerals of Queen Henrietta Maria, widow of Charles I of England (1669), her daughter, Henriette, Duchess of Orléans (1670), and the outstanding soldier le Grand Condé (1687).

Henrietta Maria of France queen consort of England, Scotland, and Ireland as the wife of King Charles I

Henrietta Maria of France was queen consort of England, Scotland, and Ireland as the wife of King Charles I. She was mother of his two immediate successors, Charles II and James II and VII.

Charles I of England 17th-century monarch of kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Charles I was the monarch over the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649.

Louis, Grand Condé Prince of the Condé branch of the House of Bourbon, French general and famous military leader

Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé was a French general and the most famous representative of the Condé branch of the House of Bourbon. Prior to his father's death in 1646, he was styled the Duc d'Enghien. For his military prowess he was known as le Grand Condé.

His work Discours sur l'histoire universelle (or Discourse on Universal History) (1681) is regarded by many Catholics as an actualization or second edition of the City of God of St. Augustine of Hippo.

Speech of Universal History or Discours sur l'histoire universelle in original French (1681) is a work of theology and philosophy from French Roman Catholic bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. It is regarded by many Catholics as a continuation or actualization of St. Augustine of Hippo’s the City of God. It proposes, much like the City of God, a metaphysical appreciation of universal history as an actual war between God and the Devil.


Early years

Bossuet was born at Dijon. He came from a family of prosperous Burgundian lawyers – on both his paternal and maternal side, his ancestors had held legal posts for at least a century. He was the fifth son born to Beneigne Bossuet, a judge of the parlement (a provincial high court) at Dijon, and Marguerite Mouchet. His parents decided on a career in the church for their fifth son, so he was tonsured at age 10.

Dijon Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Dijon is a city in eastern France, capital of the Côte-d'Or département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region.

Parlement Ancien Régime justice court

A parlement, in the Ancien Régime of France, was a provincial appellate court. In 1789, France had 13 parlements, the most important of which was the Parlement of Paris. While the English word parliament derives from this French term, parlements were not legislative bodies. They consisted of a dozen or more appellate judges, or about 1,100 judges nationwide. They were the court of final appeal of the judicial system, and typically wielded much power over a wide range of subject matter, particularly taxation. Laws and edicts issued by the Crown were not official in their respective jurisdictions until the parlements gave their assent by publishing them. The members were aristocrats called nobles of the gown who had bought or inherited their offices, and were independent of the King.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

The boy was sent to school at the Collège des Godrans, a classical school run by the Jesuits of Dijon. When his father was appointed to the parlement at Metz, Bossuet was left in Dijon under the care of his uncle Claude Bossuet d'Aiseray, a renowned scholar. At the Collège des Godrans, he gained a reputation for hard work: fellow students nicknamed him Bos suetus aratro, an "ox broken in to the plough". His father's influence at Metz allowed him to obtain for the young Bossuet a canonicate in the cathedral of Metz when the boy was just 13 years old.

Classical education movement

The classical education movement advocates a form of education based in the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages. The curriculum and pedagogy of classical education was first developed during the Middle Ages by Martianus Capella and systematized during the Renaissance by Petrus Ramus. Capella's original goal was to provide a systematic, memorable framework to teach all human knowledge. The term "classical education" has been used in Western culture for several centuries, with each era modifying the definition and adding its own selection of topics. By the end of the 18th century, in addition to the trivium and quadrivium of the Middle Ages, the definition of a classical education embraced study of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art, and languages.

Metz Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Metz is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. Metz is the prefecture of the Moselle department and the seat of the parliament of the Grand Est region. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, the city forms a central place of the European Greater Region and the SaarLorLux euroregion.

Metz Cathedral cathedral located in Moselle, in France

Cathedral of Saint Stephen of Metz, also known as Metz Cathedral, is a historic Roman Catholic cathedral in Metz, capital of Lorraine, France. Saint-Étienne de Metz is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metz and the seat of the Bishop of Metz, currently Pierre Raffin. The cathedral treasury exhibits the millennium rich collection of the Bishopric of Metz, including paraments and items used for the Eucharist.

