Patronage and Kinship in Women's Teaching Orders of Seventeenth-Century Bordeaux
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In January of 1607, in the city of Bordeaux, Isabeau Chatar, the wife of a wealthy merchant "violently retrieved her daughter [from the Ursuline house], as if drunk, or out of her mind, [and hurled] all sorts of the most disgusting injuries against the purity of these decent girls." For several days after this demonstration a number of families removed their daughters from the Ursuline house. Parental complaints regarding the lack of claustration and papal approval led to a parlementary investigation of the Ursulines. The Bordeaux parlement demanded that the leader of the uncloistered congregation, Françoise de Cazères, appear before the court for questioning. In her stead, Archbishop François d'Escoubleau de Sourdis met with the first president of parlement and persuaded him to dismiss the threatened lawsuit and conclude the inquest on the condition that he, the Archbishop, would seek papal approval for the Ursulines. The Archbishop, as well as his vicar-general, Jean de Bertheau, perceived the inquiry as inappropriate interference in church affairs and a challenge to the Archbishop's prerogatives. On 12 February 1607, Archbishop Sourdis wrote a letter to King Henri IV about "the legal suits of several members of parlement." He denounced "the complaints of a merchant, father of a girl, who without his permission, . . . joined a convent, . . . and demanded they [the Ursulines] appear [before parlement]." The d'Escoubleau family had kinship ties to the royal court, and Sourdis counted on the king's support and financial assistance against the parlement and Salomon family.
The controversy over the Salomon daughters' profession continued for two more years. Christine, the daughter who tried to join the Ursulines in 1607 and had been physically removed by her mother, and Suzanne, her younger sister, both presented themselves to Archbishop Sourdis again in December of 1608. They asked Sourdis to protect them from their parents who wished to arrange marriages for them. Sourdis found himself in an awkward position. As the founder of the Bordelaise Ursuline congregation, he sided with the Salomon daughters' request. The parents threatened another lawsuit and complained that by becoming Ursulines, their daughters "would receive nothing but disgrace and shame, attached to the Institute of Saint Ursula which still had not been approved by the pope." This time, the Archbishop requested assistance from the King's intendant in Bordeaux, marshal d'Ornano. At the intendant's suggestion, parlement interviewed the two sisters, found them sincere in their desire to profess vows, and ordered the Salomons to allow the women to join a religious order. The Salomons resisted parlement and Sourdis threatened the parents with excommunication. Finally, a compromise of sorts was reached as the girls joined the Feuillantines of Toulouse, perhaps suggested by Archbishop Sourdis' Feuillant confessor, Jean-Jacques de Berty. Not only were the Feuillentines cloistered, they drew from a more aristocratic class.
The Salomon case illustrates the complex power relations and patterns of negotiation among family, church, and state in seventeenth-century France. Barbara Diefendorf analyzed "the complex tensions connecting family, state, and church in order to gain greater insight into the functioning of all three institutions during a period that was crucial in the evolution of each" by looking at cases of children joining religious orders against the wishes of their parents during the Catholic Reformation. Diefendorf's evidence focuses largely on noble and magisterial families, and although the Salomon family was of merchant-class background, many of the issues raised in the Salomon case are similar to those identified by Diefendorf: challenges to parental authority, disputed religious vocations, and contested power among family, church, and state. Sarah Hanley identified the seventeenth century as the age of the "family-state compact" in which patriarchal authority within the family and state was strengthened at the expense of women. Diefendorf expanded Hanley's argument concerning the family-state compact to include church authority. Moreover, Diefendorf refined Hanley's argument as she states: "Equally important, the binary oppositions the model sets out - men versus women, parents versus children, family and state versus the church - create false dichotomies that obscure complex relationships among family, church, and state." The Salomon case presents an interesting instance in which shifting alliances add a further dimension to analyses of power and negotiation amongst the family, church, and state.
