Monday, October 8, 2012

Sun, Oct 7, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Charterhouse, Genesis 2:18-24, Mark 10:1-16, St. Artaldus, Roman Catholic Diocese of Belley-Ars

Sunday, October 7, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: 
Charterhouse, Genesis 2:18-24, Mark 10:1-16, St. Artaldus, Roman Catholic Diocese of Belley-Ars

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  charterhouse  char·ter·house [chahr-ter-hous]

Origin:  1400–50; late Middle English  < Anglo-French chartrouse  (taken as charter  + house), after Chatrousse,  village in Dauphiné near which the order was founded; see Carthusian,  whence the first r  of the AF word.

noun, plural Char·ter·hous·es
1. a Carthusian monastery.
2. the hospital and charitable institution founded in London, in 1611, on the site of a Carthusian monastery.
3. the public school into which this hospital was converted.
4. the modern heir of this school, now located in Surrey.


Today's Old Testament Reading - Genesis 2:18-24

18 Yahweh God said, 'It is not right that the man should be alone. I shall make him a helper.'
19 So from the soil Yahweh God fashioned all the wild animals and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it.
20 The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild animals. But no helper suitable for the man was found for him.
21 Then, Yahweh God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And, while he was asleep, he took one of his ribs and closed the flesh up again forthwith.
22 Yahweh God fashioned the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man.
23 And the man said: This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! She is to be called Woman, because she was taken from Man.
24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.


Today's Gospel Reading - Mark 10:1-16

Concerning divorce and children
Equality of wife and husband
Mark 10:1-16

1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.

Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

2. Reading
a) A key to the reading:

In the text of today’s liturgy, Jesus gives advice concerning the relationship between wife and husband and between mothers and children. In those days, many people were excluded and marginalized. For instance, in the relationship between husband and wife, male domination prevailed. The wife could not take part, did not have equal rights with the husband. In their relationship with the children, the “little” ones, there was a “scandal” that was the cause of the loss of faith in many of them (Mark 9:42). In the relationship between husband and wife, Jesus commanded the greatest equality. In the relationship between mothers and children, he commanded the greatest warmth and tenderness.

b) A division of the text as an aid to reading:

Mark 10:1: Geographical information;
Mark 10:2: The Pharisees’ question concerning divorce;
Mark 10:3-9: Discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning divorce;
Mark 10:10-12: Conversation between Jesus and the disciples concerning divorce;
Mark 10:13-16: Jesus commands warmth and tenderness between mothers and children.

c) The Gospel: Mark 10:1-16

1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." 5 But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 7 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one.' So they are no longer two but one. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."  10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."  13 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

3. A moment of prayerful silence so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

4. Some questions to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What was the point that you liked best and which most drew your attention?
b) How does the wife’s position appear in the text?
c) How did Jesus wish the relationship between husband and wife to be?
d) What concerned the mothers who brought their children to Jesus?
e) What was Jesus’ reaction?
f) What practical teaching can we draw from the children?

5. A key to the reading for those who wish to go deeper into the theme.

a) Comment
Mark 10:1: Geographical information
The author of Mark’s Gospel makes a habit of placing detailed events or brief geographical information within the narrative. For those who listened to a long narrative without a book in hand, such geographical information helped the understanding of the reading. These are like reference points that maintain the continuity of the narrative. Frequently in Mark, we find information such as “Jesus was teaching” (Mark 1:22.39; 2:2.13; 4:1; 6:2.6:34).

Mark 10:1-2: The Pharisees’ question concerning divorce
The question is crafty. It puts Jesus to the test: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” This shows that Jesus held a different opinion contrary to that of the Pharisees of whom this question was never asked. They do not ask whether it is lawful for the wife to divorce her husband. This never crossed their minds. This is a clear sign of strong male domination and of marginalisation of the wife in the social life of the times.

