Henri and Jules Desclée

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Henri Desclée (1830-1917[1]) and Jules Desclée (July 9, 1828-August 2, 1911[2]) were Belgian brothers, known as founders of Maredsous Abbey, and of a printing business for Roman Catholic literature.

Maredsous Abbey[edit]

The brothers chose a picturesque site on an estate of Henri Desclée's in the Province of Namur, for the erection of Maredsous. a monastery in which to establish the monks of Beuron Abbey. They were among the religious orders which were driven out of Germany by the Kulturkampf and sought refuge in Catholic Belgium. With Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne, a Belgian monk of that congregation (later Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order), Jules Desclée had been a captain of the Pontifical Zouaves. Baron John Béthune, inspired by the same motive as the Desclée brothers for the restoration of Christian art, had attached his school of St. Luke to the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Moreover, a Count de Hemptinne had been amongst the founders of the first school of St. Luke (1862).

Accordingly the monastery of Maredsous was constructed in the purest Gothic style of the thirteenth century, after the plans of Baron Béthune.


In the 1870s the Desclée brothers also founded an important printing establishment at Tournai, under the title of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, their object being to restore Christian art in liturgical publications. The aesthetic principles by which their enterprise was to be directed were those of the Middle Ages. Here also Baron John Béthune assisted them.

At first the society relied on English workmen, compositors, and printers. The first publications attracted the attention of connoisseurs. The Society, following first the work of the Rev. Dom Pothier, and afterwards the studies of the Benedictines of Solesmes, issued the first publications for the re-establishment of the liturgical chant, commonly called "plain chant". These editions served as a basis for the edition brought out by the Vatican printing press, and imposed by Pope Pius X on the Catholic Church.

About 1880 the Desclée brothers resolved to apply to other branches of Catholic literature the same principles of artistic restoration which had met with such success in the liturgical domain. Under the title of the Society of St. Augustine they founded a separate business, devoted to the publication of all kinds of books relating to ecclesiastical studies, ascetic theology, religious history and literature, hagiography, art, archaeology, education, etc. The production of religious images formed also an important part of the work of the society, at Bruges in Belgium, and at Lille in France.

In 1881 the Desclée brothers took over the production of the "Revue de l'art chrétien."[3]



  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Henri and Jules Desclée". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.