Monday, April 25, 2016

The body of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The wax remains of St. Vincent de Paul were installed in an impressive Neoclassical glass and silver coffin circa 1830 made by Odiot's atelier, one of the finest goldsmiths of the era. It took the strength of ten men to carry the silver vault around the city to its final destination, where you can admire it today. He is posed clutching to his chest an ivory crucifix from the Notre Dame treasury that had been used to give the last rites to Louis XIII.

I happen onto the body of Saint Vincent de Paul while discovering The Fontaine du Fellah, also known as the Egyptian Fountain. I had been trying to find this famous fountain built by Emperor Napoleon since I first started going to Paris in the mid 1990's. During the Summer of 2014 I decided that this would be the visit I would see the The Fontaine du Fellah.  After walking around in a circle for a hour in the 6e arrondissement of Paris. I finally was face to face with the Egyptian Fountain. After photographing it I noticed a small church across the street. One I had never been in. I never pass up the chance to visit a French church, I'm glad I  visited this one as now no visit to Paris is complete without going here. I entered the small gem of a church. 

The Chapel Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.  St. Vincent de Paul (24 April 1581 – 27 September 1660) was a French Roman Catholic priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He was canonized in 1737. He was renowned for his compassion, humility, and generosity and is known as the "Great Apostle of Charity".Vincent's body was exhumed in 1712, 53 years after his death. The written account of an eyewitness states that "the eyes and nose alone showed some decay". However, when it was exhumed again during the canonization in 1737, it was found to have decomposed due to an underground flood. Today his bones have been encased in a waxen figure which is displayed in a glass reliquary in the chapel of the headquarters of the Vincentian fathers in Paris. 

The Fontaine du Fellah, also known as the Egyptian Fountain, located at 52 rue de Sèvres in Paris. It was built in 1806 during the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the neo-Egyptian style inspired by Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. It is the work of architect François-Jean Bralle and sculptor Pierre-Nicolas Beauvalet.

The statue is a copy of a Roman statue of Antinous, the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, which was discovered in the excavation of Hadrian's villa in Tivoli in 1739. The original of the statue is found in the Vatican Museum in Rome. The figure holds two amphorae, one in each hand. Water poured from the amphorae into the semicircular basin below, then through a bronze masqueron in the form of a lion's head. The top of the fountain is decorated with an eagle, signifying Napoleon's imperial rule.

On the eve of the French Revolution, St. Lazare was plundered by the mob, the congregation later suppressed; it was restored by Napoleon in 1804 at the desire of Pius VII, abolished by him in 1809 in consequence of a quarrel with the pope, and again restored in 1816 where the located to this sight. 

As compensation for the loss of the original Saint Lazare, the Vincentians took possession of the former Hotel (or city residence) of the Duke of Lorges. The state had acquired this house for the Congregation's use from the hospital across the street, which gained it at the Revolution. The Congregation became lodgers (the government owned the property, the Congregation had use of it), and the house opened on 9 November 1817.

At the time, the house, 95, rue de Sevres, included:  a three-story main house, with courtyard and garden; a two-story section looking out on Rue de Sevres joined to the main house by two side buildings, one story each, used as stables, storehouse, and hay barn; a one-story wing situated where the present refectory is located. The community moved in as best it could into cramped quarters. Jean-Baptiste Étienne (1801-1874), a seminarian at the time, recalled: "It was the stable of Bethlehem." The oldest part of the building dates from 1685-1688.

On 17 August 1826, the vicar general, Charles Boujard (1752-1831), laid the cornerstone of the chapel. Previously, there had been only a tiny and unsuitable oratory. To build the chapel, the Congregation acquired  the wing of the old Hotel de Lorges and half of the adjoining house were demolished to make way for the chapel. Then, during the generalate of Pierre de Wailly (1827-]828), construction on the chapel continued, and the archbishop of Paris, Hyacinthe de Quelen, blessed it on 1 November 1827. 