Mark 10:3-9: Jesus’ reply: a man cannot divorce his wife
Instead of replying, Jesus asks: “What did Moses command you?” The Law allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to put the wife away (Dt 24:1). This permission shows the domination of the male. The husband could divorce his wife but the wife did not have the same right. Jesus explains that Moses acted thus because of the hardness of heart of the people, however, God’s intention was different when he created human beings. Jesus goes back to the Creator’s intention (Gn 21:27 e Gn 2:24) and he denies the husband the right to divorce his wife. He establishes on earth the right of the husband towards his wife and orders the greatest equality.

Mark 10:10-12: Equality between husband and wife
When they go home, the disciples ask him again concerning this matter of divorce. Jesus draws conclusions and reaffirms equality of rights and duties between husband and wife. Matthew’s Gospel (cf. Mt 19:10-12) gives an explanation of a question put by the disciples concerning this theme. They say: “If this is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry”. They prefer not to get married rather than get married without the privilege of dominating the wife. Jesus goes deeper into the matter. He presents three cases when a person may not get married: (1) impotence, (2) castration and (3) for the sake of the Kingdom. However, not getting married because one does not wish to lose dominion on the wife, is inadmissible in the new Law of love! Both marriage and celibacy have to be at the service of the Kingdom and not at the service of selfish interests. Neither can be reason for keeping male domination of the husband over the wife. Jesus presents a new type of relation between the two. It is not lawful in marriage for a man to dominate the wife or vice versa.

Mark 10:13: The disciples prevent the mothers to draw near with their children
Some people brought their children so that Jesus may caress them. The disciples tried to prevent this. Why would they want to prevent this? The text does not tell us. According to ritual customs of the time, small children with their mothers, lived in an almost permanent state of legal impurity. Jesus would become impure if he touched them. Probably the disciples prevent Jesus from touching them so as not to become impure.

Mark 10:14-16: Jesus reprehends the disciples and welcomes the children
Jesus’ reaction teaches the opposite: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them!” He embraces the children, welcomes them and places his hand over them. When it a question of welcoming someone and promoting fraternity, Jesus is not worried about the laws of purity, he is not afraid of transgressing. His gesture teaches us: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it!” What does this sentence mean? 1) A child receives everything from his father. He does not merit that which he receives, as long as he lives in this gratuitous love. 2) Fathers receive children as gifts from God and treat them with care. Fathers are not concerned with holding dominion over their children, but with loving them and educating them so as to fulfil themselves!

b) Added information for a better understanding of the text

Jesus welcomes and defends the life of the little ones
On several occasions, Jesus insists on the welcome due to little ones, to children. “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward (Matthew 10:42). He asked that no one despise the little ones (Matthew 18:10). At the last judgement the just will be welcomed for having given food “to one of the least of these brothers of mine” (Matthew 25:40).

In the Gospels the expression “little ones” (in Greek elachistoi, mikroi or nepioi). Sometimes means “children”, sometimes those excluded from society. It is not easy to differentiate. Sometimes that which is “little” is the “child” and no one else. The child belongs to a category of “little”, of excluded. Having said this, it is not easy to discern that which originates from the time of Jesus and that which originates from the communities when the Gospels were written. Taking this into consideration, we can arrive at the context of exclusion that flourished at that time and the picture that existed of Jesus in the first communities: Jesus takes the side of the little ones, of the excluded, and takes on their defense. It is impressive when we look at all that Jesus did in defence of the life of children, of the little ones.

To welcome and not to scandalize. This is one of Jesus’ hardest words against those who give scandal to little ones, that is, those who are the reason for them not to believe in God. For these, it would be better if a millstone were hung around their necks and that they throw themselves to the bottom of the sea (Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2; Matthew 18:6).

To welcome and to touch. The mothers with their children in their arms drew near to Jesus to ask for a blessing. The apostles told them to go elsewhere. To touch means to contract impurity. Jesus is not troubled as they are. He corrects the disciples and welcomes the mothers and their children. He touches them and embraces them. “Let the little children alone and let them come to me; do not stop them!” (Mark 10:13-16; Matthew 19: 13-15).