The initial 1607 inquest and lawsuit against Sourdis and the Ursulines was brought by the Salomon family, through parlement, which then demanded an accounting from the Ursuline congregation and the Archbishop. Bertheau records this and numerous other instances in which Sourdis was frustrated by secular authorities' interference in religious matters. But by 1609, when the Salomon family again threatened a lawsuit, the parlement sided with the church against the Salomon family, after involvement by the king's intendant, and in consideration of oral testimonies of the Salomon sisters. Viewed from one angle, then, the case seems to challenge arguments concerning the "family-state compact." However, it is important to note that the Salomon family was represented not by the father, but largely by the mother, Isabeau Chatar. Isabeau Chatar did not understand how her daughters could prefer the life of a religious to the value of a good marriage. She verbally and demonstrably denounced her daughters' disruption of traditional family planning, as Bertheau recorded:
In a forum entitled "Patronage, Language and Political Culture," J. Russell Major observed that Sharon Kettering has provided the best book and numerous articles on patronage in early modern France. Kettering has illustrated the bonds tying people and groups together, explored the nature of patronage relationships between Paris and the provinces, and tested the durability of patronage under the duress of confessional difference during times of war. She examined friendships formed from family ties and household and kinship networks. Kettering's work inspired my questions regarding the Catholic Reformation in Bordeaux. What role did patronage play as local Catholics sought to reclaim and rebuild their church? How durable were the bonds of political clientage when challenged by family or friendship networks? Did patronage relationships prove lasting when they crossed or challenged social class and status? For example, Sourdis' ties with the royal court and private audiences with the king likely instilled a sense of privilege, which, when combined with his non-local origins, youth, and the active role he pursued as a Tridentine archbishop, rubbed Bordeaux's elites the wrong way. When Sourdis was challenged by Bordelaise elites, he relied on royal connections rather than emphasizing his authority vested from Rome, suggesting that tension was local versus royal power over jealously guarded local privileges. By 1609, after almost a decade of serving in Bordeaux, Archbishop Sourdis had become increasingly respectful of local concerns, as the unfolding of the Ursuline story will illustrate. The power of family, kin, and patronage within the city effectively limited ecclesiastical authority. Reform-minded churchmen were forced to respond to local concerns, as much as to those of Trent. As Diefendorf remarked, "the Catholic Reformation was less structured, less closely supervised, and more open to individual initiative - for better and worse - than we usually imagine as the inheritance of Trent."
More recently, Diefendorf has examined the "relation between lay patronage and the cloistering of Catholic Reformation nuns" showing "how lay patronage . . . was absolutely essential to the movement's success [and] played a more active role in shaping the Catholic Reformation than is usually assumed." My own work on women's religious orders in Bordeaux confirms many of Diefendorf's findings for Paris. The Ursuline congregation in Bordeaux underwent dramatic change between its 1606 inception and its official charter from the pope in 1618. The initial vision Sourdis brought to Bordeaux after his pilgrimage to Saint Carlo Borromeo's tomb in Milan in 1605 was that of the Ursulines in Milan and Provence: an uncloistered congregation focused on catechizing young girls. Archbishop Sourdis' efforts corresponded to a similar initiative mounted by Bordeaux native, Jeanne de Lestonnac, baroness de Monferrant, but their visions clashed on two major points: cloister and class. Lestonnac hoped to found a cloistered order dedicated to teaching, with primary focus on daughters from elite families.
Soon after the disagreements between Lestonnac and Sourdis, the Archbishop's confessor introduced him to Françoise de Cazères. Cazères grew up in a nearby village, La Sauve Majeure, and through a family friend was introduced to the Archbishop's confessor, Berty. Impressed, Berty arranged a meeting between Archbishop Sourdis and Cazères in which they agreed to combine efforts and found an Ursuline congregation.
After a six-month spiritual retreat in 1606, during which time Françoise was joined by her cousin, Marie de Cazères and friend Jeanne de Mercerie, Berty located a house for the women in a working-class quarter, Puy-Paulin. Puy-Paulin was home to a raucous fish market and many day-laborers and has been described as "a theater of constant disorder" - an inauspicious location for a new, female, teaching congregation. The women took simple vows, wore modest habits, remained uncloistered, and fell under the direct supervision of the parish curate. Unlike the congregations in Milan and Provence, the group remained under the authority of the Archbishop rather than a male religious order. In spite of meager origins, the Ursuline congregation received several professions in the next two years. Anne de Beauvais, who would become famous throughout France for her mysticism, professed in 1606. Beauvais came to the congregation through her brother, a priest in Castillon and friend of Archbishop Sourdis. Marie de la Barthe professed in 1607, though little is known about her social background. Two sisters from Puy-Paulin professed in 1607, Marie and Marguerite de Jentilleau. Their father is described as a "bourgeois de Bordeaux." By the end of 1607, seven Ursulines were established in a working-class parish with little connection to the Bordelaise elites.