This Neoclassical chapel has a basilica plan simple, without transepts, with a main nave and two aisles. The nave ends with a small choir, without apse, but topped by a level where a chase containing the remains of the saint. At its other end, it is above the entrance a gallery organ in accordance with the standard provisions.
The decoration of the chapel, typical of the end of the French Restoration period circa 1820's, is particularly rich and successful.

Louis Braille (1809-52), inventor of the Braille writing system (himself blind by accident since the age of three), was also an excellent organist. He was the organist of this church the last seven years of his life.

Side altar to Mary. 

Side altar 

Items of interest are the eight large canvases painted by Brother François Charbonnier (1787-1873). He was a trained artist at the time of his entry into the Congregation, having studied at the studio of the painter Ingres. His paintings are displayed in several other places in the building. 

The aisles are lit by a series of stained glass windows depicting episodes from St Vincent de Paul's life from vintage etchings brown color accented with yellow. The windows date from 1864. They overcome altars devoted to saints and blesseds venerated by the congregation, especially John Gabriel Perboyre , martyred in China in 1840.

The mural over the altar is painted by Brother François Charbonnier circa 1855. It is titled Saint Vincent in Glory. 

The mural over the altar is painted by Brother François Charbonnier circa 1855. It is titled Saint Vincent in Glory. 

The mural over the altar is painted by Brother François Charbonnier circa 1855. It is titled Saint Vincent in Glory. 

You can see the casket containing the body of Vincent is placed in the chapel above the high altar 

During my first visit to the church did not know what this was, But I saw tourist climbing a marble spiral staircase so I followed. 

The beautiful marble spiral Staircase to access the shrine.

Neoclassical plaster ceiling richly decorated and painted

Once I got to the top of the stairs and was over the high altar, this is what I saw. The face of one of the most beloved Saints! I don't think I have ever been so surprised and amazed in my life! This beautiful Neoclassical silver reliquary containing the remains of Saint Vincent de Paul. His body is not incorrupt. Although the skeleton has been hidden or transferred several times because of wars, revolutions, and religious celebrations (the latest in 1960), it has been preserved. Wax covers the face and hands. The crucifix in his hands is the one he used when assisting King Louis XIII on his deathbed. This precious souvenir passed down through the royal family, and then to the Archdiocese of Paris. At the time of the translation of the relics to this church in 1830, the then archbishop of Paris , Monseigneur de Quelen and his canons gave it to the Congregation to be used as it is today.

The profusely decorated Neoclassical shrine silver sculptures was made ​​by the famous silversmith Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot . The shrine measure 2.25 meters long, 65 centimeters wide and slightly more than a meter high in the middle. Above a ornate casket are figures representing St. Vincent de Paul rising to the sky with the emblems of faith , of hope and charity , the three theological virtues , carried by four angels.

Saint Vincent de Paul resting peacefully, dressed in his vestments. 

Four corner angels keep watch over Saint Vincent de Paul. 

Saint Vincent has on hand made lace & Gold Embroidered Priest vestments.  

More silver angels on top of the Shrine 

Saint Vincent has on hand made lace & Gold Embroidered Priest vestments.  

Above a ornate casket are figures representing St. Vincent de Paul rising to the sky with the emblems of faith , of hope and charity , the three theological virtues. 

Above a ornate casket are figures representing St. Vincent de Paul rising to the sky with the emblems of faith , of hope and charity , the three theological virtues , carried by four angels.

Beautiful Neo Classical acanthus leaf motif all over the silver shrine 

The body of St. Vincent de Paul, who died on 27 September 1660 , was intact except for the eyes and nose in 1712 , 52 years after his death. In 1737, only remained the skeleton because of water getting into the grave. These relics have been hidden and escape the revolutionary turmoil. After the French Revolution, the Lazarists installed their congregation in Rue de Sèvres in Paris, where a new chapel was edified in 1827. In order to honor the founder of their community, the priests asked permission of the Archbishop of Paris to transfer the remains of their "Great Apostle of Charity" to the tiny, modest-looking church. But when the vault was opened this time, the monks found that their beloved saint turned out to have morphed into a messy pile of bones. The Lazarists tried to put the bones back together but was not able to. After some desperate attempts to give Saint Vincent his original structure back, the most rational of the church elders made the practical, decision to call in some surgeons as reinforcement. Once the saint recovered his human shape, doctors had some embarrassing news to announce: some of the remains were missing.

