BRICONNET, Guillaume

(c. 1472-1534)
Guillaume Briconnet was an influential Catholic reformer who through his Meaux Group created a uniquely French approach to the Reformation. Briconnet was the second of the five surviving children of Guillaume Briconnet; his family had a long tradition of service to the kings of France. The elder Briconnet was the counsellor of the French king Charles VIII. After his wife's death, he entered holy orders and received several ecclesiastical dignities, including the position of cardinal. The younger Briconnet received a humanist education and studied law.
Briconnet accepted the position of bishop of Lodeve in 1489 while still a student. He became the queen's chaplain in 1496 and a canon of Paris in 1503. He succeeded his father as the abbot of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and became bishop of Meaux in 1516. Briconnet held these and other offices concurrently. He also served the French king in various capacities. King Louis XII sent him to Rome in 1507 on a diplomatic mission. Briconnet later took part in the Council of Pisa (1511) and negotiated the Concordat of Bologna with Pope Leo X* on behalf of King Francois I* (1516-17).
Briconnet attempted to reform his diocese of Meaux. He made frequent vis­itations, encouraged devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary, and pro­moted a religous revival by means of sermons and tracts printed in the episcopal residence. Finding his priests lacking or absent, he divided his diocese into thirty-two preaching positions and encouraged scriptural preaching in the ver­nacular. After Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples's* French translation of the New Testament was published in 1523, Meaux became a center of religious reviv­alism in France that was protected by Francois I's sister Marguerite de Navarre.*
Briconnet created the Meaux Group, bringing noted humanists such as Le­fevre into his diocese for biblical studies and preaching. While Briconnet sought to combine humanism with biblical study in order to reform the church outside of his diocese, several members of the Meaux Group became attracted to Lu­theran theology and began to question the veneration of saints, purgatory, and prayers for the dead. Although Briconnet himself had condemned Lutheranism, he still had to appear twice before the Parlement of Paris on suspicion of heresy. During Francois I's captivity in Spain following the disastrous Battle of Pavia (1525), the Parisian Faculty of Theology and the Parlement of Paris joined forces and had the Meaux Group dispersed.
Through the Meaux Group, Briconnet created a French approach to the Ref­ormation. Briconnet wanted the French church to be reformed but argued that such a reform needed to be conducted at the episcopal level.
J. Farge, Orthodoxy and Reform in Early Reformation France, 1985.
M. Veissiere, L'eveque Guillaume Briconnet (1470-1534), 1986.
Andrew G. Traver

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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