To identify oneself with the little ones. Jesus identifies with the children. Whoever welcomes a child, “welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

To become a child once more. Jesus asks that the disciples become children again and accept the kingdom like a child. Failing that, it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:15; Matthew 18:3; Luke 9:46-48). Let the child be the teacher of the adult This was not usual. We are used to the opposite.

To defend the right of those who cry. When Jesus entered the temple and upset the tables of the money changers, it was the children who cried. “Hosanna to the son of David” (Matthew 21:15). Jesus was criticized by the chief priests and the scribes, but he defended them and in their defense he quotes Scripture (Mt 21:16).

To be thankful for the Kingdom present in children. Great is Jesus’ joy when he hears that children, the little ones, have understood the things of the Kingdom proclaimed to the peoples. “ I thank you Father!” (Mt 11:25-26) Jesus recognizes that the little ones understand better the things of the Kingdom than the doctors.

To welcome and to care for. Many are the children He welcomes, cares for or resurrects: the twelve year old daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:41-42), the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:29-30), the son of the widow of Naim (Lk 7:14-15) the young epileptic (Mk 9:25-26), the son of the Centurion (Lk 7:9-10), the son of the public administrator (Jn 4:50), the young lad with five loaves and two fishes (Jn 6:9).

The context of our text in Mark’s Gospel

Our text (Mk 10:1-16) is part of a long instruction given by Jesus to his disciples (Mk 8:27 to 10:45). At the beginning of this instruction, Mark places the healing of the anonymous blind man of Bethsaida in Galilee (Mk 8:22-26); at the end, the healing of the blind Bartimaeus of Jerico in Judea (Mk 10:46-52). The two healings are symbolical of that which will take place between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples too were blind since “they had eyes that do not see” (Mk 8:18). They had to regain their sight; they had to let go of ideology that prevented them from seeing clearly; they had to accept Jesus as He was and not as they wanted him to be. This long instruction aims at curing the blindness of the disciples. It is like a brief guide, a kind of catechism, using Jesus’ own words. 

The following sequence shows the scheme of the instruction:   The healing of a blind man 8:22-26
1st proclamation 8:27-38
Teaching the disciples concerning the Servant Messiah 9:1-29
2nd proclamation 9:30-37
Teaching the disciples concerning conversion 9:38 to 10:31
3rd proclamation 10:32-45
Healing of Bartimaeus the blind man 10:46-52

As we can see, the teaching consists of three proclamations of the Passion Mk 8:27-38; 9:30-37; 10:32-45. Between the first and second proclamation we have a series of teachings to help us understand that Jesus is the Servant Messiah (Mk 9:1-29). Between the second and third proclamations we have a series of teachings that clarify the kind of conversions required at various levels of life in order to accept Jesus as the Servant Messiah (Mk 9:38 to 10:31). The background of the teachings is the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. From the beginning to the end of this long instruction, Mark says that Jesus is on a journey to Jerusalem (Mk 8:27; 9:30.33; 10:1.17.32), where he will meet the cross.

Each of the three proclamations concerning the Passion is accompanied by gestures and words of incomprehension on the part of the disciples (Mk 8:32; 9:32-34; 10:32-37), and by directives from Jesus, which comment on the lack of comprehension of the disciples and teaches them how they must behave (Mk 8:34-38; 9:35-37; 10:35-45). A full understanding of Jesus’ teaching is not achieved only through theoretical instruction, without any practical compromise, walking with him on the journey of Service, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Those who wish to uphold Peter’s idea, that of a glorious Messiah without the cross (Mk 8:32-33), they will understand nothing, much less will they have the authentic attitude of willing disciples. They will go on being blind, seeing people as trees (Mk 8:24). Without the cross it is not possible to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow Jesus. The journey of the teaching is a journey of surrender, of abandonment, of service, of availability and acceptance of the conflict, knowing that there will be a resurrection. The cross is not a casual incident, up to a certain point on the journey. It is an organised world coming from selfishness. Only love and service can be crucified! Whoever makes of his life a service for others, inconveniences those who snatch the privileges, and suffers.