St. Etienne's Cathedral in Metz, where Bossuet was made a canon at age 13 in 1640 Portail-ouest-cathedrale-metz.jpg
St. Etienne's Cathedral in Metz, where Bossuet was made a canon at age 13 in 1640

In 1642, Bossuet enrolled in the Collège de Navarre in Paris to finish his classical studies and to begin the study of philosophy and theology. His mentor at Navarre was the college's president, Nicolas Cornet, the theologian whose denunciation of Antoine Arnauld at the Sorbonne in 1649 was a major episode in the Jansenist controversy.

For the time being, however, Cornet and Arnaud were still on good terms. In 1643, Arnaud introduced Bossuet to the Hôtel de Rambouillet, a great centre of aristocratic culture and the original home of the Précieuses . Bossuet was already showing signs of the oratorical brilliance which served him so well throughout his life. On one celebrated occasion at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, during a dispute about extempore preaching, the 16-year-old Bossuet was called on to deliver an impromptu sermon at 11 pm. Voiture famously quipped: "I never heard anybody preach so early nor so late".

Early clerical career

Bossuet became a Master of Arts in 1643. He held his first thesis (tentativa) in theology on 25 January 1648, in the presence of the Prince de Condé. Later in 1648, he became a sub-deacon at Metz. He became a deacon in 1649. During this period, he preached his first sermons.

He held his second thesis (sorbonica) on November 9, 1650. Then, in preparation for the priesthood, he spent the next two years in retirement under the spiritual direction of Vincent de Paul.

Priest at Metz

In January 1652, Bossuet re-entered public life, being named Archdeacon of Sarrebourg. He was ordained a priest on 18 March 1652. A few weeks later, he defended his brilliant doctoral work and became a Doctor of Divinity.

He spent the next seven years at Metz, where his father's influence had got him a canonry at age 13 and where he now also had the office of archdeacon. He was plunged at once into the thick of controversy; for nearly half of Metz was Protestant, and Bossuet's first appearance in print was a refutation of the Huguenot pastor Paul Ferry (1655), and he frequently engaged in religious controversies with Protestants (and, less regularly, with Jews) during his time at Metz. To reconcile the Protestants with the Roman Catholic Church became the great object of his dreams; and for this purpose, he began to train himself carefully for the pulpit, an all-important centre of influence in a land where political assemblies were unknown and novels and newspapers scarcely born. His youthful imagination was unbridled, and his ideas ran easily into a kind of paradoxical subtlety, redolent of the divinity school. [1] Nevertheless, his time at Metz was an important time for developing his pulpit oratory and for allowing him to continue his studies of Scripture and the Fathers. He also gained political experience through his participation in the local Assembly of the Three Orders.[ citation needed ]

In 1657, in Metz, Bossuet preached before Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. As a result, he received the honorific title of "Counselor and Preacher to the King".

Early career in Paris

In 1657, St. Vincent de Paul convinced Bossuet to move to Paris and give himself entirely to preaching. [1] (He did not entirely sever his connections with the cathedral of Metz, though: he continued to hold his benefice, and in 1664, when his widower father was ordained as a priest and became a canon at the cathedral at Metz, Bossuet was named the dean of the cathedral.)[ citation needed ]

Bossuet quickly gained a reputation as a great preacher, and by 1660, he was preaching regularly before the court in the Chapel Royal. In 1662, he preached his famous sermon "On the Duties of Kings" to Louis XIV at the Louvre.[ citation needed ]

In Paris, the congregations had no mercy on purely clerical logic or clerical taste; if a preacher wished to catch their ear, he had to manage to address them in terms they would agree to consider sensible and well bred. Having very stern ideas of the dignity of a priest, Bossuet refused to descend to the usual devices for arousing popular interest. [1]

The narrative element in Bossuet's sermons grew shorter with each year. He never drew satirical pictures like his great rival Louis Bourdaloue. He would not write out his discourses in full, much less learn them off by heart: of the two hundred printed in his works, all but a fraction are rough drafts. Ladies such as Mme de Sévigné forsook him when Bourdaloue dawned on the Paris horizon in 1669, though Fénelon and La Bruyère, two much sounder critics, refused to follow their example. [1]

Bossuet possessed the full equipment of the orator, voice, language, flexibility and strength. He never needed to strain for effect; his genius struck out at a single blow the thought, the feeling and the word. What he said of Martin Luther applies peculiarly to himself: he could fling his fury into theses and thus unite the dry light of argument with the fire and heat of passion. These qualities reached their highest point in the Oraisons funèbres (Funeral Orations). [1]

Bossuet was always best when at work on a large canvas; besides, here no conscientious scruples intervened to prevent him giving much time and thought to the artistic side of his subject. The Oraison, as its name betokened, stood midway between the sermon proper and what would nowadays be called a biographical sketch. At least that was what Bossuet made it; for on this field, he stood not merely first, but alone. [1]

One hundred and thirty-seven of Bossuet's sermons preached in the period from 1659 to 1669 are extant, and it is estimated that he preached more than a hundred more that have since been lost.[ citation needed ] Apart from state occasions, Bossuet seldom appeared in a Paris pulpit after 1669. [1]

Tutor to the Dauphin, 1670–1681

A favourite of the court, in 1669, Bossuet was gazetted bishop of Condom in Gascony, without being obliged to reside there. He was consecrated as a bishop on September 21, 1670, but he resigned the bishopric when he was elected to the Académie française in 1671.[ citation needed ]

The Grand Dauphin (1661-1711), only surviving legitimate son of Louis XIV (1638-1715). Bossuet served as his tutor 1670-1681. Portrait Louis de France.jpg
The Grand Dauphin (1661–1711), only surviving legitimate son of Louis XIV (1638–1715). Bossuet served as his tutor 1670–1681.

On 18 September 1670 he was appointed tutor to the nine-year-old Dauphin, oldest child of Louis XIV. The choice was scarcely fortunate. Bossuet unbent as far as he could, but his genius was by no means fitted to enter into the feelings of a child; and the dauphin was a cross, ungainly, sullen lad. Probably no one was happier than the tutor when his charge turned sixteen and was married off to a Bavarian princess. Still, the nine years at court were by no means wasted.[ citation needed ]

Bossuet's tutorial functions involved composing all the necessary books of instruction, including not just handwriting samples, but also manuals of philosophy, history, and religion fit for a future king of France.[ citation needed ] Among the books written by Bossuet during this period are three classics. First came the Traité de la connaissance de Dieu et de soi-même ("Treatise on the Knowledge of God and of One's Self") (1677), then the Discours sur l'histoire universelle ("Speech of Universal History") (1679, published 1682), and lastly the Politique tirée de l'Écriture Sainte ("Politics Drawn from Holy Scripture") (1679, published 1709). The three books fit into each other. The Traité is a general sketch of the nature of God and the nature of man. The Discours is a history of God's dealings with humanity in the past. [2] The Politique is a code of rights and duties drawn up in the light thrown by those dealings. Bossuet's conclusions are only drawn from Holy Scripture because he wished to gain the highest possible sanction for the institutions of his country and to hallow the France of Louis XIV by proving its astonishing likeness to the Israel of Solomon. Then, too, the veil of Holy Scripture enabled him to speak out more boldly than court etiquette would have otherwise allowed, to remind the son of Louis XIV that kings have duties as well as rights. [1]

The Grand Dauphin had often forgotten these duties, but his son, the Petit Dauphin, would bear them in mind. The tutor's imagination looked forward to a time when France would blossom into Utopia, with a Christian philosopher on the throne. That is what made him so stalwart a champion of authority in all its forms: "le roi, Jesus-Christ et l'Eglise, Dieu en ces trois noms" ("the king, Jesus Christ, and the Church, God in His three names"), he says in a characteristic letter. The object of his books is to provide authority with a rational basis. Bossuet's worship of authority by no means killed his confidence in reason; what it did was make him doubt the honesty of those who reasoned otherwise than himself. [1]

The whole chain of argument seemed to him so clear and simple. Philosophy proves that God exists and that He shapes and governs the course of human affairs. History shows that this governance is, for the most part, indirect, exercised through certain venerable corporations, as well civil and ecclesiastical, all of which demand implicit obedience as the immediate representatives of God. Thus all revolt, whether civil or religious, is a direct defiance of the Almighty. [1]

