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Solesmes, abbey of


The Abbey of Solesmes, or Abbaye Saint–Pierre, in the village of Solesmes (Sarthe), France, was founded c. 1000 by Geoffroy de Sablé as a priory of the Benedictines dependent on the abbey of La Couture. In the 12th century it was given a relic of the CROWN OF THORNS, which is still an object of great veneration. The priory was destroyed during the Hundred Years’ War by the English (1425) but was soon reconstructed. During the Renaissance the 11th–century church was rebuilt and adorned with magnificent statues, called ‘‘the saints of Solesmes.’’ The monastery was placed in COMMENDATION (1556–1773), and aggregated to the Benedictine Congregation of St. Maurus, or MAURISTS (1664). During the French Revolution it was suppressed and put up for sale, and the monks dispersed (1791). Prosper GUÉRANGER, then a curate in Sablé, purchased the property (1833) and reestablished Benedictine life. Pope Gregory XVI raised it to the status of an abbey (1837), named Dom Guéranger as first abbot (1837–75), and made it head of the new Benedictine Congregation of France, known also as the Congregation of Saint–Pierre de Solesmes. Under Guéranger Solesmes became a famed center of religious renewal. The French government expelled the monks in 1880 and again from 1882 to 1896. Dom Paul Delatte, abbot (1890–1920) succeeding Dom Charles Couturier, regained possession of the abbey and began large scale construction until the laws against religious (1901) sent the monks into exile to QUARR ABBEY on the Isle of Wight. Dom Germain Cozien, fourth abbot (1920–59) led the community back to Solesmes (1922). The monastery has gained world renown for its role in the liturgical movement and the restoration of Gregorian chant. In addition to Guéranger it has produced such well–known scholars as Cabrol, FEROTIN, LECLERCQ, MOCQUEREAU, PITRA, Pothier, and QUENTIN. Among the most notable publications of the monks have been editions of the writings of St. Gertrude, St. Mechtild, William of Saint–Thierry, St. John of the Cross, John of St. Thomas, Bérulle, and the English mystics. Current projects include the publication of the works of Pseudo–Dionysius the Areopagite, and papal documents (Collection Les Enseignements Pontificaux), and a series of phonographic records of Gregorian chants.

Bibliography: L. H. COTTINEAU, Réertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:3055–57. O. L. KAPSNER, A Benedictine Bibliography: An Author–Subject Union List, 2 v. (2d ed. Collegeville, Minn. 1962): v. 1, author part; v. 2, subject part. 2:5253–99. P. GUÉRANGER, Essai historique sur l’Abbaye de Solesmes (Le Mans 1846). H. QUENTIN, Notice historique sur l’Abbaye de Solesmes (Tours 1924). Benedictines of Solesmes, Le Monastère Saint–Pierre de Solesmes (Solesmes 1955); Les Saints de Solesmes (Paris 1951). A. SAVATON, Dom Paul Delatte, Abbé de Solesmes (Paris 1954). J. HOURLIER, Les Églises de Solesmes (Paris 1951). P. SCHMITZ , Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. J. HOFER and K. RAHNER , 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 9:864.


New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2003. Vol. 13. P. 299-300.

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