PORT-ROYAL: Foundation: Angélique. One of the most famous of French nunneries, noted for the influence which it exercised in the seventeenth century on the Roman Catholic Church and society of France during the struggle against the Jesuits. It was founded for the Cistercian order in 1204 by Mathilde de Garlande in a swampy unhealthy valley of the Yvette about eight miles southwest of Versailles. Through the favor of the popes it was made exempt from the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Paris, and in 1223 Honorius III. gave it the privilege of the Eucharist even if the whole country might be under the interdict, and the privilege of asylum for such of the laity as might wish, without taking the vows, to retire from the world and practise penance. Though the nunnery early became popular and wealthy, while its abbesses included members of the most distinguished families of France, it did not become important in the history of the Church until Jacqueline Marie Arnauld was made its abbess. She was the daughter of Antoine Arnauld (adopted name, Angélique de Ste. Madeleine) and from a distinguished family bitterly opposed to the Jesuits (see ARNAULD). Becoming abbess in 1602 at the age of eleven, she proceeeded with a rigorous reformation and set on foot a movement of far-reaching effect on the Roman Catholic Church of France. At Port-Royal fasting, mortification of the flesh, rigid seclusion, and renunciation of all property were required; and the practical works of love, such as the care of the sick, as well as exercises of self-sanctification and devotions, were cultivated with equal fervor. She succeeded in winning her distinguished family to her position, nineteen members of which entered Port-Royal. In 1618 Angélique went, at the request of the abbot of Clairvaux, to Montbuisson to reform the decayed nunnery there. Five years later she returned to Port-Royal accompanied by thirty nuns. On account of the unhealthful situation Angélique in 1625 purchased the building which is now the Hospice de la maternité near the Luxembourg, Paris, calling it Port-Royal de Paris to which she transplanted the nunnery. In 1627 the joint nunnery passed from the jurisdiction of the abbot of Citeaux to that of the archbishop of Paris, and the abbesses were now chosen only for periods of three years. In 1630 Angélique resigned, thus meeting the wishes of Sebastian Zamet, bishop of Langres, who (1626-33) was the spiritual director of Port Royal, giving to it an entirely different trend by substituting magnificence for simplicity.
St. Cyran and the Male Community. In 1633 Zamet opened a nunnery near the Louvre for the perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament, of which the archbishop of St. Cyran Paris made Angélique mother superior. Shortly afterward Jean du Vergier de Hauranne became chaplain and confessor; he had been abbot of St. Cyran since 1620, and was accordingly known as St. Cyran (see Du VERGIER, JEAN). A close friend of Jansen since his student days, an equally uncompromising foe of the Jesuits and admirably adapted to be a confessor, he was a man of commanding personal influence. In 1633 a small book of Agnes, the sister of Angélique, the Chapelet secret du St. Sacrement, discussing eighteen virtues of Christ, was condemned by the Sorbonne. Zamet, however, approved it, as did Saint Cyran and Jansen. In gratitude for his aid, Zamet introduced St. Cyran into the nunnery of the Blessed Sacrament, whose inmates had been much offended by the book; and through his influence the secularizing tendencies of Zamet vanished more and more until, May 16, 1638, this nunnery was abandoned and its property and privileges were transferred to Port-Royal. In 1636 Angélique returned to Port-Royal, where her sister Agnes was chosen abbess. St. Cyran became here, too, the spiritual guide. Under his influence not only was there a marked renewal of the deepest Roman Catholic piety in the nunnery of Port-Royal, but a community of male ascetics was formed, among whom were the three brothers, Antoine Lemaistre, Louis Isaac Lemaistre de Sacy (q.v.), and Simon de Séricourt, and also Robert Arnauld d'Audilly (see ARNAULD). The last was the eldest brother and the three brothers were nephews of Angélique. The community numbered only twelve in 1646, when it was at its height. These new anchorites, who did not sever themselves utterly from the world, alternated between their annual duties and diligent study of the Bible and Church Fathers (especially Augustine) together with meditations and conversations on religious themes. Great attention was devoted to the education of the young; and in 1646 regular schools were opened in Paris, and in 1653 in the country. The entire number of pupils can not have been more than 1,000. In 1660, however, the schools were suppressed, and from 1670 to 1678 only young girls could be educated. The method was characterized by individual training with moral and religious emphasis, leading to the happiest results. The aim was to awaken and promote the minor powers and to conquer evil propensities. The discipline was marked by vigilance, untiring patience, gentleness, and prayer. The divine image and the human fallibility of the pupil were to be constantly kept in view. Racine was the most distinguished pupil and the "Petites Écoles" made a famous contribution to pedagogical history.