Oliver Cromwell becomes a moral monster, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes was the greatest achievement of the second Constantine. The France of his youth had known the misery of divided counsels and civil war; the France of his manhood, brought together under an absolute sovereign, had suddenly shot up into a splendour only comparable with ancient Rome. Why not, then, strain every nerve to hold innovation at bay and prolong that splendour for all time? Bossuet's own Discours sur l'histoire universelle might have furnished an answer, for there the fall of many empires is detailed; but then the Discours was composed under a single preoccupation. [1]

To Bossuet, the establishment of Christianity was the one point of real importance in the whole history of the world. He totally ignores the history of Islam and Asia; on Greece and Rome, he only touched insofar as they formed part of the Praeparatio Evangelica. Yet his Discours is far more than a theological pamphlet. While Pascal might refer the rise and fall of empires to Providence or chance or a little grain of sand in the English lord protectors' veins, Bossuet held fast to his principle that God works through secondary causes. It is His will that every great change should have its roots in the ages that went before it. Bossuet, accordingly, made a heroic attempt to grapple with origins and causes, and in this way, his book deserves its place as one of the very first of philosophic histories. [1]

Bishop of Meaux, 1681–1704

Bishop Bossuet Jacques-benigne bossuet.jpg
Bishop Bossuet

With the period of the Dauphin's formal education ending in 1681, Bossuet was appointed Bishop of Meaux by the King on 2 May 1681, which was approved by Pope Innocent XI on 17 November. [3] But before he could take possession of his see, he was drawn into a violent quarrel between Louis XIV and Pope Innocent XI. Here he found himself in a quandary: to support the Pope meant supporting the Jesuits; and he hated their supposed casuistry and dévotion aisée almost as much as Pascal; to oppose the Pope was to play into the hands of Louis XIV, who was eager to subject the Church to the will of the State. Bossuet therefore attempted to steer a middle course. In 1682, before the general Assembly of the French Clergy, he preached a great sermon on the unity of the Church and made it a magnificent plea for compromise. As Louis XIV insisted on his clergy making an anti-papal declaration, Bossuet got leave to draw it up and made it as moderate as he could, and when the Pope declared it null and void, he set to work on a gigantic Defensio Cleri Gallicani, only published after his death. [1] Throughout this controversy, unlike the court bishops, Bossuet constantly resided in his diocese and took an active interest in its administration.[ citation needed ]

Efforts to Combat Protestantism

The Gallican storm a little abated, he turned back to a project very near his heart. Ever since the early days at Metz, he had been busy with schemes for uniting the Huguenots to the Catholic Church. In 1668, he converted Turenne; in 1670, he published an Exposition de la foi catholique ("Exposition of the Catholic Faith"), so moderate in tone that adversaries were driven to accuse him of having fraudulently watered down the Catholic dogmas to suit Protestant taste. [4]

Finally, in 1688, his great Histoire des variations des Églises protestantes ("History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches"), perhaps the most brilliant of all his works, appeared. Few writers could have made the Justification controversy interesting or even intelligible. His argument is simple enough. Without rules, an organized society cannot hold together, and rules require an authorized interpreter. The Protestant churches had thrown over this interpreter; and Bossuet had small trouble in showing that, the longer they lived, the more they varied on increasingly important points. [4]

For the moment, the Protestants were pulverized; but before long, they began to ask whether variation was necessarily so great an evil. Between 1691 and 1701, Bossuet corresponded with Leibniz with a view to reunion, but negotiations broke down precisely at this point. Leibniz thought his countrymen might accept individual Roman doctrines, but he flatly refused to guarantee that they would necessarily believe tomorrow what they believe today. We prefer, he said, a church eternally variable and for ever moving forwards. [4]

Next, Protestant writers began to accumulate some alleged proofs of Rome's own variations; and here, they were backed up by Richard Simon, a priest of the Paris Oratory and the father of biblical criticism in France. He accused St Augustine, Bossuet's own special master, of having corrupted the primitive doctrine of grace. [4]

