Mechlin (Lat. Mkchlinia; Fr. Malines), Auch- Diocr.sK OF (Mechliniexsis), comprises the two Belgian provinces of Antwerp ami Brahant. This diocese derives its present configuration from the French Concordat of 1801. Th(M>celesiastical province of Mechlin is coextensive with the Belgian Kingdom (sulTragan liishoprics: Tournai, Liege. Namur, (iand, Bruges); it exti'nded to the Rhine under Napoleon I. Thecityof.Mi-chlin, prior to 1559, belonged to the (lean- cry of Brussels and to the archdeaconry of the same name in the diocese of Canil irai. Its importance eccle- siastically w.as due to the ancient Chapter of Canons of the collegiate church of St. Rombaut. Paul IV, by his bull "Super universi orbis ecclesias" (12 M.ay, 1559) created a new hierarchy in the Netherlands composed of three metropolitan (Mechlin, Cambrai, Utrecht) and fifteen episcopal sees. The Archbishop of Mechlin was raised to the dignity of primate by the Constitutions of Pius IV in 1560 and 15G1. The Christian Faitli was zealously preached in the present diocese during the seventh and eighth centuries. It is known that .\ntwerp was visited by St. Eligius, Bishop of Tournai (d. 660), and bv St. Amand, the Apostle of Flanders and Bishop of Maestricht (d. 679). The flat- ter's successors in the see of Tongres-Maesti-icht-Liegc, St. Lambert (d. about 700) and St. Hubert (d. 727) are said to have visited Mechlin and Brabant. This evangelical work was followed up by the Anglo-Saxon missionaries St. Willibrord (d. 738) and St. Rumold or Rombaut (d. about 775). St. Rombaut was martyred at Mechlin, and became the city's patron saint, and subsequently the j^atron of the whole diocese. Among the saints of this diocese are several members of Pepin of Landen's family, his widow St. Itta, foundress of the Abbey of Nive'lles, his daughters, St. Gertrude (d. 659) and" St. Begga (d. 698); the two sisters St. Gudule (d. 712) and St. Rainelde; in the ninth cen- tury St. Libert of MechHn and St. (luidun i,f .\nder- lecht; St. Wivine, foundress of the liin.ilii tiiir abbey of Grand Bigard (d. 1170); St. Albert of I.uuvam, Prince Bishop of Liege and martvr (d. 1192); St. Marie d'Orignies (d. 1232); St. Lutgard (d. 1246), and Blessed Alice (d. 1250), both Cistercian nuns, the for- mer in Aj-wieres, the latter at la Cambre; St. Boniface of Brussels, Bishop of Lausanne (d. 1265); Blessed Jean de Ruysbrocck, an Augustinian monk of Groen- endacl, because of his mystical writings known as the "divine and admirable doctor" (d. 1381); several priests put to death by the Calvinists at Gorcum (1572); the Jesuits, St. John Berchmans of Diest, patron of student youth (d. 1621), and Venerable Leonard Leys (Lessius) of Brecht, renowned for his piety and his theological works (d. 1623).
