Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Rare Liturgical Book from 18th-Century Paris

The Abbey of St Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris, was one of the most important churches in the city before the French revolution. Founded in the sixth century by King Clovis, and originally dedicated to Ss Peter and Paul, St Genevieve used to pray there very often, and was buried in the church next to Clovis. During the great reform movement of the 12th century, the secular canons who had long run it were replaced by Augustinians Canons Regular; in the 17th century, it became the mother house of over one-hundred other abbeys, and the congregation thus formed was called Génovéfaine. The abbey church was rebuilt at the behest of King Louis XV, starting in 1758, but not completed until the year of the suppression, 1790, when it was transformed into a mausoleum for important Frenchman, tastefully renamed “Le Panthéon.” The abbey itself, however, was destroyed to make way for a street.

I recently stumbled across a very particular liturgical book once used at the abbey on, titled “Collectarium ad usum prioris hujus ecclesiae.” A “collectarium” is a book which contains only the celebrant’s parts for the singing of the Divine Office, namely, the intonations of the relevant antiphons, (only the first in each series, and those of the Magnificat and Benedictus), the chapters, and the collects. In this particular case, the abbey’s custom was fairly typical of many chapters and orders; the prior celebrated solemn Vespers for second rank feasts that were not “officium abbbatis – the duty of the abbot.” (Of course, he may also have celebrated other Offices, and sung his part out of other books.)

The title page. “Fr Gabriel Raveneau, C.R. (canonicus regularis) wrote the Collectarium for the use of the Prior of this church, in the year 1711.” St Genevieve is shown at the top, the martyrdom of St Denis below. Ss Peter and Paul, the church’s original titular Saints, are shown in the corner medallions above, King Clovis and his wife, St Clotilde below. The royal patronage of the abbey is signified by the shield of France in the middle; as in many French canonical abbeys, the abbot had the use of miter and crozier.
These are the major Marian feasts apart from the Assumption, (Purification, Annunciation, Nativity and Immaculate Conception), Easter and Pentecost Monday, Benediction within the octave of Corpus Christ, Ss Denis and Companions, St Stephen, and two secondary feasts of the church’s Patron Saint, the finding of her relics on January 10, the octave day of her main feast, and the commemoration of the “miraculum ardentium” on November 26th. This last is an event of the year 1129, when the Parisians were saved from an epidemic of “the burning sickness,” a series of painful symptoms, including a burning sensation in the extremities, caused by ingesting grain contaminated with ergot. The epidemic was ended when the relics of St Genevieve were paraded around the city, and the procession was continued for many centuries afterwards. (See this article in French about the procession at the blog of our friends of the Schola Sainte Cécile.)

The procession of the relics of St Genevieve on the feast of the miracle.
Sheets were added to the back of the book which indicate that Vespers of the Circumcision, Ascension, Trinity and Clovis’ wife St Clotild (June 3), who was also buried in the abbey, were added to the prior’s duties; the second of these speaks to the possiblity of a particularly lazy abbot. It also contains the prayers for most of the commemorations which can occur on these feasts. There is not a huge number of illustrations, but they are all of the highest quality; one can only image what the abbot’s collectarium must have looked like. The book is in the public domain, and can be downloaded from archive for free at the link given above.

The casket of the relics is here shown being lowered from the large pedestal on which it was kept behind the main altar of the abbey church; this was done as part of the ceremony of the procession on November 26, when the casket was carried by the members of a special confraternity.
The Annunciation
Decoration to fill some space after the Annunciation.
Easter Monday
Pentecost Monday
Benediction during the octave of Corpus Christi
Ss Denis and Companions on October 9
Another decoration, here at the end of the prayers for the commemorations.

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