Bishop Myriel

Bishop Myriel

Bishop Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel, referred to as Bishop Myriel or Monseigneur Bienvenu (c. 1739–1821), is a fictional character in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.[1] Myriel is the Bishop of Digne. Bienvenu was the name of the factual contemporary Bishop of Digne that formed the basis of Myriel.


Bishop Myriel in the novel

He earned the title of Bishop through a chance encounter with Napoleon; he is like a common, compassionate country priest. That is how he earned the name "Monseigneur Bienvenu" ("Bienvenu" meaning "welcome"). His acts and words are lengthily described in the novel. For example, he moved into the small town hospital, so that the episcopal palace could be used as a hospital; he keeps only a tenth of his salary for himself, spending the rest on alms; he once accompagnied a condemned man to the scaffold, after the village priest had refused to do so. One night Jean Valjean shows up at his door, asking a place to stay the night. Bienvenu graciously accepts him, feeds him, and gives him a bed. Valjean, unable to sleep in a comfortable bed after years of sleeping on boards in Toulon, sneaks away, taking most of Bienvenu's silver with him. Valjean is taken back to face Bienvenu by the police and the police inform Bienvenu of their findings: namely, a load of silver in his knapsack. Bienvenu tells the police that he, indeed, had given them to Valjean as a gift and informs Valjean that he was a fool for not taking the candlesticks as well, as they are worth much more. After the police leave, Bienvenu tells Valjean to use the silver to become an honest man. After this, Bienvenu is referenced at least twice more: In 1821, while Valjean serves as a mayor under the name Monsieur Madeleine, he reads of his death in a local paper. The other is just before Valjean’s death, when a portress asks him if he wanted a priest, he replies "I have one," and points upward.

Bishop Myriel in the musical

The bishop is also featured in the stage musical based on the novel of the same name.

Differences in the musical

  • All of Myriel's history is cut, and he is not mentioned or referenced at all after his encounter with Valjean.
  • Myriel's name is not mentioned in the musical. The playbill for the musical lists him as the "Bishop of Digne."

Songs in the musical

On Parole
In this song he welcomes the starving and tired Valjean into his house and offers him food, wine and a "bed to rest till morning."
Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven
This is the bishop's solo which is sung directly after the song Valjean Arrested where two policemen arrest Valjean for trying to steal the bishop's silver plates. The bishop misleads the policemen by saying he gave them to Valjean as a gift to save him from arrest, and further aids Valjean by giving him two additional sliver candlesticks to sell. He tells Valjean his pity is for a greater cause — he instructs Valjean to use the silver "to become an honest man," and states that he has bought Valjean's soul for God.


As written by Hugo, the Bishop tells Valjean:

Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man.... Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!

A parallel quote from the musical, the Bishop sings:

But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!



Film and television


  1. ^ Les Misérables as written by Victor Hugo in 1862. 1992 Modern Library Edition copyright Random House Inc.

External links

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