Tapestries of the Life of the Virgin

Exceptional exhibition of four of the former 17Th-century tapestries of the choir, from 27 July to 8 September 2013

Exhibition from 27 July to 8 September 2013

 

As in 1988 on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the Vow of Louis XIII, and in this year 2013 on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of Notre-Dame de Paris and the feast of the assumption, four of the large tapestries made in the seventeenth century for the choir of Notre-Dame de Paris will be temporarily re-hung in the Cathedral: theAnnunciationthere VisitationTheAssumption and the Coronation of the Virgin.

This operation is carried out in collaboration with the factory of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, whose chapter acquired in 1739 the series of fourteen tapestries, the DRAC Alsace and the DRAC île-de-France.

 

Poster-copy

 

The tapestries of the life of the Virgin

Wool, silk.
Delivered between 1638 and 1657 for the choir of Notre-Dame de Paris, today preserved at the Cathedral of Strasbourg.
Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving.

On February 10, 1638, King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Virgin. Through this vow, the Marian processions are instituted throughout the Kingdom at the feast of the assumption. The first took place in Notre-Dame de Paris on August 15, 1638. The Cathedral of Paris thus becomes the perpetual Memorial of this Act of consecration. Every year, the Royal vow will be there and is always commemorated there.

In his vow, Louis XIII makes a commitment to make "rebuild again the great altar of the Cathedral Church of Paris, with an image of the Virgin, which holds between her arms that of her precious son descended from the cross", and to be represented "to the feet, and the son and the mother, as their offering nostre Crown and sceptre". This performance will be painted by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) for August 15, 1638. To join the King's initiative, Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), Prime Minister, decided to offer four tapestries on the theme of the life of the Virgin. This donation is made through his steward, Michel Le Masle (1587-1662), Canon of Notre-Dame de Paris. The complete series, completed in 1657, comprises fourteen tapestries adoring the choir of the Cathedral during the great festivals until the end of the seventeenth century. : 1. The birth of the Virgin, 2. The presentation of the Virgin in the temple, 3. The marriage of the Virgin, 4. The Annunciation, 5. The visitation, 6. The Nativity, 7. The adoration of the Mages, 8. Purification of the Virgin, 9. The flight to Egypt, 10. Jesus among the doctors of the law, 11. The wedding of Cana, 12. The Dormition of the Virgin, 13. The assumption of the Virgin, 14. The coronation of the Virgin. Three illustrious painters intervened successively for the drawings of the tapestries: Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), Jacques Stella (1596-1657) and Charles Poerson (1610-1667); the latter realizes the table of the May of 1642, The preaching of Saint Peter in Jerusalem, visible today in the chapel of St. Peter.

The reconstruction of the high altar wanted by Louis XIII only materializes in the last part of the reign of Louis XIV; the realization "a magnificence above the first project" began in 1699 and resulted in the restoration of the entire choir. A grandiose Baroque décor is set up; It still remains today the stalls and the pedestrian surrounded statues of Louis XIII, handing his Crown and Scepter to the Virgin, and Louis XIV. Finished in 1717, the new choir is adorned with marbles, bronzes, woodwork and large paintings; tapestries are relegated to the reserves. The canons then grant temporary deposits in the churches of Paris which make the request, which harms their State of conservation. From 1720, they mention the inutility of this ensemble, more often rolled than exposed, and its costly maintenance. Decision was then taken in 1730 to sell the tapestries "... at the best price... ».

In 1739, the offer of the chapter of the Cathedral of Strasbourg is accepted, the fourteen pieces leave Paris, an inscription is added in the lower part to recall this date of acquisition : Sumptibus Reverentissimi and Illustrissimi Capituli Argentinesis Pro USU Cathedralis Ecclesiae – anno 1739. "Acquired by the very Reverend and very illustrious chapter of Strasbourg for the use of the Cathedral Church in 1739." Not being able to find place in the choir of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, it is in the nave that the fourteen tapestries will be and are always suspended, every year in December, during advent and Christmas time.

 

Reconstitution of the choir of Notre-Dame in the second half of the seventeenth century. Reconstitution of the choir: Laurence Stefanon for Parigramme – editing: NDP

The Annunciation delivered between 1652 and 1654. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes. The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a maiden, a Virgin [...]; and the maiden's name was Mary. The Angel went to her house and said,

The Annunciation delivered between 1652 and 1654. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes. The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a maiden, a Virgin [...]; and the maiden's name was Mary. The Angel went to her house and said, "I greet you, filled with grace, the Lord is with you. [...] Here you are going to conceive and give birth to a son; you will give him the name of Jesus. » [...] Mary then said, "Behold the servant of the Lord; that everything happens to me according to your Word. » Gospel according to St. Luke (1, 26-38)

 

The visitation delivered between 1652 and 1654. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes. Mary set out quickly to a city on the mountain of Judea. She entered the House of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. But when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child trembed in her. Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried in a loud voice:

