Church and Culture in Seventeenth-Century France by Henry Phillips

By Henry Phillips

This unique and far-reaching research appears afresh on the involvement of the Catholic Church within the cultural lifetime of France within the 17th century. Professor Phillips presents a complete evaluation of artwork and literature, schooling, principles and censorship, and he specializes in the Church as a reforming and reformed establishment within the context of the Counter-Reformation. The power of his synthesis, the 1st of its variety in English, lies within the breadth of its issues and in its mixture of social, spiritual and highbrow historical past.

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They were further manifestations of the desire of many within the Church to exercise a tighter control over the lives of the faithful. The most famous of these societies is the Compagnie du SaintSacrement. The Compagnie was in essence a secret society, composed of laymen and clerics, which kept no written record of its proceedings and launched its initiatives without the participants being aware of the existence of the Compagnie. , p. 65. L e b r u n ( e d . ) , Histoire de la France religieuse> II, 3 5 1 .

The Church was anxious in this way to fill the space with representations of itself, just as the cassock-wearing priest was himself a visible sign of the Church and distinct from other men. 123 Moreover, that teaching was often communicated in the language of the community itself (very rarely French as we know it). In Brittany non-native speakers were obliged to learn Breton, and Godeau, bishop of Vence and then of Grasse, himself a northerner, preached in Occitan. Language was then one aspect of culture which the priest had to share with his flock, one case at least of the Church moving out into the world, but with the express aim of bringing that world into the space of the Church.

72 It so happens that not all within the Church considered vows as conferring any special status or as having the degree of importance ascribed to them by others. St Francois de Sales was among those who placed less emphasis on vows and who argued that perfection came from the individual and not from his or her state, that 'the state of religion, even though called a "state of perfection", did not infallibly insure spiritual perfection'. 73 This was an attitude which could not fail, if only implicitly, to promote the image of the laity and to lessen that distance between the priest and his flock, paradoxically so much a central plank of the Catholic Reform.

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