Item #B5157 Recherche et Advis sur le corps de S. Iaques le Maieur. A l’occasion d’un Oratoire tres antien du mesme Sainct qui est en l’eglise de St maurille d’Angers. Claude MENARD.
Recherche et Advis sur le corps de S. Iaques le Maieur. A l’occasion d’un Oratoire tres antien du mesme Sainct qui est en l’eglise de St maurille d’Angers.
Recherche et Advis sur le corps de S. Iaques le Maieur. A l’occasion d’un Oratoire tres antien du mesme Sainct qui est en l’eglise de St maurille d’Angers.
Recherche et Advis sur le corps de S. Iaques le Maieur. A l’occasion d’un Oratoire tres antien du mesme Sainct qui est en l’eglise de St maurille d’Angers.
St James Not Buried in Santiago de Compostela But in Angers, France(!)
17th-Century Christian Archaeology
No U.S. Copy
Angers, Antoine Hernaut, 1610

Recherche et Advis sur le corps de S. Iaques le Maieur. A l’occasion d’un Oratoire tres antien du mesme Sainct qui est en l’eglise de St maurille d’Angers.

8vo. (14) ff including engraved title page by Thomas de Leu, 124 pp. Bound in contemporary vellum, title page in fine impression and text very crisply printed, an excellent copy.

Extremely rare first and sole edition of this work of polemical antiquarianism, seeking to prove that the remains of St. James the Apostle were not buried at Santiago de Compostella, as Europe’s most pious pilgrims had believed since the 9th century, but in the vaults of the chapel of St. Maurille, Angers (subsequently destroyed in 1791). An interesting and exceptionally rare example of political (in this case anti-Spanish) antiquarianism, in which archaeology and considerable erudition are enrolled in the service of confessional or material interests. Imagine the result if the theory turned out to be correct (or even plausible): The millions of pilgrims who for centuries had flocked to Santiago de Compostella would today instead be descending upon the medieval citadel of Angers, since the 17th century a provincial backwater in the Loire.  The volume is a reminder how fluid the boundaries between pious local advocacy, wishful thinking, and outright fraud could be in Early Modern Europe, when new technologies of certainty, like science or archeology, coexisted with old medieval modes of belief that often saw the historical record as conveniently malleable.  Even reading Menard’s text today, it is difficult to judge the extent to which his enthusiasm was misguided earnestness or sly fakery.

Menard relates that at the Holy Synod held in Angers in 1583 it was decided to open a mysterious tomb beneath the Chapel of St. Maurille, a 5th century bishop of Angers. His work attempts to prove in detail that the tomb belonged to none other than St. James the Greater, among the first apostles of Christ and traditionally held to have been buried in Northern Spain. Supposedly verified by local ecclesiastics, the discovery is said to have elicited much joy and celebration by the inhabitants of the provincial capital of Angers.

Menard reveals the complex train of events that lead to Spain’s false claim over St. James’ relics: The apostle’s grave was lost, then claimed by the Spanish under the authority of Pope Leo III.  Menard marshals evidence that this claim was based on false documents, drawing on, for example, a manuscript in the Library of St Benoit-sur-Loire.

Menard then moves on to his next logical contention: that, Campostella having been ruled out, Angers must mark the true resting place of St. James. Evidence in support of this ranges from the saint’s ‘image’ found at the foot of the mysterious tomb to the ancient mosaics surrounding it. Images of the saint were apparently also found in relief on the chairs of the choir and on the gable near the chapel’s entrance. Finally, engraved chi-rho and alpha-omega marks found near the tomb (reproduced in woodcut as evidence on pp. 105-6) are said certainly to be from the time of Constantine the Great, indicating that the site existed before it was converted into a basilica for St. Maurille (d. ca. 453). Menard concludes that the current site of the Collegial de St. Maurille was originally dedicated to St. James and to St. Benoit, whose relics were ‘accommodated’ into the current structure. 

Abbé Menard (1580-1652) has been called the ‘father of Anjou historiography’ (Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature). His account displays a distinctly anti-Spanish bias throughout, probably elicited by the recent war with Spain (1598). Although the authenticity of the remains of St. James at Compostella is still disputed by some, their legitimacy was confirmed by Papal Bull in 1884

While we tend to think of the Counter-Reformation Church attempting to exercise totalitarian control of religious affairs in all Catholic countries – witness the on-going and at times virulent jurisdictional conflicts between the papacy and France known as Gallicanism – the present work suggests that regulation of customs such as the veneration of local saints or relics could be extremely lax, with works such as Menard’s allowed to suggest almost unthinkable alterations to devotional orthodoxy.

A title page by the esteemed Parisian engraver Thomas de Leu (1560-1612) was commissioned for this book, suggesting an exceptional amount of effort and expense in a provincially printed work. Already at the height of his fame as one of the most important printmakers of his era, Leu was best known for his portraits, today highly sought after. The architectural title pictures the traditional badge of Compostella pilgrims (a clam shell) beneath the arms of France. The Inventaire du fonds français (seizième siècle) I.476 lists only three title-pages designed by Le Leu, of which the present is unrecorded, and no other example of Le Leu’s corpus has any link to Angers.

OCLC records just 4 copies worldwide, none in America (BnF, Mannheim, Berlin, St. Genevieve). We have also located a copy at Angers.

* OCLC 492704039

Price: $0.00

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