Bossuet set to work on a Defense de la tradition, but Simon calmly went on to raise issues graver still. Under a veil of politely ironic circumlocutions, such as did not deceive the Bishop of Meaux, he claimed his right to interpret the Bible like any other book. Bossuet denounced him again and again; Simon told his friends he would wait until the old fellow was no more. Another Oratorian proved more dangerous still. Simon had endangered miracles by applying to them lay rules of evidence, but Malebranche abrogated miracles altogether. It was blasphemous, he argued, to suppose that the Author of nature would violate the law He had Himself established. Bossuet might scribble nova, mira, falsa in the margins of his book and urge Fénelon to attack them; Malebranche politely met his threats by saying that to be refuted by such a pen would do him too much honor. These repeated checks soured Bossuet's temper. [4]

In his earlier controversies, he had borne himself with great magnanimity, and the Huguenot ministers he refuted had found him a kindly advocate at court. His approval of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes stopped far short of approving dragonnades within his Diocese of Meaux, but now his patience was waning. A dissertation by one Father Caffaro, an obscure Italian monk, became his excuse for writing certain, violent Maximes sur la comédie (1694), wherein he made an attack on the memory of Molière, dead more than twenty years. [4]

Controversy with Fénelon

Fenelon (1651-1715), Bossuet's final rival Fenelon.jpg
Fénelon (1651–1715), Bossuet's final rival

Three years later, he was battling with Bishop François Fénelon over the love of God. [4] Fénelon, 24 years his junior, was an old pupil who had suddenly become a rival; like Bossuet, Fénelon was a bishop who served as a royal tutor.[ citation needed ]

The controversy concerned their different reactions to the opinions of Jeanne Guyon: her ideas were similar to the Quietism of Molinos, which was condemned by Pope Innocent XI in 1687. When Mme de Maintenon began questioning the orthodoxy of Mme Guyon's opinions, an ecclesiastical commission of three members, including Bossuet, was appointed to report on the matter. The commission issued 34 articles known as the Articles d'Issy , which condemned Mme Guyon's ideas very briefly and provided a short treatise on the orthodox, Catholic conception of prayer. Fénelon, who had been attracted to Mme Guyon's ideas, signed off on the Articles, and Mme Guyon submitted to the judgment.[ citation needed ]

Bossuet now composed Instructions sur les états d'oraison, a work that explained the Articles d'Issy in greater depth. Fénelon refused to endorse this treatise, however, and instead composed his own explanation as to the meaning of the Articles d'Issy, his Explication des Maximes des Saints. He explained his view that the goal of human life should be to have love of God as its perfect object, with neither fear of punishment nor desire for the reward of eternal life having anything to do with this pure love of God. King Louis XIV reproached Bossuet for failing to warn him that his grandsons' tutor had such unorthodox opinions and instructed Bossuet and other bishops to respond to the Maximes des Saints.[ citation needed ]

Bossuet and Fénelon thus spent the years 1697–1699 battling each other in pamphlets and letters until the Inquisition finally condemned the Maximes des Saints on 12 March 1699. Pope Innocent XII selected 23 specific passages for condemnation. Bossuet triumphed in the controversy and Fénelon submitted to Rome's determination of the matter.[ citation needed ]

Bossuet in 1702 Jacques-Benigne Bossuet 3.jpg
Bossuet in 1702


Until he was over 70 years, Bossuet enjoyed good health, but in 1702 he developed chronic kidney stones.[ citation needed ] Two years later he was a hopeless invalid, and on 12 April 1704 he died quietly. [4] His funeral oration was given by Charles de la Rue, SJ. He was buried at Meaux Cathedral.[ citation needed ]


Bossuet is widely considered to be one of the most influential homilists of all time. [5] [6] [7] He is one of the preachers, along with John Tillotson and Louis Bourdaloue, who began the transition from Baroque to Neoclassical preaching. [8] [6] He preached with a simple eloquence that eschewed the grandiose extravagances of earlier preaching. He focused on ethical rather than doctrinal messages, often drawing from the lives of saints or saintly contemporaries as examples. He preached, for example, on St. Francis de Sales as well as funeral orations on Queen Henrietta Maria of France and Henrietta Anne of England. Bossuet's funeral orations in particular had lasting importance and were translated early into many languages, including English. [9] Such was their power that even Voltaire, normally so antagonistic toward clergy, praised his oratorical excellence. [10]


