Saint-Victor, Monastery of
SAINT-VICTOR, MONASTERY OF
A Paris community of canons regular founded by william of champeaux in 1108. Since its foundation, it has had a twofold orientation. The first tendency was expressed in an attempt to reform the diocesan clergy by imposing on them the obligations of the religious life, especially community of property. In fact the founder, who was its first superior, was a prior, not an abbot; however, one of the early Victorines, Thomas, was archdeacon of Paris. The monastery school was open to all, as were other canons' schools; it was to this school that hugh of saint-victor brought great fame. Victorines served also as pastors in country churches. The Diocese of Paris granted prebends to the Victorine canons in the hope that some day all canons of the diocese would accept the regular life rather than the secular. But although this Victorine reform was successful in the provinces, e.g., at Séez, it met strong opposition in Paris. The archdeacon was assassinated; the prebends were contested. Little by little the Victorine canons withdrew to themselves, giving in to the second tendency: imitation of real monastic life, especially that of the cistercian (William of Champeaux, who had become bishop of Chalons, was a close friend of bernard of clairvaux). Elements of the benedictine rule were admitted into the Liber ordinis. The superior became an abbot (although he did not enjoy exemption and the use of pontificalia ). The school was closed to nonreligious; richard of saint-victor gave it a mystical orientation; and walter of saint-victor championed this emphasis against godfrey of saintvictor, who wanted to continue the humanism of Hugh. Meanwhile Saint-Victor became an abbey separated from the world like other abbeys, with only a few outside activities. It became the head of a powerful congregation of canons regular, which stretched from England, to Denmark, to the Kingdom of Naples.
Late Middle Ages. Early in the 13th century Abbot John the Teuton, originally from Trier, definitively organized the abbey. He placed emphasis on liturgical life: Saint-Victor had its own rite (imitated by the trinitarians), which survived to the 17th century. Victorine parishes far from Paris became priories, each having at least four religious, bound to chant the Office solemnly. The University of paris recognized the studium of the abbey as a college with resident instruction leading to degrees. This recognition required that there be at least four students provided with special financial resources. A census of Saint-Victor was taken, and this dragged the abbey into interminable litigation. The 14th century saw the appearance of the first historian of Saint-Victor, John of Paris. Unfortunately, it was somewhat late to recapture the beginnings of the abbey, and thus its history is encumbered with an unusually large number of legends and bits of false information regarding its origins. The reforms imposed by Pope benedict xii on all religious had their effect also on Saint-Victor. The abbey was able to retain only a few of its privileges within the federation of canons of the province of Reims and Sens, to which it was annexed. Abbots were to participate fully in the community life and not to consider themselves grand seigneurs. They had to take an oath to this effect when elected. Later, abbots were obligated to an ad limina visit every two years, at which time they paid heavy revenues to the Apostolic Camera. The poems of André Húays of Saint-Victor suggest that in his day (d. 1471) religious life at Saint-Victor had been deteriorating for some time.
Modern Era. At the end of the 15th century, reform was attempted through the incorporation of Saint-Victor into the congregation of Windesheim, a congregation of Dutch brethren of the common life, apostles of the devotio moderna. The attempt failed because of the canons' nationalism, love of the past, and desire to preserve their own way of life. Jean Mauburne, the author of this attempt, succeeded at Ligny, where he became abbot, and at about ten other French abbeys. In 1505 these abbeys formed the Congregation of France, to which Saint-Victor finally attached itself in 1513. This Congregation held annual meetings of the general chapter at Saint-Victor, but the elected general was usually chosen from another monastery. The first (and only) regular abbot elected according to this reform was Jean Bordier (d. 1543), who rebuilt the abbey church and part of the convent of Saint-Victor. He reorganized the abbey library with the help of Claude de Grandrue, and in the abbey reactivated life according to the rule. His successor, Anthony Caracciolo, even though a Victorine, had the court name him commendatory abbot. He later became bishop of Troyes and there solemnly became a Calvinist. Later the community was directed by prior-vicars. Once again, the monastery had fervent religious and good students, worthy of the abbey's past; their work resulted in the excellent library, part of which is in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris. A few of the canons were Pierre Grenier, Pierre Janus, Jean Picard, and Jean de Thoulouze. In general, the religious advocated a conservative theology, which exposed them to the mockery of Rabelais and the humanists.
Excessive attachment to the glories of the past prevented Saint-Victor from accepting necessary reforms and changes. As a result, the canons regular of France did not group themselves around Saint-Victor but around sainte-geneviÈve. When the abbey was forced to enter the Congregation of Sainte-Geneviève, it did so with reluctance. Most of the canons had come from important bourgeois families of Paris. They brought to the monastery (along with the 1,000 livres expected from them) a certain haughtiness and often a Jansenistic tendency. They had every intention of keeping their independence, and each deacon was free to spend his prebend as he wished. When the Assembly abolished monastic vows during the French Revolution, only one religious (an old man of 81) desired to remain at Saint-Victor; the abbey church was demolished in 1798. The buildings were transformed into a wine market, the Halle aux vins, which was later replaced by the new Faculty of Sciences of the University of Paris.
Bibliography: f. bonnard, Histoire de l'abbaye royale et de l'ordre…St-Victor de Paris, 2 v. (Paris 1904–08). l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:2221–22. p. delhaye, ed., Le Microcosmus de Godefroy de St-Victor: Étude théologique (Lille 1951). j. c. dickinson, The Origins of the Austin Canons (London 1950). Gallia Christiana, v.1–13 (Paris 1715–85) 7:656–99. p. hÉlyot, Histoire des ordres monastiques…, 8 v. (Paris 1714–19) 2:149–56. a. l. a. franklin, Histoire de la bibliothèque de l'abbaye de Saint-Victor à Paris (Paris 1865).