La Contre-Reforme et Les Constitutions De Port Royal

By Kostroun, Daniella | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2003 | Go to article overview

La Contre-Reforme et Les Constitutions De Port Royal


Kostroun, Daniella, The Catholic Historical Review


La Contre-Reforme et les Constitutions de Port Royal. By E Ellen Weaver. (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf. 2002. Pp. 242. euro29 paperback.)

There is no question that E Ellen Weaver's study of Port Royal's Constitutions is a must-read book for scholars of Port Royal and Janscnism. But the work also has value for those intcrestcd more generally in monastic reform in the Counter-Reformation period. One can divide the eight chapters of this book into two basic sections. The first section compares and contrasts Port Royal's Constitutions with those of other convents. The second section tracks the development of Port Royal's Constitutions as they change over time. For the specialist, the first section provides a compelling answer to the question: To what extent does Jansenism-a controversial reform movement that developed at the Port Royal convent-represent a departure from more mainstream Catholic reform efforts in seventeenth-century Fnmce? By comparing Port Royal's Constitutions with those of other contemporary Cistercian and Benedictine convents, Wcaver shows that Port Royal's reform remained more thithfid to the original Cistercian interpretation of the Benedictine Rule than that of many other convents. If Port Royal appeared radical or "innovative" to its contemporaries, this was not because it adopted new practices and beliefs, but rather because it rejected some of the institutional and spiritual customs (such as royal nomination of abbesses and an Ignatian emphasis on spiritual exercises) that had become commonplace in post-Tridentine France. Although Port Royal did adopt some key elements of Counter-Reformation religiosity (most significantly a perpetual adoration of the Eucharist), its reformers remained as faithful as possible to the original Benedictine Rule. In short, Weaver argues that many of the practices that critics condemned as "Jansenist" at Port Royal were genuinely Cistercian in origin. …

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