Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saint-Claude before the Briar Era

It is on August 31,1456 that Louis XI, the crown heir of France,

visited Saint-Claude for the first time, while fleeing the wrath of his father, reigning king of France Charles VII.

He came with a light escort of fifty horses and a few officers,

The clock-tower gate, principal access to the abbey of Saint-Claude. Front-left is the Pilgrims Hospital, right below the church of Saint-Romain and its cemetery.

attending three masses that same day before fleeing to Bruxelles where he took residence in the castle of Gennape. He would stay there until his father's death on July 22, 1461.

Mass at Saint-Claude Cathedral

As King of France, he suffered an attack of apoplexy in March 1479 and his entourage fervently prayed for Saint-Claude to save the King's soul and "immediately he started to speak and went on walking around".(as reported by Philippe de Commines who was present that day)

Soon after, the King made a generous offer to acquire Saint-Claude's reliquary and followed with a number of donations to Saint-Claude over the years. (Camille Davillé, "Sur les relations de Louis XI et de l'abbaye de Saint-Claude", 1928-1929)

This was not the first miracle to be attributed to Saint-Claude. Originally called the Abbaye de Condat it was founded in the Vth century by two brothers, Romain and Lupicin

It is believed that the abbey became the destination for pilgrimages as early as the VIth century. The abbey became Abbaye of Saint-Oyend in the VIIth century and the cult of Saint-Oyend blossomed. 

Saint-Oyen's reliquary, Saint-Claude cathedral

But it is in the XIIth century that the abbey would be renamed after Saint-Claude

Saint-Claude healing a child

whose miracles became so famous across Europe that it made Saint-Claude one of Europe's most highly renowned pilgrimage destinations. As early as 1480, the pilgrims could consult the records of Saint-Claude's miracles in the Magna Volumina Stupenda Admiratione Conscripta.  

In 1499, Anne de Bretagne who had just been crowned Queen of France by marrying King Louis XII, came on a pilgrimage to pray for Saint-Claude to help her bear an heir sound of body and mind. 

Anne de bretagne priant by Jean Bourdichon, Grandes heures d'Anne de Bretagne -Latin 9474, Folio : 2v-3, ca 1503-1508

When her daughter was born on October 13,1499 the royal infant was named Claude in recognition of Saint-Claude's divine intercession.

Claude de France married François Ier in 1515 and the King continued the program of donations made by his two predecessors to Saint-Claude.

The faithful from all over Europe made the pilgrimage to Saint-Claude. 

Saint-Claude's Pilgrim's coat button,weight: 20 grams, diameter: 3.70cm, XV/XVIth century

Local craftsmen turned many objects of piety out of boxwood, bone and horn. 

Saint-Oyend turns over the leadership of the School of Condat to Saint Viventiole in A.D. 514. From a stain-glass window at the Saint-Claude cathedral. This is the earliest record of a turner in Saint-Claude.

A turner's lathe operated with a perch ("tour à la perche") from the bible of Saint-Louis, France, 1250

Scraps from a turner's workshop manufacturing patenôtres found during an archeological excavation in the old cemetery of Saint-Romain de Saint-Claude (XVIth century), Courtesy of the Musée de l'Abbaye de Saint-Claude

One of their specialties were the turned boxwood chaplets called the paternosters.

patenôtre, Cl. Guy Millet – coll. Amis du Vieux Saint-Claude

In "La vie très horrifique du grand Gargantua, père de Pantagruel, jadis composée par M. Alcofribas abstracteur de quintessence. Livre plein de Pantagruélisme", also known as Gargantua, published in 1534, 

Rabelais tell us about the education of the eponymous giant, and his daily attendance to mass, after a good lunch, of course,

and "When he leaves the church, they bring to him, on an ox-driven chariot, a mountain of chaplets ("paternosters") from Saint-Claude, each as big as a head and as he deambulates through the cloisters, galeries or gardens, he says more prayers than sixteen hermits put together." ("Gargantua", Livre I, Chapter XXI). Some astute scholars have pointed out the parallels between Gargantua and François Ier and their respective fathers Grandgousier and Louis XII.

In 1599, King Henry IV of France signed a decree reaffirming the program of royal donations to Saint-Claude.

During the XVIth and XVIIth centuries, artisans from Saint-Claude continued to turn
objects of devotion,

This plate presents a turner's workshop with three different kinds of turning lathes: (A) made out of wood, (B) made out of iron and (C) operated with a perch. Note the two concentric wheels allowing for different turning speeds. Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert (1751-1772)

 that were sold to the pilgrims visiting the Abbaye.

Engraving representing Saint-Claude by J.J.Tournier in 1718, Courtesy Cl. G.GaignouArchives municipales de Saint-Claude

In every farm around Saint-Claude a turning lathe could be found by the kitchen's stove or fireplace with a few miller cutters, gouges, chisels hanging on the wall.

XVIIth century turning or treadle lathe. The turning speed was increased by using a flywheel and belt to drive a small pully on the headstock. In this model, the flywheel and the pulley are provided with a number of stepped grooves so that a variety of speed ranges could be obtained by moving the belt.

In the XVIIIth century and at the turn of the XIXth century, with machinery very similar to that of their ancestors,

Early XIXth century turning lathe, Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

the artisans of Saint-Claude could no longer make a living solely from religious objects.

Member of the Abbey of Saint-Claude, "Histoire des Ordres Religieux et Militaires", Ed. 1792, first published in 1714-1719. Engravers include P. Giffart, Thomassin and T. Duflos.

They diversified their production towards household items such as handles, boxes, spoons, musical instruments, pen-holders, combs, necklaces, snuff boxes and ... pipes.

Turn of the XIXth century pipe. Courtesy of the Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

Turn of the XIXth century pipe. Courtesy of the Musée de la Pipe et du Diamant, Saint-Claude

Turn of the XIXth century pipe, Saint-Claude, private collection

An excerpt from a hand drawn and painted sales catalog dated 1807 from Saint-Claude wholesaler Jeantet,

1838 engraving of Saint-Claude

shows that at the turn of the XIXth century the majority of the Saint-Claude production was in the form of turned stems which were sold all over France and neighboring countries. Pipe bowls for the most part were imported from other European countries, such as Ulmer and porcelains from Germany.

Courtesy of Dominique Jeantet

In the streets of Paris in 1835 many pipe smokers favored the turned stems from Saint-Claude,

Detail, Variété des Pipes et de leurs Fumeurs, Grandville, 1835

matching them with pipe bowls in clay, meerschaum, or exotic looking sea-shells.

Another hand drawn and colored catalog donated by Henri Aschenbrenner to the city of Saint-Claude gives us further insight into what the local pipe production was in the first half of the XIXth century.

"Objects manufactured in Saint-Claude before 1841", Illustrated Catalog offered by Mr. Henri Ashenbrenner. Courtesy Bibliothèque municipale de Saint-Claude

Of the 15 plates relating to pipes, 11 present turned pipe stems, demonstrating the remarkable versatility and tour de force achieved by san-claudian turners.

The last 4 plates present some pipes carved from indigenous boxwood, a majority of which are inspired by Ulmers from Germany.

At the beginning of the second half of the XIXth century, Saint-Claude was clearly poised to capitalize on the miraculous discovery of briar as the perfect wood for pipe smoking.

(Many thanks to Dominique Jeantet, Les Amis du Vieux Saint-Claude, les Archives municipales de Saint-Claude, la Bibliothèque municipale de Saint-Claude and the Musée de l'Abbaye de Saint-Claude for their invaluable help)