19th-century statue of Bossuet in Meaux Cathedral Bossuet Cathedrale de Meaux 140708 2.jpg
19th-century statue of Bossuet in Meaux Cathedral
20th-century statue of Bossuet, sculpted by Ernest Henri Dubois, on display in Meaux Cathedral Grand monument de Bossuet Meaux 40808 01.jpg
20th-century statue of Bossuet, sculpted by Ernest Henri Dubois, on display in Meaux Cathedral

An edition of Bossuet's sermons was edited by Abbé Lebarq in 6 vols. (Paris, 1890, 1896), as the Œuvres oratoires de Bossuet. His complete works were edited by Lachat in 31 vols. (Paris, 1862–1864).

Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture

When Bossuet was chosen to be the tutor of the Dauphin, oldest child of Louis XIV, he wrote several works for the edification of his pupil, one of which was Politics Derived from the Words of Holy Scripture, a discourse on the principles of royal absolutism. The work was published posthumously in 1709.

The work consists of several books which are divided into articles and propositions which lay out the nature, characteristics, duties, and resources of royalty. To justify his propositions, Bossuet quotes liberally from the Bible and various psalms.

Throughout his essay, Bossuet emphasizes the fact that royal authority comes directly from God and that the person of the king is sacred. In the third book, Bossuet asserts that "God establishes kings as his ministers, and reigns through them over the people." He also states that "the prince must be obeyed on principle, as a matter of religion and of conscience." While he declares the absolute authority of rulers, he emphasizes the fact that kings must use their power only for the public good and that the king is not above the law "for if he sins, he destroys the laws by his example."

In books six and seven, Bossuet describes the duties of the subjects to the prince and the special duties of royalty. For Bossuet, the prince was synonymous with the state, which is why, according to him, the subjects of the prince owe the prince the same duties that they owe their country. He also states that "only public enemies make a separation between the interest of the prince and the interest of the state." As far as the duties of royalty, the primary goal is the preservation of the state. Bossuet describes three ways that this can be achieved: by maintaining a good constitution, making good use of the state's resources, and protecting the state from the dangers and difficulties that threaten it.

In books nine and ten, Bossuet outlines the various resources of royalty (arms, wealth, and counsel) and how they should be used. In regards to arms, Bossuet explains that there are just and unjust grounds for war. Unjust causes include ambitious conquest, pillage, and jealousy. As far as wealth is concerned, he then lays out the types of expenditures that a king has and the various sources of wealth for the kingdom. He emphasizes that the true wealth of a kingdom is its men and says that it is important to improve the people's lot and that there would be no more poor. [11]


Oeuvres, 1852 Bossuet - 1, 1852 - 2527943 F.jpg
Oeuvres, 1852

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) calls Bossuet the greatest pulpit orator of all time, ranking him even ahead of Augustine and Chrysostom.

The exterior of Harvard's Sanders Theater includes busts of the eight greatest orators of all time – they include a bust of Bossuet alongside such giants of oratory as Demosthenes, Cicero, and Chrysostom.

A character in Les Misérables , being from Meaux and an orator, is nicknamed Bossuet by his friends.

Bossuet was one of several co-editors on the Delphin Classics collection.

Bossuet was the uncle of Louis Bossuet.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Northcote 1911, p. 288.
  2. Because of his work on Biblical chronology, Bossuet has been described as one of the last great practicians of a biblically inspired view of history. Cited by Berthoud in his paper on Heinrich Bullinger, (Berthoud, Jean-Marc, Heinrich Bullinger and the Reformation. A comprehensive faith (PDF), www.elib.org.uk).
  3. Ritzler & Sefrin 1952, p. 263.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Northcote 1911, p. 289.
  5. New Advent.
  6. 1 2 Jacoebee 1982, pp. 227–242.
  7. Edwards, Jr., p. 11.
  8. Worcester, p. 134.
  9. Worcester , p. 152
  10. Voltaire 1957 , pp. 10005–1006 cited in Worcester , p. 151.
  11. Bossuet 1987, pp. 31–47.