The year 1608 saw important changes for the congregation. Berty found a new building for the congregation in the parish of St. Eulalie, still a working-class parish, but less raucous and more "respectable" than Puy-Paulin. Moreover, the new building would facilitate a profound change: claustration. The Puy-Paulin quarters allowed for no private space between the secular and religious worlds whereas the new building in St. Eulalie offered the promise of high windows, ample room for a receiving parlor, and classroom space where day students would not interfere with cloistered sisters. Motivated in part by parental complaints, as well as Cazères' own arguments in favor of cloister, Berty and Sourdis agreed to cloister the Ursulines and throughout 1608, undertook the process of writing a Rule and Constitution for the community. The formalized religious organization began to draw recruits from a higher social class: Marguerite de Berty, niece of the Archbishop's confessor, Anne de Lagunegrand and Suzanne de Richon, both from parlementary families, and Jeanne de Riviere, orphaned from a "good family," all professed in 1608.
A second dramatic turning point for the Ursuline community came when three prominent women from southwestern France professed in 1609, one of whom was Claire d'Albret, daughter of Henri d'Albret and Antoinette de Pons, both from notable families. The Albret profession marked such a turning point that the vicar-general Bertheau commented: "These people of commerce [the Salomons] haphazardly launched a boat loaded with scum and bad language, that cried that this company of St. Ursula was only for the lowest class of people and servants, see three young women of grand houses have now offered themselves [to the Ursulines]."
The Bordelaise Ursuline congregation grew exponentially over the next several decades; between 1607 and 1642, approximately 148 women joined the congregation. Increasingly, the Ursulines recruited from the noble and magisterial class. Of those women whose fathers were identified, thirty-seven Ursulines came from families with noble titles and fifty-four women had fathers who were members of parliamentary courts. The Bordeaux Ursulines followed a trend of aristocratization similar to Ursulines throughout France, as identified by Elizabeth Rapley. Family and kin networks also influenced recruitment, as between 1606 and 1642, eighteen sets of two sisters and six sets of three sisters joined the congregation. Thirteen cousins resided in the congregation during the 1620s and 1630s. Clearly, family and kinship ties, as well as concerns of social respectability and prestige played a critical role in recruitment.
As mentioned, Archbishop Sourdis' efforts to found an Ursuline congregation coincided with those of Jeanne Lestonnac, baroness of Monferrant, niece of Michel de Montaigne, and widow of Gaston de Monferrant, councilor in parlement. The Lestonnac (paternal), Eyquem (maternal), and Monferrant (spousal) families all had deep roots in the political history of Bordeaux and Guyenne as governors, mayors, and councilors in parlement. After Lestonnac was widowed in 1597, she adopted the lifestyle of a secular dévote. She performed many acts of charity, including food and alms distribution, and regularly met with young women of her social class to pray and discuss religious questions. After eight years living as a dévote, Lestonnac's brother, a Jesuit attached to the Jesuit college in Bordeaux, arranged a meeting between Lestonnac and two Jesuit fathers: Jean de Bordes and François de Raymond. Bordes and Raymond asked Lestonnac to serve as founder of a new teaching order for young women, modeled on the Jesuit educational program for young men. Lestonnac agreed. The three decided upon a cloistered community to follow the Benedictine rule, modified to allow sisters to teach. From her experience and contacts made as a dévote, Lestonnac recommended nine women to join her in a year of spiritual retreat in preparation for the undertaking. By March 1606, after initial disagreements with Archbishop Sourdis who wanted Lestonnac to join her efforts to the Ursuline congregation, Lestonnac received approval from the Archbishop for the new order, the Company of Our Lady. Papal approval followed in 1607.