Some archival research by the church eventually revealed that Saint Vincent's dismemberment was actually done by the Church itself — previous Church members had sent the Saint's arms to African and American colonies to help convert heretics. Other finger bones had been offered as gifts to members of Parisian high society for "private devotional use."On the preserved skeleton, have been reshaped the face and hands covered with wax, so that Vincent appears to rest peacefully, dressed in his vestments . The numerous missing parts of his fragile skeleton were wired with wood like a taxidermy. The cross placed in his hands is the one he gave the last rites to King Louis XIII dying . The incorruptible heart of Vincent de Paul is kept separately in the chapel of the Filles de la Charité located at 140 rue du Bac in the 7 th arrondissement .

Born April 24, 1581, in the region of Landes, Vincent de Paul was ordained a priest on September 23, 1600. St. Vincent is not only known as the champion of the poor but also of the rich, for he taught them to do works of mercy. During his early years as a priest, he worked as a chaplain for Queen Margaret de Valois and served as a tutor to the powerful de Gondi family. While ministering to the de Gondis family, however, Vincent began noticing the great inequities between the lots of the rich and the poor. 

Who paid for this amazing shrine? The people of Paris. For its implementation, a public subscription was opened, covered extensively by the people of Paris, very attached to this saint, close to the poor.

The cross placed in his hands is the one he gave the last rites to King Louis XIII dying. 

 Saint Vincent has on hand made Gold Embroidered Priest vestments.  

In 1830 Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot (1763–1850) was awarded a gold medal in the third Exposition de l’Industrie in Paris for the silver shrine. 

Jean-Baptiste Odiot by Robert Lefèvre, 1822

The bold signature of Odiot. 

Maison Odiot, in English "House of Odiot", was established in 1690, during the reign of Louis XV by Jean-Baptiste Gaspard Odiot, considered a fine silversmith.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte gave Jean-Baptiste Claude, grandson of Jean-Baptiste Gaspard, many prestigious commissions for himself and his family, such as the sacred scepter and sword and the King of Rome's cradle. Immense dinner services were ordered by Pauline Borghèse, by her mother and by the Emperor himself.

Jean-Baptiste Claude was influenced by the return of the classical Greek and Egyptian motifs as expressed in the Directoire and Empire styles. Court commissions help further the reputation of Maison Odiot, and the firm provided vermeil services to courts across European.

The thing is the only surviving work by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot (1763–1850) dating from before the French Revolution (1789–95) is a coffee urn (Monticello, Virginia, Jefferson Foundation) designed and commissioned by Thomas Jefferson.

I was so amazed with the shrine during this trip I visited the relics twice. The photo's below is from the 2th visit. 

Saint Vincent de Paul resting peacefully, dressed in his vestments. 

The chapel was restored in 1983 and 1992 . It is classified as a historic monument by decree published in the Official Journal the 27 March 1994 .

The side of the shrine. 

There is a small gift shop here as well, open at irregular hours. They only speak French in the shop.

​Getting there:
To reach the Shrine of Saint Vincent de Paul by Metro, get off at the Vaneau station which is on the same street as the shrine. From the outside it does not appear to be any different from many of the other buildings on the street (even knowing where it is, we have almost walked by it before), but inside you will find a beautiful church. There is a small plaque on the front door that might help you find it. 

Address:   95 Rue de Sèvres 75007 Paris

First Class Relics

Chapelle des Pères Lazaristes
(Chapel of the Vincentian Priests)
95 Rue de Sèvres
75006 Paris, France
*This church is very near the Vaneau Metro Stop, across the street. The body of St Vincent de Paul rests above the main sanctuary and is accessed by means of a staircase.

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