Coustumier et directoire pour les soeurs religieuses (1637)

The Sisters of the Visitation of Mary were an order of nuns founded in seventeenth-century France by Jeanne Françoise de Chantal. Born in 1572 to the Frémyot family of Dijon, at the age of twenty she married Christophe du Rabutin, Baron de Chantal. After bearing six children, she was widowed before the age of thirty and dedicated herself to a religious life under the tutelage of her friend, François de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (living in Annecy). Together they founded the Visitation order in 1611. It was dedicated to caring for the elderly, the sick and the poor. The order proved popular and expanded to eighty-six houses by the time de Chantal died in 1641. This copy of the rules of the order was owned by the chapter on the Rue St Jacques, Paris, founded in 1623; they kept it in their library, as the inscription says.

The book also has the signature of Sister Marie Xavier Pilles, which you can just see in the upper left of the flyleaf verso, across from the title page.

De Chantal was influenced by the writings of St Augustin, as well as Introduction to a Devout Life by her spiritual mentor, François de Sales, and writings of Teresa of Àvila and Catherine of Siena. Among the rules listed is one saying that at the beginning of the year, the nuns will receive copies of either The Imitation of Christ (by Thomas à Kempis) or The Spiritual Combat (by Fr. Lawrence Scupoli). The rules also give instructions for locating the chair of the Reader who would read to the nuns during meals. It should be in the center of the refectory near a window and with a chandelier close by and a bookshelf on the wall; very practical specifications.

Source: Book offered for sale by Olson Rare Books, 4/2020; since sold. Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

“Jeanne-Françoise de Frémyot, Baronne de Chantal,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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