It was at the beginning of the twelfth century that Tanchclm, a native of Zealand, became known, chiefly in .\ntwerp, for his violent attacks on the hierarchy, and the Sacraments, especially the Holy I']ucharist. He shared the pernicious errors of the Adamites, and gave an example of the worst kind of debauch- ery. Toward the middle of the century, Bishop Nicolas of Camlirai excommunicated Jonas, one of the promoters of Catharism in Brabant. A little later numerous Beghards and Beguines fell into the errors of the sect known as the Brothers of the Free Spirit. To this sect also belonged the nun. Sister Hadewijc (Hcdwig) or Bloeraardine, who gained nu- merous partisans in Brussels. Her writings were refuted liy Jean de Ruysbrocck. Bloemardine died about 1336, but her followers lived on, and as late as about 1410 Pierre d'Ailly, Bishop of Cambrai, was compelled to take measures against them. The Black Plague of 1349 gave rise to tlie processions of Flagel- lants. These hailed from (Icrmany and traversed the countrj' practising the mortification from which their name has arisen. The ecclesiastical authorities were obliged to intervene on behalf of the Jews detested by the Flagellants. On the other hand, religious senti-
ment manifested itself in numerous monastic institu- tions. Ainighem, the principal Benedictine abbey, dates from 10S6. The people of Antwerp, whom Tanehehn had fanaticizcd, were brought back by St. Norbert to a Christian mode of life. Soon arose In Brabant many Premonstratensian abbeys: St. Michel at Antwerp (1124), Tongerloo (1128),' le Pare near Louvain (1129), Heylissem (1130), GriTiibcrglien (1131), Averbode (1132), Dieligem and Puslcl (1 1 10). Among other abbeys for men may be mentioned: the Benedictine abbeys of Vlierbeek (1125); the noble abl)ey of St. Gertrude at Louvain, belonging to the Augustinian canons; the Cistercian .abbeys of Villers (1147) .and of St. Bernard (1237). Some of the numer- ous colleges of Austin Canons are: St. Jacipies sur Caudenberg at Brussels, Hanswijck at Mechlin, Cors- sendonck, Groenendael, Rougecloitre and Septfon- taincs, all three in the forest of Soignes. In most places of consequence Augustinians, Franciscans, Carmelites and Dominicans were established. The military orders were represented at the Teutonic Commandcry of Pitzemburg in Mechlin .and in Bec- quevoort. The leading abbe3's for women were: Gland Bigard and Cortenberg (Benedictines); la Cambre, Roosendael, Nazareth (Cistercians). The semi-monastic institution of the Beguinages (q. v.), small settlements in the heart of cities or just outside city walls, is a peculiar feature of religious life in the Netherlands. They were once numerous (the number of Beguines who went forth from Mechlin to greet Charles the Bold, on the occasion of his joyful entry in 1467, was 900), and still endure, though much reduced in numbers, at Mechlin, Antwerp, Louvain, Diest, Lierre, Turnhout, Hoogstraetcn and Herenthals. The increase of the secular clergy and its improved material conditions caused the chapters of Canons to grow in number, and eventually the collegiate churches of the diocese reached a total of twenty. Public instruction was conducted by parochial and chapter schools. Finally Martin V, by his bull of 9 December, 1425, erected a university at Louvain.
At the close of the Middle Ages, it is well known, both faith and morals suffered a notable decay. More or less rightly, Jean Pupper de Goch (d. 1475), supe- rior of the Tliabor Convent at Mechlin, has been styled the precursor of Luther, who soon found numerous partisans in the diocese, especially at Antwerp where ills Augustinian brethren declared in his favour. Prot- estantism, though vigorously opposed by Charles V, was again menacing at the end of his reign, when Lutheranism gave way to Calvinism. The creation in 1559 of new sees, though an indispensable measure, brought about a coalition of all di-roiitinti'd parties. Philip II, by removing the fii-st ArcliM- Impel Mechlin, Cardinal de Gran velle, deprived the Cathcilic and mon- archical cause of its ablest chamjiion, and thereby hastened the impending revolution. In 1556 the icon- oclastic mob put to death both religious and priests, and sacked the churches and monasteries. Disorder continued until the advent of the Archduke Albert and Isaljclla. The people remained loyal to Cathol- icism and the University of Louvain proved a valiant defender, though Protestant theories exercised at the university a certain influence, particularly on Baius and Jansenius. The Archbishop of Mechlin, Jacques Boonen (1621-55), evaded the publication of the con- stitution "In eminenti", by which Urban VIII con- demned the ".\ugustinus"; he was even temporarily suspended by Innocent X. Boonen 's submission did not put an end to the Jansenistic quarrels in the dio- cese. Oratorians, brought in by him, were inclined to rigorism. They opened colleges for the education of youth, and found themselves both in this field, and in their Jansenistic views, in rivalry with the Jesuits already active in anti-Protestant controversy. The partisiins and the adversaries of Jansenius took sides at once with one or other of the conflicting parties. The