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Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève

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The Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève, in Paris, was founded by King Clovis who established there a college of clerics, later called canons regular. How long these clerics observed the regular life is unknown, but in 1147 secular canons officiated in the church. King Louis VII and Pope III, having witnessed some disorders, determined to restore the regular discipline and at first thought to call monks, but as the canons preferred some of their own order, the pope consented. At the request of Sugerus and St. Bernard, Gildwin, the first Abbot of St-Victor's, St. Bernard, Gildwin, the first Abbot of St-Victor's where the canonical rule had been recently established, consented to send Odo, the Prior of his abbey. There were difficulties, but order finally prevailed and some of the canons joined the reform. Among these was the young Canon William, already known for his virtues and learning. At the request of Absalon, Bishop of Roskild, in Denmark, who when a student at Ste-Geneviève's had known him, William was sent to that country to reform a monastery of canons in the Isle of Eskil. In spite of untold trials, obstacles, and persecutions he succeeded in his enterprise and even founded another monastery, which he dedicated to the Holy Paraclete. He died in 1206, and was canonized by Honorius III. It was natural that close relations should exist between Ste-Geneviève's and its foundations in Denmark. Peter, a young man who made his profession at the abbey, became Bishop of Roskild; Valdemar, brother of King Knut, died at Ste-Geneviève's; and Abbot Stephen of Tournai wrote to William and his friends to obtain lead for the roof of his abbey.

Like the Abbey of St-Victor, Ste-Geneviève's became a celebrated seat of learning. St-Victor's, Ste-Geneviève's, and Notre-Dame were the cradle of the University of Paris. Abelard at different epochs lectured in this abbey-school. By right and custom the two sister-abbeys frequently exchanged subjects. Peter de Ferrière, Abbot of St-Victor's was at one time prior of Epinay, a priory of Ste-Geneviève's; William of Auxerre, a professed canon of St-Victor's in 1254, held the office of cellarer, and became Abbot of Ste-Geneviève's; and Marcel, successively canon at St-Victor's and Ste-Geneviève's, was in 1198 made Abbot of Cisoing. Like most religious houses, this abbey, falling into the hands of abbots in commendam, relaxation and disorders were the consequence. In the beginning of the seventeenth century Cardinal de La Rochefoucauld undertook its reform. He brought from Senlis a holy man, Charles Faure, who had already restored the canonical rule in the ancient Abbey of Silvanect. Once more the Rule of St. Augustine was faithfully observed at Ste-Geneviève's which became the mother-house of the Gallican congregation. Charles Faure died in 1644. The second spring of the abbey was perhaps even more glorious than the first. By the middle of the seventeenth century the abbot-general of the congregation had under his jurisdiction more than one hundred abbeys and priories. Men like Fronteau, chancellor of the university and author of many works, Laleman, Chapponel, Reginier, Chengot, Beurier, du Moulinet, founder of the national library, and Augustine Hay, a Scotchman who wrote the "Scotia sacra" and officiated at Holyrood, Scotland, in 1687, were sons of the French congregation. When in 1790 the revolutionary assembly declared all religious vows void, and opened the doors to all the inmates of the monasteries, there were thirty-nine canons at Ste-Geneviève's. This was the end of that illustrious abbey and school.


BONNARD, Histoire de l'abbaye de St-Victor de Paris (1907); Gautier, Adam de St-Victor (Paris, 1858; Marion Histoire de l'Église (Paris, 1908); Vuillemin, Vie de S. Peirre Fourier (Paris, 1897).

About this page

APA citation. Allaria, A. (1912). Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Allaria, Anthony. "Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Genevieve Luna.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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