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


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Saint of the Day:  St. Artaldus

Feast Day:  October 7
Patron Saint: n/a

St Artaldus
Artaldus, also known as Arthaud, was a 13th century Carthusian Bishop of Belley. Artaldus (also called Arthaud) was born in the castle of Sothonod in Savoy. At the age of eighteen, he went to the court of Duke Amadeus III, but a year or two after, he became a Carthusian at Portes. 

After many years, being a priest and an experienced and holy religious, he was sent by the prior of the Grande Chartreuse to found a charterhouse near his home, in a valley in the Valromey significantly called "the cemetery". Here Artaldus established himself with six of his brethren from Portes. The community was no sooner well settled down, than there buildings were destroyed by fire, and St. Artaldus had to begin all over again. He chose a fresh site on the Arvieres River, and his second foundation was soon built and occupied. But a Carthusian cell could not contain the ever-increasing reputation of Artaldus: like his master St. Bruno, he was consulted by the Pope, and when he was well over eighty, he was called from his monastery to be bishop of Belley, in spite of his vehement and reasonable protest. 

However, after less than two years of episcopate, his resignation was accepted, and he thankfully returned to Arvieres, where he lived in peace for the rest of his days. During his last years, he was visited by St. Hugh of Lincoln, who had come into France, and who, while he was prior of the charterhouse of Witham, had induced Henry II to become a benefactor of Arvieres. The Magna vita of St. Hugh records a gentle rebuke administered by Hugh when Artaldus asked him for political news in the presence of the community who had turned their backs upon the world to give themselves entirely to God. The cultus of St. Artaldus, called simply Blessed by the Carthusians, was confirmed for the diocese of Belley in 1834. He was 105 years old when he died and his feast day is October 7th.

Early life

Born in the castle of Sothonod in Savoy, in 1101. Much of his childhood is not known but at the age of eighteen, Artaldus entered the court of Duke Amadeus III, but after a year or so he left to become a priest.

Early religious life

Artaldus entered the Carthusian house of Portes Charterhouse in modern day Bénonces. There he was ordained a priest. He spent many years serving as a priest before being sent by the prior of the Grande Chartreuse to found a charterhouse near a valley in the Valromey, a place that was known as "the cemetery". Artaldus decided to take with him six fellow priests from the Portes Charterhouse to establish this new community. The community had to move when the newly built charterhouse buildings were ravaged by fire. Artaldus chose a fresh site on the Arvières River, and the Arvières Charterhouse was founded and dedicated to Our Lady, in 1132.

Appointment as Bishop of Belley

In the years spent at Arvière, Artaldus gained considerable fame and a great reputation, like that of St. Bruno, his master. Similar to St. Bruno, Artaldus was called from his monastery, to accept the role as a Bishop. This was at the See of Belley. Artaldus, who was over eighty when called to the post, less than two years later he resigned and returned to Arvières.

Later Life and Death

In his later years Artaldus was visited by St. Hugh of Lincoln, who had had convinced King Henry II of England to become a benefactor of the charterhouse at Arvières. Artaldus who live the remainder of his days at Arvières, living until the age of 105, he died in 1206. His cultus was confirmed in 1834, by Pope Gregory XVI.


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    Today Snippet:  Roman Catholic Diocese of Belley-Ars

    Belley Cathderal
    The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belley-Ars, is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in France. Erected in the 5th century the diocese was renamed in 1988 from the former Diocese of Belley (Bellicium), to the Diocese of Belley-Ars. Coextensive with the civil department of Ain, in the Region of Rhône-Alpes, the diocese is a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Lyon. The seat of the bishop is at Belley Cathedral. The current bishop is Guy Claude Bagnard, appointed in 1987.

    Although suppressed at the time of the Napoleonic Concordat (1801), the Diocese of Belley was re-established in 1822 and took from the Archdiocese of Lyon the arrondissements of Belley, Bourg, Nantua and Trévoux, and from the Archdiocese of Chambéry the Arrondissement of Gex.

