The Last Sentinels of Gallicanism
: The Evolution of La Petite Église from Episcopal Protest to Lay Church

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


The Petite Église is a grouping of communities of French Catholics which emerged from the context of Gallicanism, Jansenism and Revolution in opposition to the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and the Catholic Church. This opposition was first characterised as a protest of the bishops of the ancien régime to the demand of Pius VII that they resign their sees. To this day that opposition is incarnated in the communities of the Petite Église. These communities however exist without clergy and have developed their own religious and social customs and identity in adapting to their circumstances. The question at the heart of this study is of how a primarily episcopal protest transformed into this present lay community. Examination of the roles of the bishops, priests and laity in the formation of these communities allows us to see the multifaceted influences which engendered their existence, whether continued or purely historical. By examination of the conduct and writings of the anti-concordatist bishops we seek to demonstrate that the continuation of their protest, transformed into a community deprived of clergy, was instigated, and in some cases even willed, by them. The response of the laity to this loss of clergy reveals a remarkable and often painful loyalty to the bishops and to the principles of the Gallican Church of which they see themselves not only as the heirs, but the defenders.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorFernando Cervantes (Supervisor) & Will Pooley (Supervisor)

Cite this