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François Fénelon Catholic bishop

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon, was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer. He today is remembered mostly as the author of The Adventures of Telemachus, first published in 1699.

Jean Baptiste Massillon French Catholic bishop and famous preacher

Jean-Baptiste Massillon, Cong. Orat., was a French Catholic bishop and famous preacher, who served as Bishop of Clermont from 1717 until his death.

Esprit Fléchier Catholic bishop

Esprit Fléchier was a French preacher and author, Bishop of Nîmes from 1687 to 1710.

Louis Bourdaloue French serman writer

Louis Bourdaloue was a French Jesuit and preacher.

Louis, Grand Dauphin eldest son and heir of Louis XIV, King of France

Louis of France was the eldest son and heir of Louis XIV, King of France, and his spouse, Maria Theresa of Spain. As the heir apparent to the French throne, he was styled Dauphin. He became known as Le Grand Dauphin after the birth of his own son, Le Petit Dauphin. As he died before his father, he never became king. His grandson became Louis XV of France.

Jeanne Guyon French mystic

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon was a French mystic and was accused of advocating Quietism, although she never called herself a Quietist. Quietism was considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, and she was imprisoned from 1695 to 1703 after publishing the book A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer.

Jean Claude French protestant divine

Jean Claude was a French Protestant divine.

Charles Cotin French Abbe, philosopher and poet

Charles Cotin or Abbé Cotin was a French abbé, philosopher and poet. He was made a member of the Académie française on 7 January 1655.

Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture

Politique tirée des propres paroles de l'Écriture sainte is a work of political theory prepared by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet as part of his duties as tutor for Louis XIV's heir apparent, Louis, le Grand Dauphin. It is one of the purest expressions of the branch of political absolutism which historians have labeled "Divine Right Absolute Monarchy."

Charles de La Rue, known in Latin as Carolus Ruaeus, was one of the great orators of the Society of Jesus in France in the seventeenth century

Jean Pierre de Caussade was a French Jesuit priest and writer. He is especially known for the work ascribed to him, Abandonment to Divine Providence, and also his work with the Nuns of the Visitation in Nancy, France.

Paul Godet des Marais (1647–1709) was a French Bishop of Chartres.

Jacques-Charles de Brisacier was a French orator and ecclesiastical writer.

Edme Mongin French orator and bishop of Bazas

Edme Mongin was a French preacher and bishop of Bazas. He was born in Baroville and died, aged about 78, in Paris. He was the son of Etienne Mongin and Anne Bailly.

Michel Poncet de La Rivière French bishop

Michel Poncet de la Rivière was a French clergyman, preacher and, from 1706 to 1730, the 79th bishop of Angers. He was the son of Vincent-Matthias Ponchet de la Riviere, the Lord Lieutenant of Alsace, and his wife, Marie Betauld; the nephew of Michel Poncet de la Rivière, the 61st Bishop of Uzès (1677–1728); the uncle of Mathias Poncet de la Rivière, the 90th Bishop of Troyes (1742–1758); and the cousin of Joseph Poncet de la Rivière, the Jesuit missionary of Canada.

Louis Bossuet was a French parlementaire.

Jean Dubourdieu (1642?–1720) was a French Protestant minister.

Musée Bossuet art museum in Meaux, France

The Musée Bossuet is the art and history museum of the town of Meaux, France. Situated in the old episcopal palace, it takes its name from the famous orator and theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux from 1681 to 1704.

Ernest Henri Dubois, was a French sculptor. He enrolled in 1881 at the École des Arts décoratiif and then attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he studied under Alexandre Falguière, Henri Chapu and Jules Chaplain. It was his award of the commission to carry out the sculptural work on the tomb of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet in Meaux Cathedral that gave his career a boost and saw him awarded a Medal of Honour and subsequently he became a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur.

Simon-Jérôme Bourlet, abbé de Vauxcelles was an 18th-century French priest and journalist during the French Revolution.