The Company purchased an old priory near the Château Trompette. On 1 May 1608, Sourdis personally gave the veil to the postulants, a ceremony attended by the Governor of Bordeaux, several Jesuits including Fathers Raymond and Bordes, the Lestonnac family, and family friends including several members of parlement and city council. Within two years, ten women professed vows, including Lestonnac. Of those ten, five women came from parlementary families, one was a widow of a notary, three were daughters of bourgeois families, and one was of an unknown family background. Nine were native to Bordeaux or its environs. From 1610 to 1622, Lestonnac served as elected superior in the Bordeaux house, and recruitment patterns remained similar and stable. Lestonnac's connections with Bordeaux's parlementary class proved critical to the success of her house. Daughters of Bordelaise elites crowded the classrooms, forcing Lestonnac to look for a larger site. In September 1610, the company moved to an old but comfortably habitable monastery on rue du Hâ in a bourgeois quarter of the city. In addition to more living space for the nuns, the facility had room for at least four classrooms as well as boarding rooms separable by social class. On 2 July 1616, Pierre Rostigny de Lanchre, seigneur de Loubière, King's councilor to parlement, and Jeanne Demons, his wife, donated 8,000 lire to build a new chapel in the convent, and upon her husband's death, Jeanne Demons donated another 10,000 lire to improve living quarters. The Company of Our Lady was well-received and financially supported by the city's elite.
Local patronage and family ties proved critical not only to the company's successful foundation and early recruitment; they were also instrumental in the company's expansion throughout southwestern France. For example, in March 1615, Elizabeth de Cruzy, a widow from Béziers and member of a group of dévotes advised by the vicar general of the cathedral in Béziers, expressed interest in founding a convent. The vicar general put Cruzy in touch with the rector of the college of Jesuits, newly opened in Béziers, Father Fourcauld. Father Fourcauld recommended Cruzy write to Lestonnac herself and provided Cruzy with a letter of introduction. Thus began a substantial correspondence between Cruzy and Lestonnac. In the spring of 1615, Lestonnac wrote to the bishop of Béziers as well as to Rome for approval to open a new house in Béziers.
That same spring, Lestonnac received a letter from six women in Périgueux, requesting she found a house in their town. Of the six, Lestonnac knew Françoise de Puyférat, one of two sisters she had met during her years working as a secular dévote. A second name on the letter of request, Marie de Briançon, had a cousin, Suzanne, in the Bordeaux house. The Périgueux request had the support of their archbishop, Archbishop de la Béraudière, a distant relation of the Montaignes. In addition, Lestonnac went to Toulouse in 1619 to found yet another house. She had been invited by a personal friend, Louise de Teula, widow of Thomas de Pontac, Baron d'Escassefort, a counselor in the Bordeaux parlement. Upon her husband's death, Teula returned to her native Toulouse and had the means and desire to found a convent. Foundations proceeded through Lestonnac's personal connections as well as her connections with the Jesuits and Bordelaise political elites.
Central to the identity of religious houses was the ability to recruit members and found new houses. Recruitment and expansion involved kinship, neighborhood networks, and religious and political connections. The Company of Our Lady's founder, Lestonnac, was well-recognized for her Catholic devotion and her connections with Bordelaise elites, and the order recruited heavily and successfully from the parlementary class. In contrast, the Salomon case illustrates the problems associated with a new, uncloistered congregation having only a headstrong, nineteen-year old, crown-appointed archbishop as founder and primary patron, devout and inspired though he may have been. Institutional power, or power legally vested in positions like that of the archbishop, only tell part of the story. Kinship, friendship, and patronage bonds, as well as concerns of social prestige and respectability, played critical roles in shaping the Catholic Reformation in Bordeaux. As Diefendorf concluded, "The simple fact is that it was not the church but individual donors who built the convents of the Catholic revival."
As recorded by Archbishop François d'Escoubleau de Sourdis' vicar-general, Jean de Bertheau, Archives Historiques du Département de la Gironde (henceforth, cited as AHG), 58 vol. (Bordeaux: Chez E.G. Gounouillhou, 1859-1932), 49:24.
The parlement and city council had grown accustomed to arbitrating religious conflict during the second half of the sixteenth century owing to absenteeism and a nine-year delay in the appointment of an archbishop. Bertheau, AHG, 49:85-86. See also, Bernard Peyrous, La Réforme Catholique à Bordeaux (1600-1719): Le renouveau d'un diocèse, 2 vols. (Bordeaux: Fédération Historique du Sud-Ouest, 1995), 1:217.