Conflict. The prominence of Port-Royal could not fail to expose it to opposition. A book on virginity, which exhibited independence of thought, caused Richelieu to imprison St. Cyran on May 14, 1638, in the tower of Vincennes; where, directing his followers uninterruptedly in his correspondence, he remained until his release on Feb. 6, 1643, two months after Richelieu's death. His great achievement during this period was his conversion of Angélique's youngest brother, Antoine Arnauld (1612-94; q.v.), the greatest theologian of Port-Royal. In 1643 Arnauld's De la frequente communion (Paris, 1643), with its protest against careless communing, its insistence on repentance, and its warning against the opus operatum, was a practical application of Jansenistic principles and the manifesto with which Port-Royal openly declared war on the Jesuits. Arnauld was cited to appear at Rome, but he did not go, remaining for several years in concealment. The period of 1648-56 was that of the greatest prosperity for Port-Royal. During the warfare of the Fronde, the monastery was on the royal side; but when, in his bull of May 31, 1653, Innocent X. condemned five theses of Jansen (see JANSEN, CORNELIUS, JANSENISM) the war on Port-Royal as the French citadel of Jansenism broke out. Arnauld, expelled from the Sorbonne, Sacy, Fontaine, and Nicole sought hiding in Paris. The community obeyed the command to retire from Port-Royal, but the threatened blow was averted by Pascal's defense of Jansenism in his Lettres provinciales (see PASCAL, BLAISE) and by the miracle of the holy thorn, four days after the retirement, which was the alleged cure of an ulcer in the eye of Marguerite Perier, Pascal's niece, effected by touching the holy thorn, and which was exalted by Port-Royalists as a confirmation of their faith and by the wonder-struck Jesuits as a new divine respite for the Jansenists. The following years formed a period of peace; but upon his accession in 1660, Louis XIV. determined to annihilate both Jansenism and Protestantism in France, and in April of the following year both monasteries were compelled to dismiss their pensioners, postulants, and novices. Antoine Singlin, superior of the nuns, barely escaped the Bastile and again sought hiding with Arnauld in Paris. On June 8, 1661, the first pastoral letter that by equivocations was to make subscription possible appeared; which, not without severe inner struggles, the nuns signed. On Aug. 6 Angélique died at Paris. Port-Royal was obliged to accept the Molinist Louis Bail as superior, and neither Arnauld, Pascal, nor Singlin dared to return. Bail's rigid examination of the nuns one after another in both convents from July 11 to Sept. 2, 1661, resulted in finding no support for the allegations against them. Nevertheless, on Nov. 28, 1661, they were forced to sign the formula unreservedly. The controversies of Louis XIV. with the Curia now gave a brief respite to Port-Royal, but an attempt to reach a peaceable understanding was thwarted by the stubbornness of Arnauld. With the enthronement of H. de Péréfixe as archbishop of Paris in 1664, the persecutions were reopened, and on Aug. 21 he denied the nuns the reception of the Eucharist. Twelve of the nuns were then scattered in other nunneries and nuns were brought from these convents to Port-Royal in Paris. On Nov. 29 more nuns were removed; and a few days after the archbishop excommunicated the entire monastery of Port-Royal des Champs. Sacraments were denied; no novices could be received; the sound of bells and common worship ceased; and there was forced seclusion from outside friends, until, early in 1669, Pope Clement IX., by permitting an apparent ambiguity in the subscription, enabled most of the Jansenist party, including Arnauld, De Sacy, and Pierre Nicole (q.v.), to sign the formula. The nuns were finally persuaded to sign a petition of surrender repudiating the five theses, to the archbishop of Paris, and, Mar. 3, 1669, the interdict was formally raised. Thus ended the long controversy in the humiliation of Port-Royal, and its financial ruin soon followed. Port-Royal de Paris and Port-Royal des Champs were separated, the former securing two-thirds of the properties.
Decline. Until 1679 Port-Royal enjoyed tolerable peace, and the polemics of the leaders of the party were now directed against Protestantism. Arnauld and Nicole published their La Perpetuité de la foi de l'eglise catholique touchant l'Eucharistie (Paris, 1669), and Arnauld also thoroughly approved the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. During this period of peace the nunnery again increased in numbers; the hermits returned; Pascal wrote his Pensées; and Nicole his Essais de Morale (25 vols., Paris, 1741, 1755). When, however, in 1677 Nicole implored Innocent XI. to condemn the lax teachings of the casuists, the king regarded his act as a violation of the truce; and in the bitter controversy over the regalia he was offended that the Jansenists sided with the pope. Arnauld and Nicole were forced again to flee from France, and on June 17, 1679, Archbishop Harlay brought the royal mandate to dismiss the pupils and the hermits and to admit no more nuns until the number had fallen to fifty. When this took place, the privilege was, however, denied; the monastery began to die out; and in 1706 the last abbess of Port-Royal des Champs, Elisabeth de Ste. Anne Boulard, died. The bull Vineam Domini of Clement XI. (July 15, 1705), with its summary condemnation of Jansenism, hastened the catastrophe. The nuns signed it only with a reservation. They were forbidden to receive novices or to elect a new abbess. On Nov. 22, 1707, the convent was again excommunicated, and the king secured the issuance of a papal bull on Mar. 27, 1708, which permitted the dispersion of the nuns. On July 11 of the following year a decree of the archbishop of Paris declared the convent of Port-Royal des Champs suppressed and gave its estates to Port-Royal de Paris. On Oct. 29 the remaining twenty-two nuns, ranging in age from fifty to upward of eighty, were expelled by military force; and, being thus dispersed, all subscribed to the bull except two. The royal disapproval extended even to the buildings of Port-Royal; and by a mandate of Jan. 22, 1710, the convent and church were destroyed and even the dead were removed and interred in a neighboring cemetery.