The Diocese of Saint-Claude comprised in the eighteenth century only twenty-six parishes, subject previously to the Abbey of Saint-Claude, and some parishes detached from the Dioceses of Besançon and Lyons. By the Concordat of 1802, the territory of this diocese was included in that of Besançon. Later the Concordat of 1817 re-erected the Diocese of Saint-Claude giving it as territory the Department of Jura, and making it suffragan to Lyons. The Abbey of Saint-Claude, the cradle of the diocese, was one of the most distinguished in the Christian world. Between 425 and 430 the hermits of Saints Romanus and Saint Lupic withdrew into the desert Condat, where Saint-Claude now stands, and there founded the monastery of Condat: other monks were; attracted to them, the land was cleared, and three new monasteries were founded: those of Lauconne, on the site of the present village of Saint Lupicin; La Balme, where Yole, the sister of Sts. Romanus and Lupicinus, assembled her nuns; and Romainmoutier, in the present Canton of Vaud. After the death of St. Romeanus (d. about 460), St. Lupicinus (d. about 480), St. Mimausus, St. Oyent (d. about 510), St Antidiolus, St. Olympus, St. Sapiens, St. Thalasius, St. Dagamond, St. Auderic, and St. Injuriosus were abbots of Condat, which was distinguished also by the virtues of the holy monks, St. Sabinian, St. Palladius, and St. Valentine (fifth century), St. Justus, St. Hymetierus, and St. Point (sixth century). The rule which was followed at the beginning in the monastery of Condat was drawn up between 510 and 515 and adopted by the great monastery of Agaune; later the rule of St. Benedict was introduced at Condat. Flourishing schools arose at once around Condat and from them came St. Romanus, Archbishop of Reims, and St. Viventiolus, Archbishop of Lyons. In the early years of the sixth century the peasants who gathered around the monastery of Condat created the town which was to be known later by the name of Saint-Claude.
The Life of St. Claudius, Abbot of Condat, has been the subject of much controversy. Dom Benott says that he lived in the seventh century; that he had been Bishop of Besançon before being abbot, that he was fifty-five years an abbot, and died in 694. He left Condat in a very flourishing state to his successors, among whom were a certain number of saints: St. Rusticus, St. Aufredus, St. Hipplytus (d. after 776), St Vulfredus, St. Bertrand, St. Ribert, all belonging to the eighth century. Carloman, uncle of Charlemagne, went to Condat to become a religious; St Martin, a monk of Condat was martyred by the Saracens probably in the time of Charlemagne. this Emperor was a benefactor of the Abbey of Condat; but the two diplomas of Charlemagne, formerly in possession of the monks of Saint-Claude, and now preserved in the Jura archives, dealing with the temporal interests of the abbey, have been found by M. Poupardin to be forgeries, fabricated without doubt in the eleventh century. A monk of Condat, Venerable Manon, after having enriched the abbey library with precious manuscripts was, about 874, appointed by Charles the Bald, head of the Palace school where he had among his pupils, St. Radbod, Bishop of Utrecht. Two abbots of Condat, St. Remy (d. 875) and St. Aurelian (d. 895), filled the archiepiscopal See of Lyons. In the eleventh century the renown of Abbey of Condat was increased by St. Stephen of Beze (d. 1116) by St. Simon of Crepy (b. about 1048), a descendant of Charlemagne; this saint was brought up by Mathilda, wife of William the Conqueror, was made Count of Valois and Vexin, fought against Philip I, King of France, and then became a monk of Condat. He afterwards founded the monastery of Monthe, went to the court of William the Conqueror to bring about reconciliation with his son, Robert, and died in 1080.