François d'Escoubleau de Sourdis, son of François d'Escoubleau, count of Lachapelle Belouin and marquis d'Alluye, and Élisabeth Babou de Labourdaisière, and nephew by his mother of Gabrielle D'Estrées, mistress of the king. Bernard Peyrous, La Réforme institutionelle de l'archidiocèse de Bordeaux au temps de Cardinal François de Sourdis (1599-1628) (Louvain: Impr. Cultura, 1981), 18.
J. Russell Major, "Vertical Ties through Time," Response to Sharon Kettering's article "Patronage in Early Modern France," French Historical Studies 17 (1992): 863. Major is referring to Sharon Kettering, Patrons, Brokers, and Clients in Seventeenth Century France (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), as well as to articles such as "Friendship and Clientage in Early Modern France," French History 6 (1992): 139-158; "Clientage during the French Wars of Religion," Sixteenth Century Journal 20 (1989): 221-239; and "The Patronage Power of Early Modern French Noblewomen," The Historical Journal 34 (1989): 817-841.
Two accounts in particular provide background information on the Ursulines in France. The first source is a seventeenth-century account written by a mother in the Ursuline community, Mère Marie-Augustine de Pommereu, Les Chroniques de l'Ordre des Ursulines recueillies pour l'usage des Religieuses du Mesme Ordre (Paris: Hénault, 1673) with pp. 144-57 detailing the events in Bordeaux. The second source is a twentieth-century narrative by Marie de Chantal Guedré, Histoire de l'Ordre des Ursulines en France, 2 vols. (Paris: Éditions Saint-Paul, 1957) with pp. 834-57 detailing the events in Bordeaux. The primary source material for the Ursuline house in Bordeaux comes from Bertheau, AHG, 50:263-265 and 50:340-368; and Archives Départmentales de la Gironde, (henceforth cited as ADG), G I, 628 and H. suppl. Ursulines.
The number is based on contracts of entry and profession of vows, contained in ADG, G I, 628, Ursulines, "Comptes de 1639" and ADG H. suppl. Ursulines, liasse 93. I have not yet consulted notarial records, so the number may be incomplete.
For general information on the life and activities of Jeanne Lestonnac, I have relied on four biographical accounts of her life and the few remaining primary sources (most documents were destroyed in a nineteenth-century archival fire). Dache Le Vachier de Boisville, La Vénérable Jeanne de Lestonnac, barrone de Monferrand-Landiras (Bordeaux: E.G. Gounouillhou, 1901); Auguste Bouzonnie, Histoire de l'Ordre des Religieuses Filles de Notre Dame, 2 vols. (Poitiers: Veuve de Jean Baptiste Braud, 1697); Antoine Sabatier, Premier rapport sur la vie vénérable de Madame Lestonnac (Bordeaux: La Vigne, 1835), a record of her life and works based on six different primary sources as well as an explication of those sources; Father Sabatier also authored Considérations critiques pour servir à l'histoire de l'ordre de Notre Dame et à la vie de Madame Lestonnac sa Fondatrice (Bordeaux: La Vigne, 1843); and Françoise Soury-Lavergne, Chemin d'Éducation sur les traces de Jeanne de Lestonnac, 1556-1640 (Rome: 1984).
Dast le Vacher de Boisville, La Vénérable Jeanne de Lestonnac et la fondation de l'Ordre des Filles de Notre Dame, Documents Inédits, (Bordeaux: R. Coussau, 1899), unpaginated. Document number three is the contract of purchase and details the house and garden.
The following sources have slightly differing names for the 1608 and 1609 professions, but by 1610, professions were more formulaic and complete: Règles et Constitutions de l'Ordre des Religieuses de Notre-Dame (Bordeaux: P. De la Court, 1638), 16; Bouzonnie, Histoire de l'Ordre, 1:85; Sabatier, Considérations Critiques, 46-50. A nineteenth-century archivist, Dast le Vacher de Boisville, collected and printed contracts in La Vénérable Jeanne de Lestonnac. By late 1609, there is agreement concerning the first ten women who professed vows.