Friday, 6 May 2016

Port-Royal - an 18th-century pilgrimage
Louis XIV had ordered that Port-Royal des Champs should be "razed to the ground".  He desired by this act of destruction to obliterate all physical remains, to leave the Jansenists with no places of memory and pilgrimage.  He didn't quite succeed.....

Here is a Jansenist "Manual for pilgrims" dating from 1767 which sets out a pilgrimage route to the major sites associated with 17th-century Jansenism.  It is one of several similar publications.  The work is prefaced provocatively with letter by Cardinal Bellarmine on the canonisation of saints. There are  various helpful texts - a  necrology and history of Port-Royal, catalogue of major Jansenist writings, plus a full office for the veneration of relics. 

The stopping points are listed as a series of "Stations", each with accompanying prayers, psalms and hymns, in Latin and French. Notes signalled by a pointing hand give details of the tombs, relics and other objects to be found at each location, together with suggested prayers for intercession.

It is interesting - and in the light of the fate Port-Royal, sad - to see the concern lavished in this Catholic world on physical remains.  It was the common practice for hearts, and even entrails, to be removed and interred separately at different locations. Despite the determined tone of the manual, the welcome at former Jansenists strongholds was clearly often frosty and the surviving relics often conspicuously meagre. 

The author emphasises that the Stations can visited in whatever order is convenient.  At the end he specifies two possible routes and notes that there are inns in Chevreuse where it is possible to stay overnight:

STATION I:  The Church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, Paris 

Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, in the rue Saint-Jacques, was the parish church of Port-Royal de Paris and adjoined the Oratorian seminary of Saint-Magloire. The building dates mainly from the 17th century.  Here pilgrims could visit the tomb of Jean du Verger de Hauranne, the abbé de Saint-Cyran (d.1643) who had been laid to rest behind the main altar. (At least some of him was: according to Tombes-et-sepultures   Lemaistre de Sacy had his hands,  the Convent of the Visitation in Poitiers  part of his skull,  Port-Royal des Champs his heart and Port-Royal de Paris his entrails.....). Charles de Hillerin (d 1669),  curé of Saint-Merri lay buried at his feet.  The manual also lists: Julien Monceau (d.1639), Confessor of Port-Royal,  Ambroise Pacori, Deacon of the Diocese of Mans, and Charles Le Maitre de Valmont (d.1652).  On 17th January 1711 the heart of the duchesse de Longueville,  who had financed the reconstruction of the nave in 1675, was brought here from Port-Royal;  the church already possessed her entrails.

Today, little survives to mark the church's Jansenist past, though I notice that it still boasts a fine painting by Jean Restout depicting the repentance of Saint Peter. The graves are mostly lost, perhaps emptied to the catacombs in 1850, along with the contents of the cemetery outside. However, in 1965 Saint-Cyran's body was rediscovered; his battered lead coffin was offered to the museum at Port-Royal des Champs and his bones reinterred behind the new altar. The existing commemorative plaque dates from this time,  although the original monument with an epitaph by François Roger de Gaignires can be seen in an engraving  reproduced on Tombes-et-sepultures. (The other modern  plaques behind the altar commemorate the astronomers Cassini and La Hire from the nearby Observatory and the philantropist Denys Cochin.)


"Eglise Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas" Patrimoine-histoire
Entries in Tombes-et-sepultures: (Saint-Cyran)
And in Cimetières de France:
Here is a cool video of the church, taken with a drone.

STATION II: Abbey of Port-Royal de Paris

Chapel & cloister of Port-Royal de Paris,
nowadays part of the  Hôpital Cochin
Pilgrims were evidently none too welcome in the former sister house; the author of the manual confines himself to a brief paragraph and a short set of prayers.The body of Mère Angélique Arnauld herself lay buried in the choir of the convent church, as did that of Mère Marie des Anges de Suireau (d.1658), abbess of Maubuisson, then of Port-Royal de Paris.Marie des Anges had unequivocally attained to sanctity.  We are asked to invoke her mediation to help us emulate that "purity of spirit and heart which characterised all her conduct and made of her  the greatest model of virtue".

 Bernard Chédozeau,  "La chapelle de Port-Royal de Paris" (1991), Société des Amis de Port-Royal
Tombes-et-sepultures:  - Mère Angélique (her grave  is now completely lost.)

