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  • Les Curés de Paris au XVIe siècle
  • Katharine J. Lualdi
Les Curés de Paris au XVIe siècle. By Vladimir Angelo. [Histoire Religieuse de la France, no. 26.] (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf. 2005. Pp. v, 906. €49.00 paperback.)

At 906 pages, this book, a revised thèse de doctorat completed under the direction of Marc Venard, cannot help but to command attention. The author seemingly left no stone unturned in his effort to bring the parish clergy of sixteenth-century Paris into the historical spotlight. The significance of Paris as the demographic, intellectual, and political hub of sixteenth-century France is well understood, as is its emergence as a bastion of militant Catholicism (here Megan Armstrong's recent study of Franciscan preachers in particular comes to mind). Yet, a few well-known curés aside, the place of the secular clergy is largely absent from scholarly discourse. This absence is regrettable, Angelo argues, because the curés serving the city's thirty-nine parishes were not only deeply enmeshed in everyday life, but they also formed "le lien entre théologie et pastorale, entre pratique religieuse quotidienne et orientation politique"at a time when the dual forces of Catholic reform and Protestantism were reshaping the city (p. 596).

Angelo sets out to reconstruct the curés' world, layer by layer, over the course of the sixteenth century. He intentionally casts a broad chronological net in order to expose change and continuity over time. It is a daunting agenda, which, he explains, he began by identifying the names of as many curés as possible, where they served, and for how long. Once armed with this list, comprised of 386 men in all, Angelo culled through an enormous range of sources (synodal statutes, capitular and parish registers, wills, inventories after death, to name only a few) to illuminate the trajectory of the curés' careers as both an ideal and lived experience. The result is a well-organized and cogently presented group portrait of Parisian curés that in its sheer scope and concomitant refusal to rest on generalizations forges new historiographical ground. [End Page 324]

Divided into three parts, Angelo's narrative draws the reader into ever closer concentric circles around the curés and their parishes. Part I examines the varied, and often competing, jurisdictional frameworks in which curés had to function, followed in Part IIwith a detailed look at how men became curés, and what intellectual and cultural "baggage" they brought with them to the job. Angelo reserves his most extended discussion for Part III, where he explores the realities of the curés' lives as pastors—how well they performed their charge; their relations with auxiliary clergy and parishioners; the manner in which they lived. His study concludes with two, user-friendly appendices:a chronological list of the 386 curés by parish (pp. 605-622); and a biographical sketch of each man comprised of ten categories (sources permitting), ranging from diocese of origin to political choices (pp. 623-838). Consequently, the book is at once an essential end and beginning for a fuller understanding of the institutional and human landscape of parish life in sixteenth-century Paris and its impact on the development of early modern French Catholicism.

Although the book paints a picture vast in its detail, some dominant images emerge. Drawing on a mixture of medieval pastoral traditions and Catholic reform, Parisian curés appear to have fulfilled their duties attentively, if not always with visible passion, and largely to their parishioners' satisfaction. By law, every curé in Paris was required to have a maîtrise ès arts, but in the second half of the century, one in two curés held an advanced degree. In addition, more than 40% of the curés remained in charge of their parishes in excess of eleven years, thus allowing them to establish firm roots in the community. For these reasons, they were well positioned to cultivate Parisians' strong Catholic sensibilities, particularly when confronted with the rising tide of Protestantism. However, following Robert Descimon's lead, Angelo challenges many historians' assumption that the secular clergy were...


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