    Local tradition maintains that Belley was evangelized in the 2nd century by the martyrs Marcellus and Valerian, companions of St. Pothinus. The first bishop of historic certainty is Vincentius, mentioned in 552. Others who occupied the see were St. Hippolytus, Abbot of Condat (8th century); St. Anthelm (1163–78), seventh General of the Carthusian Order; St. Arthaud (1179–90), founder of the Carthusians at Arvières; Camus (1609–29), a noted preacher and romancist; and Monseigneur François M. Richard (1872–75), later Cardinal Archbishop of Paris.

    Belley honours, in a special manner, St. Amandus, Bishop of Maastricht, who founded the Benedictine Abbey of Nantua about 660; Saint-Vulbas, a patrician of Bourgogne and a war companion of King Dagobert I; Saint Rambert, killed by order of Ebroin in the 7th century, whose name has been given to Saint-Rambert-en-Bugey, a city in the diocese; Saint Trivier, the solitary, who died about 650; Saint Barnard of Vienne (9th century), who founded the great Benedictine Abbey of Ambronay (destroyed during the French Revolution) and died the Archbishop of Vienna; St. Lambert (12th century), founder of the Cistercian Abbey at Chézery; St. Roland, Abbot of Chézery during the 12th century; Saint Stephen of Châtillon, who founded the Carthusian monastery at Portes in 1115, and died Bishop of Die; Saint Stephen of Bourg, who founded the Carthusian monastery at Meyria in 1116; and Saint Jean-Baptiste Vianney (1786–1859), parish priest at Ars.

    The Diocese of Belley which, in the Middle Ages, had no less than eight Carthusian monasteries, was the birthplace of the Joséphistes, a religious congregation founded by Jacques Crétenet (1606–67), a layman and surgeon who became a priest after the death of his wife; of the teaching order of the Sisters of St. Charles, founded by Charles Demia of Bourg (1636–89); and of three teaching orders founded in the first half of the 19th century: the Brothers of the Society of the Cross of Jesus; the Brothers of the Holy Family of Belley, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Bourg. In 1858 a Trappist monastery was established in the deprived Dombes district.

    Cardinal Louis Aleman (1390–1450) and Sister Rosalie (1787–1856), noted in the history of modern Parisian charities, were both native of the Diocese of Belley. Saint Pierre-Louis-Marie Chanel was born at Cuet near Bourg. For thirty years of its existence (1701–31), "Journal de Trévoux", a valuable repertory of the literary and religious history of the period, was published by the Jesuits at Trévoux (now a suburb of Lyon), in the diocese. The church at Brou, near Bourg, was built under the direction of Margaret of Austria, widow of Philibert II the Fair, Duke of Savoy.

    Belley Cathedral

    Belley Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Jean de Belley) is a Roman Catholic cathedral, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and a national monument of France, located in the town of Belley, Ain.

    It contains organs by Cavaillé-Coll. Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (French:  4 February 1811 – 13 October 1899), was a French organ builder. He has the reputation of the most distinguished organ builder of the 19th century. He pioneered innovations in the art and science of organ building that permeated throughout the profession and influenced the course of organ building through the early twentieth century. The organ reform movement sought to return organ building to a more Baroque style, but in the last few decades of the twentieth century Cavaillé-Coll's designs came back into fashion. After Cavaillé-Coll's death, Charles Mutin maintained the business into the 20th century. Cavaillé-Coll was the author of many scientific journal articles and books on the organ in which he published the results of his researches and experiments. He was the inventor of several organ sounds/ranks/stops such as the flûte harmonique. A documentary film about his life and work will be filmed in 2011 and released in 2012.


    Belley (Arpitan Bèlê) is a commune in the Ain department in eastern France.

