The Dévotes

The Dévotes: Women and Church in Seventeenth-Century France

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Dévotes
    Book Description:

    In The Dévotes Elizabeth Rapley provides a detailed and comprehensive account of the feminization of the Church in seventeenth-century France and as far abroad as New France.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6224-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps and Graphs
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    Nowhere has the metaphor of war between the sexes been more liberally employed than in describing French society in the seventeenth century. Almost every indicator of social relationships which historians have examined - religion, politics, the law, medical practice, literature, business, and marital and family relationships - has supported their thesis of a growing male-female dichotomy, an aggressive antifeminism, an irresistible trend towards patriarchy. The picture emerges of a society like an armed camp, with men in control of all strategic points. Yet it also appears that the men lived in a constant state of anxious vigilance, always alert to...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Women and the Counter-Reformation in France
    (pp. 10-22)

    Historians of religious life in early seventeenth-century France have often commented upon its two contrasting faces. It was a “confusion of light and shadows”: the light of this age of saints made all the more brilliant by the surrounding obscurantism and decadence.¹ It was a time of mystical greatness; yet it was also a time of trauma and menace and pervasive fear.² The growing sophistication of knowledge went hand in hand with an obsessive concern with the supernatural - the tens of thousands of witches burnt across Europe are evidence to this.³ “The age of humanism was the golden age...

  8. CHAPTER TWO The Defence of Status Quo (1563-1631)
    (pp. 23-41)

    Catholic reform was, by its very nature, an effort to return to a more perfect past, to correct the faults which had caused its deformities and incurred the divine wrath. “We frankly confess that God permits this persecution to afflict His Church because of the sins of men, and especially of the priests and prelates,” wrote Pope Adrian VI in 1522. “All of us (that is, prelates and clergy), each one of us, have strayed from our paths, nor for a long time has anyone done good; no, not even one.” ¹ The punishment for this scandalous infidelity was the...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Teaching Congregations of the Counter-Reformation (1598-1640)
    (pp. 42-73)

    From very early days, Protestantism had pinned its hopes for the future of religion upon the education of its children. The faith of the reformers soon bonded itself to the older humanist belief, that was schooling necessary to make good citizens.“In order to maintain its temporal estate outwardly, the world must have good and capable men and women, men to rule over land and people, women to manage the household and train children and servants aright,“wrote Luther. Such men and such women could only be trained in the schools.¹

    Nowhere in France was this principle more earnestly applied than in...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR A New Approach: The Filles Séculières (1630-60)
    (pp. 74-94)

    Modern historians of the Counter-Reformation in France agree to divide that event into two phases: the Counter-Reformation properly speaking, strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Catholicism that triumphed at Trent,¹ characterized by a highly adversarial approach to the questions that had been thrown up by Protestantism; and what is known as the Catholic Reformation, a period of genuine religious regeneration, during which the Church recognized, and moved to redress, the immense problems within itself.² The turning point between these two phases is generally placed around the beginning of the seventeenth century.³

    But this “turning point,” like most others, requires qualification. The...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE The Filles Séculières in Transition (1636-1700): The Miramionnes of Paris, The Congrégation of Montreal
    (pp. 95-112)

    Vincent de Paul described the Filles de la Charité as “women who come and go like seculars”¹ - in other words, women who, though living in community, had no pretensions to the status of religious. Although they were the largest, and among the earliest, of such groups, they were not unique. The Filles de la Croix, a group of secular schoolmistresses from Roye, began functioning as a community with simple vows a year before them, in 1641.² Further north, in the low countries, where the tradition of uncloistered nuns and of beguines was venerable and strong,filles séculièreshad been...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Maîtresses Charitables (1660-1700): Three Case Studies
    (pp. 113-141)

    Thecongrégéesof the early 1600s had given offence to French Catholic society on two accounts: first, because they had hoped to escape the obligation of clausura, and second, because they had tried to teach in public. Almost as fast as society’s disapproval had been expressed, and the women put behind their walls, the hard line of Trent began to erode, and change began to take place. The years of Louis XIV’s personal rule (1660-1715) saw the creation at least seventeen female teaching congregations - more than half of the total number created under the Old Regime.¹ Most of these...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Development of a Feminine Pedagogy
    (pp. 142-166)

    A leading historian of Catholic education under the Old Regime, Jean de Viguerie, has remarked on the fact that, although in recent years a number of works have appeared on the subject of feminine education, little has yet been done on the groups that developed and dispensed this education. In his mind, this is an unnatural separation. “How can we understand a pedagogy without referring to its source, the spirit of the congregation, and its particular purpose?”¹ The question may also be turned around: can we study the congregations themselves without placing them in the context of pedagogy? Claude Langlois,...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT The Making of Communities
    (pp. 167-192)

    From the very beginning of its involvement in feminine education, the reformed Catholic church laid down two basic principles: that girls should be taught only by women, and that teachers should be unmarried. “It is advisable,” wrote Pierre Fourier in 1598, “that these be persons free of the servitude of marriage and unencumbered by all other cares which might hinder the work of teaching.”¹ Celibacy, whether temporary or permanent, was a universal condition for teaching in the schools of thedévots.

    This raised the question of how these celibate women should live. In some cases they continued to live at...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 193-196)

    In 1631, a bull of suppression condemned, abolished, and cut off the Institute of the English Ladies, giving as reason that “they went freely everywhere, without submitting to the laws of clausura, under the pretext of working for the salvation of souls.”¹ By 1700, in France and in New France, as well as in other parts of the Catholic world, women doing exactly this had become part of the Church's structure. The tridentine reform had rejected the “intermediate state” between religious and secular.² Now it was here, in fact if not yet in canon law. A new form of religious...

  16. Appendix: Entries and Professions in the Teaching Congregations (1611-1700)
    (pp. 197-202)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 203-206)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 207-246)
  19. Note on the use of Sources
    (pp. 247-254)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-270)
  21. Index
    (pp. 271-283)