STATION III: The ruins of Port-Royal des Champs

At Port-Royal des Champs itself, the writer enumerates the few pathetic remnants that had escaped the fury of the destroyers.  There were some outer walls, plus the dovecote, the mill and the buildings which served as accommodation for the miller; there was also the canal, the garden terrace of the duchesse de Longueville and the remains of the area know as the "solitude" where the nuns once congregated in silent meditation. The site of the Abbey church itself was only scattered stones and brambles, a retreat for rabbits and for the livestock that grazed there.  Like other writers, however, the author is convinced that bodies still lay under the ground from before the church's floor level was raised in the 1650s. In 1844 when the duc de Luynes had the foundations dug up, he found the original floor and the bases of the pillars intact.  Meagre though they are, these allow modern visitors to see the outline of the church and its precinct clearly  (the little neo-Gothic oratory dates from 1891 and originally housed the museum).

STATION IV:  Les Granges

In the 1750s the farm at Les Granges was run as a going concern for the nuns of Port-Royal de Paris.  The house remained intact - it was still possible to see the cells of the Solitaires -  but, as the author of the manual laments, what was once a retreat for so many saints now served only as a store for grain and fruit.   In the overgrown courtyard was the well and nearby the debris of Pascal's famous device for raising water (now reconstructed).

STATION V: Church of Saint-Germain, Magny-les-Hameaux

On 16th and 17th December 1711 four lead coffins and sixteen  hearts in lead caskets had been taken from Port-Royal to the parish church of Magny-les-Hameaux by order of the Archbishop. (The hearts had originally been placed under plaques in the choir of the Abbey church). A "Relation" included in the manual gives the details. The  reburial, in the Chapel of the Virgin, had been hasty with minimal ceremonial, but in the 1730s a Jansenist curé, M. de Vaucocourt, had  a sepulchre built in the aisle and the place marked with a set of tombstones bought from the demolition of Port-Royal.  For once  pilgrims had a shrine on which to focus their devotions. 

Today, the remains remain in the Chapel.  In August 1862, three years after the publication of Sainte-Beuve's Port-Royal, the abbé Lejour undertook renovation work and had them reburied in a crypt to the right of the altar. Eleven out of sixteen of the sixteen hearts were rediscovered, including that of Mère Marie des Anges de Suireau, which was placed behind the original plaque in a niche in the wall.  In recent years, the church has been extensively restored and the heart of  Mère Marie des Anges, which was temporarily removed, returned to its place in a solemn service. 

The remains are identified as:

 Bodies of Claude Grenet, the former cure of the church of Saint-Benoît in Paris (d.1684),
 M. Le Roy de la Potherie, who donated the relic of the Holy Thorn to Port-Royal (d.1670)
The abbé de Pontchâteau (d.1690) and his nephew the duc de Coislin (d.1699).

Seven of the sixteen hearts were identified at the time of their removal.  In 1862 eleven out of the original sixteen were rediscovered, but only two besides that of Mère des Anges, now had their inscriptions and could be definitely attributed.

Of more interest today are the twenty-eight tombstones from Port-Royal, a dozen of which can be identified as coming from inside the church itself.  In 1862 the abbé Lejour had the stones lifted and placed along the walls to preserve them.  They stayed there untouched until 2001 when the commune  took the opportunity to have them rearranged more coherently (The parish information leaflet gives a plan and details).


Magny-les-Hameaux, Eglise St-Germain-de-Paris [municipal website]
Information leaflet

The tombs - Clip from "Découverte de l'Église Saint Germain" [Daily Motion video]
"Remise en situ" - Heart of Mère Marie-Ange de Suireau returned to its renovated niche (Daily Motion Video)

Notice for the original burial, Pierre Louis Hérard, Recherches archéologiques sur les abbayes de l'ancien diocèse de Paris (1901)

STATION VI : Church of Saint-Lambert-des-Bois, Magny-les-Hameaux

At the communal grave, the author of the manual remembers particularly the Solitaire Jean Hamon (d. 1687) whose remains were presumed to lie there. (Racine had asked to be buried at his feet in the cemetery).  There was no welcome for the Jansenist pilgrims here: the church was "still closed" and they were reduced to adoring the Holy Sacrament in the porch.  


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