    Belley is of Roman origin, and in the 5th century became an episcopal see. It was the capital of the province of Bugey, which was a dependency of Savoy till 1601, when it was ceded to France. In 1385 the town was almost entirely destroyed by an act of incendiarism, but was subsequently rebuilt by the dukes of Savoy, who surrounded it with ramparts of which little is left. Belley was the birthplace of the epicure Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

    Ecclesiastical history

    Belley was the seat of the Bishop of Belley and the location of Belley Cathedral. Belley is the home region of St. Peter Chanel, the famous 19th C. Marist missionary matryr and proto-martyr of Oceania.


    The town is famed for its cheese, la Tome de Belley, also known as Chevret or still "Le pave d'Affinois". It is also at the centre of the Bugey wine region. It is also home to a sizeable Volvo production unit producing compact excavators, Comatel and Ciat.


    Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas lived in Belley. French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was born and lived in Belley and served as its mayor for some time.


    Ain (French pronunciation: [ɛ̃]; Arpitan: En) is a department named after the Ain River on the eastern edge of France. Being part of the region Rhône-Alpes and bordered by the rivers Saône and Rhône, the department of Ain enjoys a privileged geographic situation. It has an excellent transport network (TGV, highways) and benefits from the proximity to the international airports of Lyon and Geneva.

    Ain is composed of four geographically different areas (Bresse, Dombes, Bugey and Pays de Gex) which – each with its own characteristics – contribute to the diversity and the dynamic economic development of the department. In the Bresse agriculture and agro-industry are dominated by the cultivation of cereals, cattle breeding, milk and cheese production as well as poultry farming. In the Dombes, pisciculture assumes greater importance as does viticulture in the Bugey. The high diversification of the department's industry is accompanied by a strong presence of the plastics sector in and around Oyonnax (so-called "Plastics Valley").

    Due to its industrial character and a close-meshed tissue of small and medium enterprises, Ain ranks among the departments with the fastest growing economy in the country. Its unemployment rate lies far beneath the national and regional average. Besides the export-oriented SME's, several large enterprises with a leading position on national and international markets have settled in the department.

    Although looking ahead, Ain attaches nevertheless great importance to its historical and cultural heritage as illustrate its gastronomy(restaurant of Georges Blanc in Vonnas), its annual poultry competitions in the Bresse ("the three glorious") and its tourism (346 classified monuments such as the famous church of Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse, 14 museums of France, eco-tourism and ski tourism).

    Geography and transport networks

    Ain is a department of geographic contrasts: In the north the plain of Bresse is bordered by the river Saône and rises slightly towards the north-east. In the south-east the territory of the Dombes has more than a thousand ponds and lakes. In the east the mountain chain of the southern Jura overlooks the plain of Bresse. The busy transport axes to Italy and Switzerland crisscross the valleys. The Gex region is separated from the rest of the department by the last eastern mountain chain of the Jura where the highest elevation in the department, the Crêt de la Neige (1720 m), can be found. Gex belongs geographically to the Lake Geneva basin.

    The river Saône represents the western border of the department. It is fed by three smaller rivers: the Reyssouze (76 km), the Veyle (68 km) and the Chalaronne (52 km). The river Rhône represents the departments border in the east and the south. Its main tributaries are the Seran (50 km) and notably the river Ain (190 km) which is fed itself by 118 small rivers and creeks.


    Rhône-Alpes (French pronunciation: [ron.alp] ( listen); Arpitan: Rôno-Arpes; Occitan: Ròse-Aups) is one of the 27 regions of France, located on the eastern border of the country, towards the south. The region was named after the Rhône River and the Alps mountain range. Its capital, Lyon, is the second-largest metropolitan area in France after Paris. Rhône-Alpes has the sixth-largest economy of any European region.

    Rhône-Alpes is located in the east of France. To the north are the French regions of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Franche-Comté, to the west it borders the region Auvergne, to the south it borders Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The east of the region contains the westernmost part of the Alps and borders Switzerland and Italy. The highest peak is Mont Blanc, on the French-Italian border. The central part of the region comprises the river valleys of the Rhône and the Saône. The confluence of these two rivers is at Lyon. The western part of the region contains the start of the Massif Central mountain range. The region also borders or contains major lakes such as Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) and Lake Annecy. The Ardèche River flows through the southwest portion of the region, where it has carved the deepest gorge in Europe.