The body of St. Claudius, which had been concealed at the time of the Saracen invasions, was discovered in 1160, visited in 1172 by St. Peter of Tarentaise, and solemnly carried all through Burgundy before being brought back to Condat. The abbey and the town, theretofore known as Oyent, were thenceforeward called by the name of Saint-Claude. Among those who made a pilgrimage to Saint-Claude were Philip the bold, Duke of burgundy, in 1369, 1376, and 1382, Philip the Good in 1422, 1442, and 1443, Charles the Rash in 1461, Louis XI in 1456 and 1482, blessed Amadeus IX, Duke of Savoy, in 1471. In 1500 Anne of Brittany, wife of Louis XII, went there in thanksgiving for the birth of her daughter Claudia. The territory of Saint-Claude forme a veritable state; it was a member of the Holy Empire, but it was not a fief, and was independent of the Countship of Burgundy. In 1291, Rudolph of Hapsburg named the dauphin, Humbert de Viennois, his vicar, and entrusted him with the defense of the monastery of Saint-Claude. In the course of time, the Abbey of Saint-Claude became a kind of Chapter, to enter which it was necessary to give proof of four degrees of nobility The system of “commendam” proved injurious to the religious life of the abbey. Among the commendatory abbots of Saint-Claude were Pierre de la Baume (1510-44) during whose administration Geneva fell away from the faith; Don Juan of Austria, natural son of Philip IV (1645-79), and Cardinal d’Estrées (1681-1714). The Abbey of Saint-Claude and the lands depending on it became French territory in 1674, on the conquest of La Franche-Comté. At that the inhabitants of La Franche-Comté took him as their second regional patron, and associated him everywhere with St. Andrew, the first patron of the Burgundians. Benedict XIII prepared and Benedict XIV published a Bull on 22 January, 1742, decreeing the secularization of the abbey and the erection of the episcopal See of Saint-Claude. The bishop, who bore the title of count, inherited all the seignorial rights of the abbot. Moreover, the bishop and the canons continued to hold the dependents of the old abbey as subject to the mortmain, which meant that these men were incapable of disposing of their property. The lawyer, Christian, in 1770, waged a very vigorous campaign in favour of six communes that protested against the mortmain, and disputed the claims of the canons of Saint-Claude to the property rights of their lands. Voltaire intervened to help the communes. The Parliament of Besançon, in 1775, confirmed the rights of the Chapter; but the agitation excited by the philosophers apropos of those subject to the mortmain of Saint-Claude, was one of the signs of the approaching French Revolution. In March, 1794, the body of St. Claudius was burnt by order of the revolutionary authorities.
Dole, where Frederick Barbarossa constructed in the twelfth century an immense castle in which he sojourned from time to time, but which has now disappeared, and where Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, established in 1422 a parliament and a university — transferred in 1691 to Besançon by Louis XIV — deserves mention in religious history. The Jesuits opened at Dole, in the sixteenth century, a celebrated establishment known as the Collège de l’Arc, the most important in France after the Collège de la Flèche. Anne de Sainctonge (1567-1621) founded there an important branch of the Ursulines, which left its mark in the history of primary education in France. The celebrated chemist, Pasteur (1822-95), was a native of Dole. Among the saints connected with the history of the diocese are: St. Anatolius, Bishop of Adana, in Cilicia, who died a hermit near Salins in the diocese (fifth century); St. Lautenus (477-547), founder of the monastery bearing his name; St. Bernond, who established the Benedictine abbey of Gigny and rebuilt in 926 the Benedictine abbey of Baume-les-Moines (ninth-tenth century); St. Colette of Corbie (1381-1447), foundress of the Poor Clare convent at Poligny in which town her relics are preserved; her friend Blessed Louise of Savoy (1462-1503), niece of Louis XI, King of France, and daughter of Blessed Amadeus IX of Savoy, wife of Hugue de Chalon, Lord of Nozeroy, then a Poor Clare in the monastery of Orbe founded by St. Colette; her relics were transferred to Nozeroy, and afterwards to Turin; Blessed John of Ghent, surnamed the hermit of Saint-Claude, celebrated in the fifteenth century for his prophecies in 1421 and 1422 to Charles VII and Henry V, King of England, relative to the deliverance of France and the birth of a dauphin; St. Francis de Sales; Ste Jane de Chantal, whose important interview at Saint-Claude in 1604 determined the foundation of the Visitation order; Venerable Frances Monet, in religion Françoise de Saint-Joseph (1589-1669); Carmelite nun at Avignon and miracle worker, born at Bonas in the diocese; Blessed Pierre François Néron, martyr, a native of the diocese (nineteenth century).
The principal pilgrimages in the Diocese of Saint-Claude are: the Church of St-Pierre at Baume-les-Moines, where numerous relics are preserved; Notre-Dame-de-Mont-Roland, end of the eleventh century; Notre-Dame-Miraculeuse, at Bletterans, 1490; Notre-Dame-de-la-Balme at Epy, sixteenth century; Notre-Dame-Libératrice, at Salins, 1639; Notre-Dame-de-Mièges, 1699; Notre-Dame-de-l’Ermitage, at Arbois, seventeenth century; Notre-Dame-du-Chêne, at Cousance, 1774. Before the application of the Law of 1901 against the congregations there were in the Diocese of Saint-Claude, Jesuits, and various teaching orders of brothers; the Trappists still remain there. Among the congregations of nuns which were first founded in the diocese are: the Soeurs du Saint-Esprit, teachers and hospitallers, with their mother-house at Poligny, and the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, teachers and hospitallers, with their mother-house at Lons-le-Saunier. At the close of the nineteenth century the religious congregations directed in the diocese 39 days nurseries, 2 asylums for invalids, 6 boys’ orphanages, 1 home for the poor, 1 asylum for Magdalenes, 14 hospitals or hospices, 3 dispensaries, 23 houses of nuns devoted to nursing the sick in their own homes, 1 house of retreat, 2 hospices for incurables, and 1, asylum for the insane. At the end of the Concordat period (1905) the Diocese of Saint-Claude contained 261,288 inhabitants, 34 parishes, 356 sucursal parishes, 24 vicariates, towards the support of which the State contributed.