The Forest With Its Aristocratic Convent in the Heart of Old Paris

September 6, 2018

The convent [of the Ursuline nuns* in the rue Saint-Jacques] was a very aristocratic one, and the terms were high for those times—five or six hundred francs a year. The convent of the Ursulines had been founded by Françoise de Bermont at the beginning of the seventeenth century and had been richly endowed by Madame de Sainte-Beave, the widow of a member of the Court of Justice. On the 22nd June, 1620, Queen Anne of Austria had laid the foundation stone of its church, which was adorned by marble pillars and costly pictures, while in the centre of the chancel stood the tomb of its benefactress, Madame de Sainte-Beave. The convent had an immense garden which joined with those of two neighbouring convents, the Feuillantines and the Visitation, to create, as it were, a forest in the very heart of old Paris.

The Woman Without a Name by G. Lenotre. 1923. Pg. 6



*The excellent César de Bus assisted a lady of Avignon, Françoise de Bermont, to establish there a colony of Ursulines, on the original plan, in 1594. Françoise was a person of great energy; she travelled from city to city in the South of France, and established Ursulines at Aix, Marseilles and Lyons. She adhered to the design of St. Angela, except that, in obedience to a suggestion of César de Bus, she substituted the common life for dispersion in various homes. The conversion of the society into a religious order was chiefly the work of a French lady, Mme. de Ste.-Beuve, who built and endowed a monastery for Ursulines in the Rue St. Jacques at Paris in 1610, and obtained from Pope Paul V, two years later, a bull, by which her foundation was subjected to the rule St. Austin, under the invocation of St. Ursula; the nuns were to be strictly enclosed; they were to take solemn vows; and they were to add a fourth, that of instructing the young.

Madame de Sainte-Beuve

This was the commencement of the Ursuline congregation of Paris, which soon numbered forty-five houses. The followers of St. Angela who preferred still to abide by her original plan, were called “congregated” Ursulines—Ursulines congrégées; but the “religious” Ursulines, who observed enclosure and took solemn vows, appear to have better suited the prevalent mode of thought in the seventeenth century, and they were multiplied in every direction.

Several distinct congregations, each numbering many convents, were formed. Of the congregation of Paris we have spoken; that of Bordeaux was founded in 1606 by the Cardinal-Archbishop de Sourdis, with the aid of Mother Madeleine de la Croix, and approved by the Holy See in 1618; before long it eighty-nine affiliated houses.


The Catholic Dictionary: Or, the Universal Christian Educator and Popular Encyclopaedia of Religious Information, Containing Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils and Religious Orders of the Church by William Edward Addis, Thomas Arnold; 1896, pg. 826.

Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 642

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