    As with the rest of France, French is the only official language of the region. Until the mid-20th century, Arpitan was widely spoken in the whole region, while many of the inhabitants of the south spoke varieties of Occitan; both are in steep decline in this region. There are immigrant populations from Armenia, Italy, North Africa, Poland and Portugal amongst other places.


    The first inhabitants settled in the territory of today's Ain about 15000 B.C. The menhir of Simandre-sur-Suran dates from this era. In the year 58 B.C. Julius Caesar's military action against the Helvetians advancing towards Gaul on the territory of today's Ain marked the beginning of the Gallic Wars. Under the Merovingians, Ain belonged to the Kingdom of Burgundy.

    In the beginning of the 6th century A.D. the diocese of Belley is created. Important abbeys of the order of Saint Benedict are established in the valleys. In 843 Ain was assigned to the kingdom of Lothar I by the Treaty of Verdun. The first big fiefdoms ("Seigneuries") emerge between 895 and 900 in Bâgé-la-Ville and Coligny. Numerous castles are erected. In the 12th century the romanic architecture prospers.

    In the 11th century the Counts of Savoy and Valromey settled in the region of Belley. In 1272 they receive the Bresse and – by the Treaties of Paris in 1355 – the territories Dauphiné and Gex on the right bank of the Rhône. In the beginning of the 15th century almost the whole region of Ain is united under the banner of Savoy. New monasteries are founded in the cities, churches are constructed or reshaped according to the gothic style of architecture.

    In the beginning of the 16th century – the Duchy of Savoy was at the peak of its power – Ain was inherited by Margaret of Habsburg, the widow of Philibert II, Duke of Savoy. In Brou she erects a church and a monastery in late-gothic style. Bourg-en-Bresse becomes a bishop's see. After Margaret's death Francis I of France, a nephew of the Dukes of Savoy, claimed the Duchy for himself and conquers it in 1536. The future department of Ain is now French. However, following a Treaty concluded in 1559 Savoy, including the territory of Ain, was restored to the Duke of Savoy who immediately starts fortifying it. Shortly after, Henry IV conquered the region again, but the citadel of Bourg remains impregnable. The Treaty of Lyon of 17 January 1601 ends finally the conflict. Ain now belonged to Burgundy.

    In the 17th century sculpture, painting and literature prosper. During the 18th century streets and small industries emerge. On 28 March 1762 the Count of Eu, son of the Duke of Maine, cedes the region Dombes to Louis XV.

    In 1790, during the French Revolution, the departments of Ain and Léman are created. Ain is subdivided into 9 districts, 49 cantons and 501 communes. The Revolution does not claim many victims in the department, but it destroys numerous extraordinary valuable historical monuments. During the first French Consulate (1802) the districts are abolished. The Congress of Vienna dissolves the department of Léman and assigns the arrondissement Gex to the department of Ain.

    During the French Revolution and the First Empire a large number of churches were destroyed, but in 1823 the diocese of Belley is refounded. The Curé of Ars becomes famous. During the Second Empire numerous churches are reconstructed, agriculture changes profoundly, and the railway expands.

    Due to its distance from the frontline the department is spared the destruction of World War I (1914–1918). However, the majority of the vineyards can no longer be cultivated and disappear. Industrialization of the department starts in Oyonnax and Bellegarde. The barrage of Genissiat is constructed in 1936.
    World War II (1939–1945) vehemently strikes the department of Ain and takes its toll: 600 people are deported, half of them do not return. The monument of the Maquis in Cerdon, the memorial of the children of Izieu and the museum of the resistance and deportation in Nantua commemorate this tragic era.
    In the second half of the 20th century the industrialization of the department proceeds, favored by a narrow street and railway network.


    • French Ministry of Culture