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  • Cathédrale et pèlerinage aux époques médiévale et moderne: Reliques, processions et devotions à l’église-mère du diocese
  • Kathleen Ashley
Cathédrale et pèlerinage aux époques médiévale et moderne: Reliques, processions et devotions à l’église-mère du diocese. Edited by Catherine Vincent and Jacques Pycke. [Bibliothèque de la Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, Fascicule 92.] (Louvain-la-Neuve: Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique. 2010. Pp. 330. €45,00 paperback.)

Religious typology has conventionally separated the cathedral’s socio-religious experiences from those of the pilgrimage. The seventeen essays in this volume (plus an introductory essay by Catherine Vincent and a conclusion by André Vauchez) test the proposition that cathedrals as the bishop’s seat of power and communal liturgies are essentially different from pilgrimages, which are individual expressions of devotion outside of institutional structures. The volume’s conclusions challenge the traditional view by showing the often-successful efforts of cathedral authorities over many centuries to provide the sacred relics that would attract pilgrims to their shrines. Sites explored in the essays include many individual places—Paris, Tournai, Toul, Le Puy, Autun, Reims, Langres, Rouen, Sens, Cambrai, Vienne, and Embrun—as well as more broadly focused discussions of cathedral crypts, postmedieval developments, founding saints of Lorraine, and mendicant processions.

The majority of the essays focus on the later Middle Ages, especially the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. However, the vitality of cathedrals as pilgrimage sites did not end with the Middle Ages, as several of the essays demonstrate. For example, Le Puy-en-Velay with its famous Black Virgin was an ancient Marian pilgrimage site that, according to Bruno Maes, became an even more important Catholic destination in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when it was surrounded by Calvinist Huguenot communities. After the Council of Trent, too, there was a general move to open up cathedral choirs, to rid them of the assemblage of altars typical of the Middle Ages—a move that reached its apex in the eighteenth century, as Mathieu Lours shows. The reinvigoration of shrines in the postmedieval period also resulted from acquisition of a new relic such as the “suaire” (shroud) that moved to Besançon’s Cathedral of St. Jean from the collegiale church of St. Etienne when it was demolished by Vauban. [End Page 549]

The dividing line between a pilgrimage and a procession can be blurred, as Philippe Martin points out for Toul in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even during the Middle Ages, an important cathedral—like the “mother church” at Tournai—could attract regional clergy on a pilgrimage, as Jacques Pycke shows. The Tournai ecclesiastics encouraged pilgrimage at key liturgical points in the calendar, including Pentecost, the Exaltation of the Cross, and Marian feasts. The authorization of commercial festivals at times of religious importance also buoyed the Tournai cathedral’s privileged position in a large area of northern Europe.

The distinction between procession and pilgrimage to Notre Dame of Paris is likewise difficult to perceive, as Mireille Vincent-Cassy argues. This cathedral had been a pilgrimage site since 945, but it was in the twelfth century that an influx of new relics often on display promoted the cathedral’s status. The multiple visits of King Charles V during the fourteenth century to pray for a son and then to commemorate the success of his prayer qualified as “pilgrimages,” since they had the elements of the vow, the journey, and the oblation. Processions were characterized by accompanying clergy carrying a cross before the marchers and ended with a sermon. Some processions became pilgrimages, Vincent-Cassy argues, for example the “deambulation” of 1449 in Paris, which had 12,500 children dressed in white, walking barefoot with candles from the church of the Holy Innocents to the cathedral, where they heard a Mass sung before the image of Notre Dame.

These specific examples are selected from the many richly detailed discussions of cathedral activity that could not be summarized here for lack of space. Suffice it to say that a careful reader of the essays in this volume will certainly come away convinced that the conventional division between cathedral worship and the pilgrimage must be...


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