The visitation delivered between 1652 and 1654. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes. Mary set out quickly to a city on the mountain of Judea. She entered the House of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. But when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child trembed in her. Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried in a loud voice: "thou are blessed among all women, and the fruit of thy womb is blessed. [...] Mary then said: "my soul exalts the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Savior... » Gospel according to St. Luke (1, 39-56)

The assumption delivered between 1654 and 1657. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes Marie, the Immaculate mother of God always Virgo, at the end of the course of her earthly life, was raised in soul and body to celestial glory. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, 1950

The assumption delivered between 1654 and 1657. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes Marie, the Immaculate mother of God always Virgo, at the end of the course of her earthly life, was raised in soul and body to celestial glory. Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, 1950

 

The coronation of the Virgin delivered in 1657. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes. Ave, Regína cælórum, Ave, Dómina Angelórum, Sálve rádix, sálve, pórta, ex qua múndo Lux is órta. Gáude, Vírgo gloriósa, Super ómnes speciósa; Vále, o valde decóra, and Pro nóbis Christum exóra. Hi, Queen of heaven! Hail, sovereign Angels! Hi, Jesse's rod! Hi, door from where the light has risen on the world! Rejoice, glorious Virgin, who bring her on all in beauty! Farewell, o all beautiful, and pray to Christ for us. Ave Regina cælorum, mariale Antiphon, 12th century

The coronation of the Virgin delivered in 1657. Charles Poerson, drawing. Atelier de Pierre Damour, weaving. © David Bordes. Ave, Regína cælórum, Ave, Dómina Angelórum, Sálve rádix, sálve, pórta, ex qua múndo Lux is órta. Gáude, Vírgo gloriósa, Super ómnes speciósa; Vále, o valde decóra, and Pro nóbis Christum exóra. Hi, Queen of heaven! Hail, sovereign Angels! Hi, Jesse's rod! Hi, door from where the light has risen on the world! Rejoice, glorious Virgin, who bring her on all in beauty! Farewell, o all beautiful, and pray to Christ for us. Ave Regina cælorum, mariale Antiphon, 12th century

Notre-Dame de Paris and the vow of Louis XIII, a contemporary devotion

On February 10, 1638, King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Virgin. By this vow are established throughout France the Marian processions at the feast of the assumption, the first in Notre-Dame on August 15, 1638. The Cathedral of Paris thus becomes the perpetual reliquary of this Act of consecration, each year will be commemorated the Royal vow. Some years will be particularly marked, among which: the centenary, in the presence of Louis XV, the Tricentennial and, in 1988, the 350th anniversary presided by Cardinal Lustiger then Archbishop of Paris.

Louis XIII will also take in parallel to this vow the commitment to rebuild the choir and the high altar of Notre-Dame de Paris. This project, begun in 1699, will only be executed in the last part of the reign of Louis XIV. Thus will be set up a grandiose Baroque décor designed by Hardouin-Mansart and de Cotte, of which the stalls still remain today and, dominating the perspective of the Cathedral, the pedestrian of Coustou surrounded by statues of Louis XIII, handing his Crown and his Scepter to the Virgin, and Louis XIV.

If the tradition of renewing the vow has been perpetuated (except during the revolutionary periods), that of the procession in Paris was extinguished in the nineteenth century in favor of a procession inside the Cathedral. It was in 1988, on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the vow, that FR. Jacques Perrier, then priest-Archpriest of the Cathedral, reset this tradition by "exiting" the Cathedral the silver statue of the Virgin donated by Charles X in 1826. This Marian procession has been perpetuated since then, extending even over the years, and today travels the islands of the city and St. Louis via the Quays of the left bank. In the midst of the 150 000 pilgrims, faithful and visitors who will pass to Notre-Dame for these feast days of the assumption, 5 000 will attend the 14th evening in the river procession embarked on thirteen boats on the Seine and more than 10 000, on the 15th afternoon, at the procession in the streets of Paris. The latter closes in the Cathedral, as since 1638, by the renewal of the vow of Louis XIII:
We have declared and declare that, taking the very Holy and very glorious Virgin for special protector of our Kingdom, we devote her particularly to our person, our State, our Crown and our subjects, begging her to inspire us a Holy conduct and so carefully defend this realm against the effort of all its enemies, and that, either that it suffers the scourge of war, or enjoys the sweetness of peace, that we ask God with all our heart, he does not point out the ways of grace that lead to those of glory.

If these celebrations have always been presided over by the cardinal-Archbishop of Paris or one of his auxiliaries, they have been for several years by Cardinals-prefects (in 2010 Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the clergy, in 2011 the Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect for the Congregation for bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, in 2012 Monsignor Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization). In addition to the special interest raised and renewed each year by the Holy Father at these celebrations in Notre-Dame de Paris, there are in these manifestations the strong sign that the new evangelization, through prayers for France, engages the future and relies on the Virgin through the Act of consecration of Louis XIII.

 

NDP 2013 08 14-21

 

Project of hooking of the four tapestries in the transepts of the Cathedral. Photos: P. Lemaître, D. Bordes. Editing: NDP.

Project of hooking of the four tapestries in the transepts of the Cathedral. Photos: P. Lemaître, D. Bordes. Editing: NDP.

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