1652  — 1730

Charles Maigrot

French Roman Catholic mission administrator in China.

Born in Paris, Maigrot was ordained a priest in 1676 and received a doctorate from the Sorbonne two years later. In 1680 he entered the Missions Etrangeres de Paris (Paris Foreign Mission Society) and early the following year left for China. In 1684 he was named pro-vicar of Fukien (Fujian), Kiangsi (Jiangxi), and Chekiang (Zhejiang) Provinces. Later that year, upon the death of Francois Pallu, he became administrator of the missions of China and, in 1687, vicar apostolic of Fukien. In 1692 the emperor of China granted the Edict of Toleration, by which Chinese could freely embrace Catholicism. Maigrot was consecrated a bishop in March 1700.

In 1693 Maigrot reopened the Chinese Rites Controversy by condemning the rites honoring Confucius and one’s ancestors as superstitious, and prohibited the practices in Fukien, sending a copy of his edict to Rome. When the papal legate to the imperial court, Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, arrived in China in 1705 to try to settle the controversy, he called Maigrot to assist him in the capital. During an imperial audience, Tournon referred to Maigrot as a noted scholar of Chinese studies. In a later audience in Manchuria, Maigrot contended that Confucian teaching was contrary to Christianity, but he also showed his linguistic weaknesses in Chinese. This led the emperor to question Maigrot’s ability to understand the Chinese classics, which were a key element in the Rites Controversy. In 1706 the emperor ordered that all missionaries wishing to remain in China must apply for residence permits and uphold the practices of Matteo Ricci; Tournon issued an edict against this in February 1707. The next month the emperor ordered Maigrot expelled from China. Two years later he was designated a bishop assisting at the papal throne in the Vatican, a position he held until his death.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Claudia von Collani, “Le Pere Joachim Bouvet et le mandement du vicaire apostolique Charles Maigrot,” in Edward Malatesta and Yves Raguin, eds., Succes et echecs de la Rencontre Chine et Occident du XVIe au XXe siecle (1993), pp. 77-100; A. Launay, Memorial de la Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris, vol. 2 (1916), pp. 417-423; Antonio Sisto Rosso, Apostolic Legations to China of the Eighteenth Century (1948), pp. 130-136, 166-171.

About the Author

John W. Witek

Associate Professor of East Asian History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA