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Solesmes Abbey or St. Peter's Abbey, Solesmes (Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes) is a Benedictine monastery in Solesmes (Sarthe, France), famous as the source of the restoration of Benedictine monastic life in the country under Dom Prosper Guéranger after the French Revolution. The current abbot is the Right Reverend Dom Philippe Dupont, O.S.B.
It was originally founded in 1010 as a priory of the Benedictine Le Mans abbey. Its history was largely uneventful. It suffered considerably during the Hundred Years' War but was afterwards restored. From the 17th century it underwent a slow decline under a series of commendatory priors. It was dissolved in 1791 in the course of the French Revolution.
Towards the end of the fifteenth century the rebuilding of the church was commenced, Prior Philibert de la Croix changing it from basilica form to that of a Latin cross. His successor, Jean Bougler (1505-1556), completed the restoration of the church, added the tower, and rebuilt the cloisters, sacristy, and library. Under his direction two famous groups of statuary, known as the "Saints of Solesmes", were set up in the church. In the sixteenth century these masterpieces were in danger of being destroyed by the Huguenots and other Iconoclasts, but the monks saved them by erecting barricades.
In 1831 the remaining buildings, which had escaped demolition in the Revolution but were threatened with destruction for want of a buyer, came to the attention of the locally born priest Prosper Guéranger, who, inspired by the vision of a restored monastic life in France, acquired them for the home of a new Benedictine community, which moved in on 11 July 1833. Against all expectation the new community flourished and in 1837 not only received Papal approval, but was elevated to the rank of an abbey and made the head of the newly created French Benedictine Congregation, now the Solesmes Congregation within the Benedictine Confederation.
In 1866 a convent, St. Cecilia's Abbey, Solesmes, was also founded at Solesmes, by Mother Cécile Bruyère (the first abbess) with the support of Dom Guéranger, which was the first house of the nuns of the Solesmes Congregation.
Since its restoration Solesmes has been dissolved by the French Government no less than four times. In 1880, 1882, and 1883 the monks were ejected by force but, receiving hospitality in the neighbourhood, succeeded each time in re-entering their abbey. Between 1901 and 1922 the monks were forced into exile in England. They settled on the Isle of Wight and built the present Quarr Abbey. The community survived those trials and those of two World Wars and is still at Solesmes.
As part of its mission of monastic revival the abbey has been the mother house of numerous other monastic foundations, most notably in recent years the monastery at Palendriai in Lithuania.
The abbey is noted for its crucial contribution to the advancement of the Roman Catholic liturgy and the revival of Gregorian chant. A documentary film on life at Solesmes was made in 2009 and focuses on the tradition of the chant at the monastery.
- Alston, George Cyprian. "Abbey of St. Solesmes." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 23 March 2015
- 'Moine au Coeur de l’Eglise', 2009. Documentary (34’), Language: French/English, Director: Regis Ghezelbash
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